Is 3 a.m. the only time your brain wants to mull over looming deadlines in the office? Do you feel more exhausted after a vacation when you’ve unsuccessfully tried to work remotely for three days?
You’re not alone. In today’s ever-connected world, the importance of work/life balance has never been discussed more. We’ve all heard about the benefits of “unplugging” for a weekend, but you may be underestimating just how much stress is triggered by your cell phone being constantly within reach.
Stop Using Your Phone as a Nightstand Clock. You rollover in bed around 4am, and instead of glancing at a clock to check the time, you look at your phone. Unfortunately, you also happen to see three new emails from your colleague who’s working out of the London office this week, a few time zones ahead. Even if you wait until a normal hour to reply, you’re now subconsciously thinking about those emails rather than peacefully drifting back to sleep for a few more hours.
Re-route Work Emails Elsewhere on your Phone. Rather than grouping your work emails in with your personal email inbox, download a separate email app to re-route your work email. This way, you’ll have to actively open this app to refresh your inbox afterhours. Seeing new emails come in all night or weekend doesn’t give your mind the opportunity to shut off and recharge on your down time. Just because your co-worker found some free time on Saturday afternoon to get ahead on next week’s project, doesn’t mean your family BBQ should be interrupted—even if just mentally—by seeing emails that have no expectation for you to follow-up until Monday morning anyway.
Silence Group Text Messages. You brought that massive report home with you to finish after hours – but you keep getting interrupted by text messages! Turning your phone off may not be feasible if you’re waiting on a call from a colleague. Instead, the “Do Not Disturb” feature can be a wonderful tool for dealing with frequent text messages, especially when you get trapped in a never-ending group text. You’ll still receive all incoming messages, but you won’t be interrupted with dozens of notifications that ruin your train of thought.
Realize it’s Impossible to Be on Call 24/7. Your toddler is screaming, the pot on the stove is about to boil over, your boss just sent you an email asking you to get back to her ASAP…then your cell phone rings, and it’s your sister. You drop everything and race to answer the phone in an exasperated tone of voice and a sour attitude—simply because you were in the middle of five other things. Sound familiar? Just because your phone is ringing does not mean you have to answer it, and the stigma that deliberately ignoring a phone call is rude also needs to go. That phone call with your sister would have been more productive, enjoyable and meaningful if you were able to give her your undivided attention when things calmed down after dinner, rather than immediately answering the call, but with a nasty attitude.
Set Rigid Stopping Points. If the last time you pulled an all-nighter wasn’t when you were in college, you’re doing something wrong. Consistently working late into the night is unhealthy, and will probably ruin your productivity for the next day anyway. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you that at 10 p.m., no matter what, it’s time to take a break from that project. You just might find that you’ll get more done by continuing to work with a well-rested mind and fresh pot of coffee tomorrow morning anyway.
You may feel a bit disconnected at first, but by truly utilizing your downtime as an opportunity to recharge, you just might become more productive in the long run. Of course, time-sensitive deadlines and last minute emergencies are inevitable, and you should always be reachable. But making small changes to your everyday cell phone habits can help you escape burnout and relieve workplace stress.