Work Keeps Getting In The Way
I was asked this question on Twitter recently, and it’s a really tricky one: “I use my phone a lot for work so it is v hard to switch off – any tips?”
A lot of us find ourselves in this position, it could be that your work spans multiple timezones, that you work irregular hours, that you’re on call in case of emergency or even that your boss demands it.
I was starting to answer Emily (who is a press officer) in 140 character bite size chunks and thought better of it – so here is what I learned when researching the book, and trying to do this myself.
Firstly try and step back and work out what’s needed and what’s not in terms of your connected life. For example, I don’t need to respond to emails outside of my working hours, so I don’t check them. After about 6pm anything that requires email attention get’s to wait until the following morning.
A good friend of mine said that reading emails and not responding to them, then re-reading and responding the day after is doing the same thing twice – and she was right.
But I do need to be available if one of my children is out after our tech curfew – so I will respond to text messages or actual phone calls.
My social media presence is optional, not critical – so I try and put aside regular time to engage, and it’s at my discretion up until 7 or 8pm (depending our when our curfew kicks in), and never on our day off.
The problem with this is that back when we started I couldn’t help myself. If I checked one thing, I got tempted into checking all – and as a consequence needed to break my own addiction with our Digitox before I could get everything under control.
So here are a few steps that may help….
Step 1 – Force an evening off. Come 7pm put the internet to bed, and focus on you. You will probably get anxious about this, which is natural. Most studies show a dramatic increase in anxiety when separated from tech for the first time. Shockingly you can diminish this level of anxiety by carrying someone else’s phone with you (I’m not making this up).
Step 2 – The following day, review what you missed. It may be nothing, but it may be a critical email or story that went unnoticed over night. Experience showed that in almost every case you’ll miss less than you imagine. But do identify the sources of the ‘missed’ – Twitter, RSS feed, email, text etc.
Step 3 – Shoot out notes to anyone you feel that you should have responded too. Explain that you’d put the phone away at 7pm, but you left the ringer on in case anyone called – this is likely to be a short list and comes under the heading of “managing others expectations”
Step 4 – Reduce the number of things that you have alerts for on your phone. Turn off alerts for all but the most critical of apps that you need for work (refer back to your list from step 3). Personally I found that WhatsApp was one of my killers – the constant dialog kept my phone returning to my hand far more than necessary. If you can turn off all alerts, then fantastic – but practically speaking I’ve met very few people that can do that and interact successfully with society.
Step 5 – See if you can start the habit of putting the internet to bed at 8pm, until at least 30 minutes after you rise the following morning. Make sure that the phone stays outside the bedroom! Keep up the actions from Step 2 & 3.
Step 6 – Try one day off a week. Nobody should have to work 7 days in succession, or be on call 24×7 – if you do, then this may not be possible – but taking a whole day will start changing your neural programming to accept that the absence of the internet will not have dire consequences. This will help your separation anxiety dramatically.
You might think this is an easy thing to do, but it really isn’t and nobody should beat themselves up for struggling to put down the phone for long periods of time. Most of us have built up a mental dependency, and that takes effort to overcome – but it’s worth it 🙂
Finally, a big thank you @EmilyJaneReed for raising the challenge – I hope this helps!