You’ve seen her.
The woman sitting by the hotel pool with her laptop open, furiously typing while her kids splash and play. Maybe you’ve been the one excusing yourself from the dinner table to take a call.
Just one email. I just want to make sure that proposal went out. Let me log on and check.
Technology has given us the ability to be connected all the time, and sometimes that’s great. It means we can be away from our desks (say, for example, on the soccer sidelines, or in the doctor’s office waiting room) and still be considered working. It means we can work from home if our companies give us the flexibility to do so on a regular basis. All of those are mighty tools in our working woman’s toolbox.
But, when that mom at the pool misses out on time she should be devoting to resting and recharging, she’s not enjoying a benefit. Instead, she’s stretching herself too thin. When we take that call from the boss at 7 p.m. to prove what a diligent employee we are or for whatever reason, technology becomes a burden.
So how can we prevent the always-on mentality from ruining our lives?
Let’s start with the data.
- 95% of Americans have cellphones, and 77% of those are smartphones.
- 67% check their phone for new messages and notifications even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating
- 44% sleep with their phone next to their bed because they want to make sure they don’t miss any calls, text messages or other updates during the night
- 29% describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without”
Breaking away from your always-on mentality means taking a hard look at how, and when, you use technology. As both a mother and a business owner, I can’t just throw my phone in my desk drawer and walk away. There are important reasons for me to have a phone, and I could even make a case for why I need to have some of its other features. But, I’ll be the first to admit I have bad habits that lead me to spend far too much time staring into that glowing little screen.
The key to finding balance and avoiding the always-on mentality is to set boundaries. Carve out specific times of the day when you are offline, and then enforce that by putting your phone in another room or turning off the ringer. Maybe that’s an hour in the morning so you can start your day with a yoga class. It might include the 4 to 7 p.m. zone when you are focused on family, homework or bedtime.
If you are a manager or business owner, set a good example and don’t send emails at 11 p.m. If you want to work that late, use the “send later” function so your emails go out during business hours rather than popping into people’s inbox in the middle of the night.
Technology is great when it gives you flexibility, but when it starts to become a barrier between you and your health and wellbeing, it’s time to make a change.