How to disconnect in an always-connected world

One of the side effects of working remotely during COVID-19 is that it can feel like we are always at work. While this blog series has focused on how connectivity can help your business weather the COVID-19 storm and beyond, there is a danger to being always connected, and remote work intensifies this danger. Being always connected can lead to burnout, interrupt important relationships, and even contribute to isolation and depression. Disconnecting leaves you time think and be creative. It helps you make sure you have time for and connect with the people and activities that are important in your life. Following are tips for disconnecting from the technology that so often distracts us from real life. These suggestions are useful not only during COVID remote work, but also after things get back to normal.

Designate a place to work in your home
If possible, create a specific place in your house to work rather than working from everywhere. When you work from everywhere, it can feel like you are always at work and connected. But if you designate a distinct workplace—and get up and leave that place at the end of the workday—you are less likely to be distracted by work during your personal time.

Don’t let email control your day
If you continually check email throughout the day and respond to the latest fire drill or never-ending email chain, it will dominate your day and you will never get anything done. In addition, if you receive notifications on your phone or smart watch for email, turn them off. You don’t need to know when every email arrives. If you are distracted by every incoming ‘ding’ of a new message, your day will get derailed. Instead, intentionally schedule one or two times per day to answer email. Also, don’t leave your email open on your laptop or desktop.


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Adopt an “Inbox Zero” mentality 

Many of us have email inboxes that are out of control. And most of the email cluttering our inboxes is of no importance, making it harder to find what we need to work. One way to tackle this is to create an archive folder and move everything there once you have processed it. You can also send quick questions or notes or schedule meetings via a chat or other tools in an application such as Microsoft Teams to cut down on hundreds (or thousands) of one sentence emails. And using an application like Microsoft To-Do will help you keep your email “task list” from taking over your day and preventing you from working efficiently.

Go outside without technology
The outside world is big and beautiful, full of chirping birds, blooming flowers, and the sun’s warming rays. A great way to disconnect is to go on a walk with a friend and leave your phone at home. The physical exercise and fresh air will be good for your body and the “relationship exercise” will be good for your heart and soul.

Prioritize relationships over technology
Make sure that people don’t think your phone or work is more important than your relationship with them. You can do this by turning off electronics during family events, while you play with your kids, when talking with your spouse, and even when meeting with clients, vendors, or partners. In addition, scheduling “Do Not Disturb” time on your phone after work hours will enable only the most important calls to get through and will leave you grateful for time without constant interruptions.

Pick up the phone or meet in person
Building relationships from a distance is difficult because emotions or emotional nuances are often missed on email or chat. At times, there is no substitute for a quick phone call or face-to-face conversation (if it can be done safely). Sometimes, low tech is better.

Turn off push notifications for social media
Like email, social media can derail the day of even the most disciplined people. Plan your day in a way that schedules a finite time for engaging with social media so you can avoid the rabbit holes that suck away your time.

Put your phone out of sight while working
We all understand the itch to pick up our phone and scroll when we’re on yet another virtual meeting or even while actively working. Most of us are addicted to doing so and do it without thinking. Hiding your phone out of sight and checking it with intention only periodically for important calls can help you use your time more wisely and get work done more efficiently, allowing more personal time for what is really important.

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