Unplugging for your health and sanity

On CBS Good Morning, a poll on New Year’s Resolutions noted the fifth most popular resolution is to “unplug.” I have written before about this topic, but with people sensing being too connected is a problem, I thought I would rehash a few things. My favorite quote comes from a communication consultant, of all people, who observed “you can be too connected.” He is right and more folks are agreeing with him.

Being too connected means you are constantly on alert status. You feel obligated to look and respond to any ping from your mobile device. When I first wrote this, my major focus was work texts and emails. If you never unplug, then you are constantly working or thinking about work. Checking emails at 10 pm does not impress me. It also means you will have only passed the baton and will get it back when you awake the next morning.

Yet, personal texts, instant messages and emails, can cause a similar level of angst. There is a feeling you will be “out of the loop” or unneeded should you forego answering a message. You feel less wanted when someone does not immediately respond to your message, even when you do not ask a question.

Since the urge to remain connected is a strong one, the best way I have found is to compartmentalize your check-ins. If you feel your job cannot let you relax and stay unconnected during off hours (that is a debatable point), I would suggest you allow fifteen to twenty minutes of check-in time for work after the kids are in bed and then set the device aside for the night.  The same holds true for personal messages. Set aside a focused amount of time and then turn the device off. You can even tell your friends that you are doing this, so they will not be offended by lack of response.

The above actions will be helpful to your mental health, but also to your physical health. You need to be unconnected from technology and especially from work to minimize stress. The same holds true when you go on vacation. If you need to check in, compartmentalize the time and then be done with it. It is unfair to you, your family and your co-workers. The co-worker unfairness part may sound strange, but if a boss keeps checking in, that sets the wrong example to the staff. And, I am citing a staff member who said this to her boss.

Unplugging will do wonders for your health. And, if someone comments to you about not returning a message immediately, tell them straight up what you are doing and encourage them to do the same. Finally, speaking of health, more states are passing laws banning texting while driving. Heed this law as it will save your life and that of others.




19 thoughts on “Unplugging for your health and sanity

  1. I even find that checking in at work all day can be overdoing it. I leave my email closed, and check it about 5 times during the day, rather than reacting to every incoming message. And everyone knows I only check my cell phone twice a day for texts!

    • You make an excellent point. Many folks, me included, will wade through email and give shorter responses more priority than they deserve, just to clean them out. So, if you knock out ten short emails that are of little importance, you may have wasted 45 minutes and could have done something more pressing. Not getting to the pressing item causes stress. Also, the constant,cascading cc-ing back and forth causes a lot of make work. More often than not, you could just delete them as it is not your issue. So, I applaud your regimen and encourage others to follow suit. Great advice.

  2. As a retired fart I have far too much spare time to stay plugged in and at first I was at my computer for many hours each day. Then I realized that 99% of what is on the social media is dreck and I weaned myself. I now only check the computer once or twice a day. And I keep my cell phone turned off except for emergencies. But it’s an old one that doesn’t keep me connected to the cyberworld, so that’s not a problem. I read more and it has given me more time to get to know my wife again!! Take care, BTG.

  3. Good advice. I’m not one to be totally connected all the time, but I did see your post in my email inbox around 9 pm last night. I wanted to respond right away, but then I read your line: “Checking emails at 10 pm does not impress me.” I decided to wait until morning to tell you how much I loved this post! 🙂

    • Thanks Emily. I was traveling once with a female colleague who was lamenting the stress of checking emails late in the evening. I had the same advice. She was shocked, at first with a “how can you not do that?” expression. I know I did not change her behavior, but maybe if I could get her to lessen the activity. One of the more organized people I have met online is “An Exacting Life’s” blog writer. Check out our discussion above on this issue. My guess is you are fairly well organized.

  4. Note to Readers: An Exacting Life has raised the great point about how using technology even while working can cause stress and not reduce it. I once made the observation to my wife, “with email I could stay busy all day long and not accomplish a darn thing.” A key rule of thumb – just because someone sent you something, does not mean you have to drop everything to respond. The same goes true for texts and IMs.

    The other thing to mention is the stress caused by multi-tasking while on a conference call. Since everyone on the phone is doing it, no one is paying attention, so the meeting is less utile. So, people think information is shared, but really time was passed while others worked on other things. We have far too many who are “not present” in the conversation, any conversation. You will say later, but we talked about this in the meeting….

    This is a key reason meetings need to have an agenda routed in advance, note decisions needed and be crisp. I had an old client who would schedule 20 and 40 minute meetings to allow for desk time and walking to/ from meetings. Great idea in my view.

  5. No Argument here. I believe we can easily become addicted to our technology, as you note. But I also believe there is a growing addiction to web sites, in my case, news sites. I occasionally have to de-plug from these, not only to reclaim my time, but to significantly reduce my stress levels.

    Great post, and right on message for the new year.

  6. I agree with needing to unplug, I make a point of taking at least one day off from technology every week. It gives me and my computer a break. I don’t have a smart phone; mostly because to me a phone has one purpose and that is to make phone calls. The only other feature I really want is a phone book with speed dial. 🙂

    There are benefits from taking breaks. When working on a project taking a break can allow the subconscious mind the necessary time to mull it over. It can create connections and ideas that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

    • Roseylinn, excellent strategy and I agree on the need to think things over. We have many who know how to find things, but fewer who know how to analyze and use the information. Thanks for your comments, BTG

  7. Great post. I agree that allowing email and texting to drive your work day is supremely inefficient. Now that I’ve been retired a few years, I am finding that I rely on technology less and less, and not at all feeling left out.

  8. Are you talking about personal emails, texts, and IMs at work? Whoa! Bad form if that’s the behavior. I think we may have touched on some of this before; with my family scattered all over the country, including Alaska, and with serious issues here and there; my smart phone is a lifeline for me. I have never been more grateful for technology. I love being connected and in touch. However, I do read emails at my convenience, and never feel pressed to respond until I am ready. I control my tools, they do not control me.

    • I was actually referencing work communications, not personal ones at work. The latter is a bigger issue. On the former, I can recall when the fax was first used. Senders accelerated their expectation of turnaround, no matter how low priority. This always caused problems with clients, who want you to drop everything. Now, it is far worse with emails and IMs, where the expectation is even faster. We will always have the client service issue, but you are likely in the middle of another client issue, so a balancing act is needed.

      As for the personal stuff, we live in a world where some personal business has to be conducted while at work. And, we have a problem where some folks spend way too much time on personal issues at work which is unfair to colleagues. So, it is also a balancing act. Most folks will not abuse the personal time too much, but some feel greater license to do so. When I was a supervisor, I treated people like adults, until they showed a greater need for management.

      Thanks for your comments. I like your last sentence a great deal. They are tools.

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