Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Get Unplugged!

(this is an edited extract from my book 'Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life')

Because most of us can – and do – work anywhere, the challenge is in switching off totally. It’s absolutely crucial to be able to do that, to unplug your connections once in a while.

The trouble with our BlackBerries and iPhones is that they connect us with the lives we lead; these tools integrate both the business and personal sides of our lives. If you carry your iPhone around at the weekend, it’s difficult ‘not’ to check emails. Sure, I sometimes check emails and Twitter on weekends and holiday, but it’s when I choose to, I don’t want it in my face 24/7.

So you have to find time and space to dial it down. To switch off, shut down and get real.

When speaker and columnist Mike Southon travels overseas he tries to take his family with him; it gives him the opportunity to switch off after a speaking engagement and it’s also a good excuse to disappear upstairs to his room:

‘For me, family time is switch off time. All theatrical people know this – you’re on stage/ you’re off stage and you have different modes. You learn how to control it. If you’re ‘on stage’ all the time you end up with a heart attack. You switch in/ you switch off.’

But it’s not just creating time for thinking or for the family; it’s also the importance of creating ME time.

When you’re flat out juggling, sometimes you need that quiet moment to give you sanity. A lie-in, a soak in the bath, a pint of Guinness by yourself, a seafront cycle, reading that novel for ten minutes.

Beach Walks TV host Roxanne Darling finds it difficult to turn off her business brain. Even on vacation she still wants to read her feeds and spots business opportunities frequently. Same with me. When Mike Southon goes on holiday he finds he can relax straight away without thinking of work, ‘because nothing is that vital’; but he still checks mails to filter them before his return.

When the schedule has been really manic, Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi just unplugs for a few days and retreats to one of his homes. He doesn’t take long holidays; preferring to take snatches of time here and there to switch off.

For Roxanne and her partner, it has been their company goal to be much more conscious of when they are ‘on the client clock’ compared to when they are off-duty. Their white board system helps, as once the assigned tasks are done for the day, they feel better quitting:

‘We are building the muscle to discern what is truly urgent and what can actually be added to the list. I also really let how hard we work weigh in and matter in our lives. One of the big plusses is being able to just stop and go to a movie in the afternoon if the day is crap and we are feeling burned out. It's easy enough to point to the hours we've undoubtedly put in, so the muscle is learning to take a break and realize if a client calls and we are unavailable for two hours, it is not the end of the world’.

So, make sure you get unplugged once in a while.
Right, I’m off for a walk, and I’m leaving the iPhone behind....

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