How to Draw Boundaries in the Age of Digital Work
If you’re reading this in a the middle of your long holiday weekend, it’s long past time for this question: in a time when we’re always connected to our jobs, via mobile devices and the shifting expectations they’ve created, is there any real way to take time off?
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The answer, as with all academic questions, is: sort of. You can’t control your boss or your company policies, but you can institute a few personal rules that might give you better vacations and improve your productivity once you’ve returned.
First of all, recognize how self-defeating it is to try to stay connected, even when you’re supposed to be relaxing. In a recent post in The New York Times’ Dealbook, Tony Schwartz reminds us that by never taking time off, we’re also ensuring that we’re never fully on.
“The greatest depth, satisfaction and productivity in life come from doing one thing at a time,” Schwartz writes. “Human beings are not designed to do activities simultaneously, but rather successively. In a world of relentless demands, it’s only possible to maintain a high level of intensity if you create boundaries.”
1. Turning off your email alerts during the weekend.
Sure, ideally you’d just leave your smartphone at home, but since our phones have become everything from a portable restaurant guide to a GPS, that’s not really practical. But if possible, configure your phone so that you’re not seeing work emails pop up during your time off. It’ll stop you from sneaking off at BBQs to answer “just one” email.
2. Carving out time to be creative.
Schwartz sets aside a day a week for writing and thinking. You might not have that much autonomy at work, but you can probably steal an hour here or there. Put that hour in your actual calendar, so that you’ll be sure to get the time to think, process, and be creative.
3. Remembering not to ignore your body.
You need sleep, exercise, and good nutrition in order to function effectively, but we tend to ignore all three when we’re really busy. Don’t put your body last on your list — unless you’re prepared for it to fight back with aches, pains, colds, and exhaustion. You’ll do better work if you give yourself time to really recharge.
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