Without balance, something will suffer
I’m one of the lucky ones. I genuinely love my job and I’m good at what I do. Even when you’re fortunate enough to feel this way, too many distractions lead to negative consequences. The constant pressure of having to be available for everything leads to anxiety. Between work, social media, emails, and every other distraction vying for my attention, it got the the point where my partner and I couldn’t have a conversation without the interrupting “DING DING” of another message.
Just like Pavlov’s dog, I was ready to act as soon as I heard the notification. Ready and willing, while the people who truly matter were suffering the consequences. I realized (later than I should have) I was was the person creating these pressures. I was the one unintentionally letting the distractions consume my life. And I was the only one who could stop it.
What do we do when we find our time infiltrated by distractions? We want to be productive, we want to have our shit together and be social. In reality, we are exhausting all of our mental resources on things that are ultimately trivial. We are in dire need of a reset.
Let Go of Non-Essential Tasks
I was fortunate enough to have the ability to give myself a very HARD reset. It was in the form of a vacation to Thailand. The big difference between this vacation and ones I’d taken in the past is how I dealt with distractions while I was on vacation. I didn’t.
If there was a task that didn’t absolutely need to be completed while I was gone, it didn’t get done. Emails didn’t get responded to. Posts didn’t get liked. Calendar events didn’t get responded to.
You still have to do your job
I didn’t just leave my team and company hanging. You’re not going to relieve any stress by running away or ignoring your problems. You’ll stress more knowing you should have just handled it. I set up different fail safes to prevent anything from falling through the cracks while I was gone. My email was set up with a vacation message informing any sender of where I was and when I would be able to return their message. The message also listed the owner and their email as a contact for any emergency or time-sensitive issues. I made sure to be very clear with the team and the owner that I was going to be unavailable, not only unavailable but completely internet-free while I was gone. Most importantly, I made sure to stick to my promise of being unavailable.
Delegate the work
If there was something that needed to get done and I couldn’t do it ahead of time, I got someone else to do it. I’m extremely confident in the work team I put together. I don’t need to watch their back to know that things are going to get taken care of.
Are there going to be things that come up? YEP. So what? If you don’t have employees that can come up with solutions without you, you need better employees. If they do something and you would have done it differently, coach them when you get back. My expectations are always understood by the team and I know they will do their best to meet these expectations while I’m not around. It’s as simple as that.
Truly be unavailable
This is huge. How many times have gotten a work email or message on your day off, your weekend, or outside of working hours? Did you feel the need to respond? Did you respond? How many more follow up emails or interruptions came after that flood gate was opened? I would gamble to say it was a rushing river of important things needing your immediate attention…or so it would seem. It is the furthest from the truth.
Life’s all about boundaries. The second you make yourself available when you shouldn’t be, you have set a precedent that you will work outside your dedicated working hours. Once you’ve done that, it becomes expected. It becomes the new norm. And your work-life balance begins to tilt in the wrong direction.
“Do not disturb” is your best friend
Originally, I turned off all of my notifications solely for vacation, assuming I would have to activate them again once back in the real world. Man, was I wrong. It’s a wonderful thing to not have your day constantly interrupted by an alert here and a chime there. I actively choose when I want to check email. I actively choose whether or not I want to check Slack or Facebook. And I can’t fully express to you how freeing it is. I didn’t realize how much anxiety the constant onslaught of attention-grabbing notifications was causing me.
I even turned off badges. I’m the type of person who hates having the eye sore of an evil red number on my home screen. I knew I couldn’t stop them from coming in but I could stop them from showing up. One more win in the anxiety department.
Work hard, play hard
My new information management system allows me to organize my life in a way I didn’t know was possible. I can set my day up to know exactly when I’m going to start working. This allows me to dedicate all my attention to the work I’m doing. It allows me to be more productive with my time because I also know when I’m going to quit working. It allows me to be present and engaged in whatever activity I am doing at the time.
When you’re not working, find time for the ones and the things you love. You can’t give the things you love the attention they deserve if you’re being pulled away by work or other distractions. We can only maintain a limited amount of focus. Make sure it gets used on the things that really matter.
If my style isn’t for you, try some other ways. Start slowly if you have to. Take time to go on walks without your phone. Go on dates and use airplane mode so you can assure it won’t be interrupted. Travel out of the country and don’t purchase the international coverage. Keep your phone out of your bedroom and buy a real alarm clock. Separate yourself from your distractions so you can focus on what’s really important. Use your limited time wisely. We only get to do life once.
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Originally published at gofindyourhappy.net on April 12, 2019.