NEWSLETTER | WOMEN IN MOTION
Detoxifying from your Overwired World
Every day, you hear your peers talking about the need to detoxify their bodies of this substance or the other. But, have you ever stopped to consider that, in this digital age, where technology has come to be a part of almost every aspect of our lives, you have to, once in a while, detoxify yourself to enable you to work better and be purposefully productive in an overwired world?
It may sound like a concept from outer space, but the bottom line is that we have come to depend on technology so much that many of us think we will shut down were we to be without certain gadgets. Yet, it is the very same technologies that can result in you bringing out less of yourself in anything.
Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tribe, Inc., says the trick to getting back to being your productive self, despite the dependency on technology, is to undergo a process that she calls ‘digital detoxification’.
by Andrew Ngozo
Primarily, the onus, she says, should be on employers to understand why it is critical for employees to unplug while on vacation or away from work, and to communicate that the company actively encourages employees to avail themselves of that opportunity to digitally detox!
Often you may believe – rightly or wrongly – that you can never unplug. The fact is that you need to, if you are to keep up with the world. “When employees stay vigilantly aware and engaged 24/7 – especially in the age of constant digital connection, it keeps them in a state of high alert.
“That keeps them from getting the necessary time to relax and recharge so they can return to work the next day or week energised and replenished,” notes Cogswell Baskin. However, a simple system of stop and start will work wonders in helping you cope both at home and in the office. You stop the old and start with the new.
Stop the Old and Start with the New
For starters: as you read this, shut down all devices, including the worries and the to-do list in your brain. Reboot your brain, open a clean page and let us begin.
Stop doing destructive things that prevent your purposeful productivity and start doing small, but important, stuff that improves the way you work.
Understand that you cannot operate 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. Stop regularly to recharge by starting your day unwired. Don’t look at your smartphone or e-mails before you’ve had your morning coffee or breakfast, and you should rather be taking a walk during lunch than surfing the Internet as you eat at your desk.
Each morning and each evening, set aside a five-minute block of time to get organised and to plan for the day ahead and the week ahead. This might not go down well with many bosses, but try to unplug for five minutes every hour. Get up, and, away from your desk, stretch, walk around – and leave your phone behind. You will be amazed at how much relevant work can be covered in this manner.
Use the Technology – Don’t Let It Use You
Yes, because it is omnipresent, we have conditioned ourselves to be available to technology. Stop letting technology use you and start using the technology. Take control of your in-box and train yourself not to respond every time you see a new e-mail icon. Ideally, pick four or five times a day when you will open, read and respond to e-mails.
Research has it that clutter inhibits the brain’s ability to focus and to process information, because clutter vies for your energy and attention. Stop shifting clutter and start organising and simplifying things. Take a look at your office or desk. Can you find what you need when you need it? Do you have too many personal items in your office or are there just not enough?
In essence, you want to create an environment that is energising and helps you to stay focused and productive. Clear the clutter at home, too, and you will find that you stop worrying about the work–life balance.
When you stop worrying about the work–life balance, you start focusing on doing more of what energises you and less of what depletes you. This may mean letting go of some technologies or habits that drain your time and energy.
As much as possible, fill your life with people and things that fulfil you, engage you, inspire you, and make your life better. Choose them and you will never worry about work–life balance again.
Multitasking Is Not So Cool
The ability to multitask is often worn by many as a badge of honour. But the truth is that it is neither impressive nor effective. If anything, it confuses the brain somewhat. So stop multitasking and start unitasking, because you don’t do a thorough job when you multitask.
Unitasking may be a tricky idea, because you strictly need to do one thing at a time. For example, when you read an e-mail, read only that e-mail: focus on the words. When you walk, walk. Focus on nature and the air around you rather than on the screen of your smartphone or your to-do list. The key is to be mindful of exactly what you are doing when you are doing it. When your mind wanders, bring it back, focus and unitask.
Stop saying ‘Yes’ automatically and start saying ‘No’ or, at the very least, instead of refusing outright, say, “Let me think about it.” Think of your time as precious. When you say ‘No’ to something, you may be able to say ‘Yes’ to more of the things you do want in your life.
Withdraw from commitments that are not fulfilling, and implement a 24-hour pause period before accepting a commitment. “Impossible,” you might say, but try it out and you will be amazed at the result.
If you are to get anywhere in this overwired world, and smartly and productively so, the catch-up game should stop, getting in front of things should begin. There are several ways to achieve this. Look ahead and create space. When you can anticipate more than five minutes ahead, you move from crisis management to productive living. Try to think ahead and be strategic.
It may sound like your routine precaution, but it is not. Plan your meetings and set a limit and an agenda. Schedule backups for your critical data and have peace of mind. The more you look ahead, the better you become at managing your work and home life.
Setting boundaries may not even make business or personal sense, but stop being available 24/7 and start setting boundaries. Very often, family and colleagues have come to expect you to be there 24/7, so you have to retrain yourself and them in the process. For instance, do not check your work e-mail after 7pm. If you do, don’t send responses. Make it clear to clients, associates and colleagues when you are available and when you will return calls or e-mails, and stick to this. Set boundaries at home too! Get the family on board by establishing computer-free, screen-free and phone-free times.
You have to set clear boundaries in both spheres, and it is imperative that you stick to them. Do not undermine your own boundaries. People have to understand what your boundaries are, and you have to be consistent in enforcing them.
In an overwired world, you cannot ignore social media. Cogswell Baskin concludes: “Have employees leverage their own social media networks for the greater good of the company. Make sure that you are not inadvertently asking them to be working 24/7 by posting, monitoring, responding, etc. The issue, of course, stretches across many realms, from work-life balance to productivity to human resources and even legalities.”