We’ve all been there. We’re making dinner with the family, or out for drinks with friends. A few minutes in, we sneak a look at our phone. And again a few minutes later. And then we realize – or perhaps someone tells us – we’re not really present. Rather than being fully engaged with friends and family, we’re keeping an eye (and our mind) on our work.
If you know me, you know I can be a workaholic. I know exactly what it’s like to feel the need to constantly monitor and respond to my email. The constant tug of “just one more reply.”
Which is why what I really needed was a cell phone detox. I needed to set limits on my availability for work, and restore some balance to my life. I had that opportunity in February, and forced a cell phone/electronics detox upon myself.
Study after study tells us the same thing: working more than 55 hours per week is directly correlated to negative health outcomes. And all for naught: according to the Washington Post article “Stop Touting the Crazy Hours You Work. It Helps No One,”
Studies have shown that after about 50 hours a week, productivity actually decreases, and it plummets after 55 hours, leaving no detectable difference between those who work 56 hours and those who work 70.
So, I decided to set limits. While on vacation, I get one hour per day of phone use. Then the rest of the day, my phone is on airplane mode so I can take pictures. And, my husband and I have instituted a weekly phone-free date night.
Once I got through the initial withdrawals (and they were not nearly as awful as I thought they would be … It was actually liberating!), I realized something important – that I have control over my time, and that there are solutions to the constant pinging of the phone, and logging in more and more hours. When I exercised those solutions, I felt less pressure to always be available, and less stress.
This isn’t surprising – just this summer, a group of researchers released “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect,” a study that shows workers are exhausted not just because they respond to emails in their off hours, but more so because of the drain of being constantly available. The mere act of being at the ready, phone by your side, just in case is even more damaging than sending the email response itself.
For those of us who are supervisors, this study shows the need to disconnect for ourselves, but also for our teams. We can set the example that some companies are now enforcing, limiting hours that workers can email.
My techniques won’t work for everyone. But there is a solution for each of us, whether we’re setting time for ourselves, setting an example for employees, or setting boundaries with employers.
And from a former cell phone addict, I urge us all to give ourselves permission to unplug, unwind, and recharge. Our industry, colleagues, and work will benefit!
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And for the first 50 who need an extra push, email me and I will mail you a cell phone sleeping bag! We all need to start somewhere. Use this bag as a reminder, and your permission to unplug!