Before smartphones were in the hands, pockets, purses, and bras of everyone, I was one of those those people who fought getting a phone for a long time. My excuse? I didn’t want to be THAT connected or accessible by technology. I already feel like I’m a slave to my laptop. Although I have an office, my laptop and phone live on my kitchen table. It’s difficult to walk by and see emails or phone messages and ignore them.
When colleagues were first issued smartphones by their employers, I was always shocked that they were excited about it. What they saw as a symbol of status in their organization, I saw as a new expectation by employers that employees would be available 24/7.
The result of our all-day, every-day connection to technology is a little scary:
– Half of smartphone owners say they can’t sleep if their phone isn’t close by
– 30% of people surveyed said they get up regularly during the night to check email
We’ve become slaves (or allowed ourselves to be enslaved) to this marvelous technology and it’s time to create some boundaries on all-access communication. Here are tips for “unplugging” from these devices and why you should.
1. Turn your phone and computer OFF (not just sleep mode or on vibrate) at a “reasonable” hour at night.
2. Set your “out of office”message and don’t check email while on vacation.
3. Don’t check email on the weekend, or at least pick one day of the weekend to disconnect.
4. Put devices “away” during off-limits hours. When they’re out of sight, they’re more likely to be out of mind.
5. Let others know your new “rules” for accessibility, so they won’t be surprised when you don’t respond immediately.
Some people may say they can’t do the things I’ve outlined above. Really? Are you really so indispensable and your input so important that your callers, texters, and emailers can’t wait until tomorrow to hear from you?
I doubt it.
Unless your a physician or someone else who’s on call for emergencies, your evenings, weekends, and vacations should be for relaxing and other activities that regenerate you. You should be focusing on spending time with loved ones or connecting with your children.
If you need some additional motivation to disconnect, think about how you cripple those who “rely” on you for information.
If you’re always answering their questions and telling them what to do, they never learn to think and figure things out for themselves. If you’re a manager or supervisor, you should be encouraging employees to be proactive and problem solve on their own. Once employees build confidence in their own abilities, the volume of calls and emails will drop significantly.
The same applies to people who email you for information they could easily find on their own. I recently received a text message from a colleague who wanted to know when we were meeting next. She could have easily found the next meeting date, time, and location on our website calendar. Instead, she texted me… three times in one day, and then finally called me because she was worried I hadn’t responded. It would have been easy for me to answer her question, but not wanting to be a crutch, I walked her through the steps to find the information on the website herself.
For those of you who are still worried that the world will come to an end if you disconnect for awhile, I challenge you to try just one of the steps above. I think you’ll be amazed by the result, not only for yourself, but for those trying to hunt you down. You’ll get to relax, get a good night’s sleep, and enjoy your time off. Others will learn to do without you and will gain much more confidence when they do just fine.