“Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.”
Vincent found himself obsessively scanning email when he was trying to focus on other tasks. Incoming communications were dominating his focus. Then he picked up a book on time management and realized how much time he was wasting.
Being constantly responsive to others’ questions is a huge energy drain, the author said. Most of us don’t truly multitask well, so if you’re constantly connected, you’re disrupting the task you were trying to focus on.
If, like Vincent, you’re staying too connected, consider these tips for unplugging from technology after work or even during the workday.
- Understand Why It’s So Tough
To benefit from time away from tech, you need to understand why it can be hard to unplug. Sometimes we put much more weight on others’ needs than on our own. If we know an email is sitting there waiting to be addressed, we feel guilty, even if we’re doing something important.We may also get FOMO—fear of missing out. We might want to think of ourselves as superstars, being the ones to jump in and solve problems as they arise. However, the urge to save the day for others can keep them from solving problems themselves. The world can get along without you for a while—and it might be better off for it.
- Taking Breaks During the Workday
Try taking mini breaks from technology during work. Leave your email behind when you go to lunch, or handle only personal communications on your breaks—nothing work-related. Better yet, read a book and ignore all electronic communication during that time.
- Mentally Unplug
Unplug from certain types of communication during times you’ve committed to a particular task. Maybe you can’t leave behind technology, but unplugging mentally from email and your phone while researching an idea or writing a proposal will improve your focus. Finishing that project you’ve been wanting to dive into? Set aside an hour or two of text-free, voicemail-free, email-free time while you work. It’s too easy to get distracted by someone’s “urgent” question, or to forget to answer it later if you’ve already opened the email. If you simply don’t check email for an hour while finishing your project, you’ll be able to address it with a clear mind after that.
- Set Rules for Using Tech at Work and Home
At work, set designated times for checking email and responding to voicemails. This will help you stay disciplined, making you more productive.When you leave the office, set aside all work-related communications until the next day. Period. Don’t open an email with the intent just to read it, not to respond. That will only cloud your mind with questions to stew over. You’ll come to work with renewed clarity and motivation if you allow yourself to have true downtime.
- Take a Tech Detox
If you have trouble not looking at work emails while at home, it might be time for a tech detox. If you can, take a “tech fast” for a day or two over the weekend, fully unplugging from all technology. Ignore all texts, unless a real emergency pops up, and don’t even think about looking at email. Spend time with your family and friends, or on your hobbies.Check out mentally from any work-related issues. There’s no sense in mulling over a problem when you’ll come in with better ideas on Monday if you simply let your worries go. Listen to “How to Unplug at Work and Be on Vacation?” This 8-minute podcast interview was with Montreal, Canada’s #1 News Talk Radio Station.
Using these tips, Vincent was able to better structure his workday and accomplish what he set out to achieve. Once he started resisting the urge to check email every ten minutes, the urge became less powerful. At home, he enjoyed a richer family life and caught up on more reading. Best of all, his mind felt clearer, and he felt a renewed sense of purpose both at work and at home.
As an executive coach, Joel can help you unplug from technology so you actually boost your productivity and gain work-life balance.