It started a few years back when I got a pager. Or perhaps even earlier when I got voicemail. I became obsessive about checking in and returning messages. I loved the surprise in people’s voices when I returned their calls so quickly. Then I got the pager to page me when a voicemail was left. Next came the laptop and now, I could return messages well into the evening without any issues. I could simply reply to an email or send an email any time day or night. It became a game of who would stay on more, be working harder than whom. I always thought that my clients would like that I worked harder than they did. Why? I never asked them or myself. I also never thought that perhaps they wouldn’t be working so late if I hadn’t been encouraging it.
Then came the mother of all addictive connective technologies. The crackberry. I got mine in 2005. I was already a serial night e-mailer and voicemail junkie as I mentioned but this one took it to a whole new level. One never had to “boot up” anything or call anything. Simply check the little bitty screen. And so it began. With me and pretty much the rest of the world by now. Now everyone has his or her own version of the crackberry, the mobile phone. And that little device can do 1000 times more than anything before it. We no longer have to be silent or still or connected or present with anyone. We can have 10 or more conversations going at the same time and texting and emailing and watching a video and playing a game with some random people on line. In many ways, this is so excellent and positive. But as we all know, it can also turn negative very quickly.
I generally kicked my habit of constantly looking at messages about 4 or so years ago. I realized that I was hurting my relationships by working all of the time. I wasn’t present anywhere I was. I wasn’t serving myself or my family or my clients. So I stopped. But the urge still shows its head sometimes. Like it did on vacation a couple times.
That little voice that says, just check in and knock out a few of the emails. This way, your transition back next week will go more smoothly. And what if you are missing something? And the big one – what if someone needs your help?
We now live in a workplace culture where somehow everything became an emergency. We have let ourselves believe that we are expected to be available 24/7 via our smartphone to deal with these “emergencies.” Because we allow this, we have allowed everyone else access to us, at all times. We have allowed that to be expected of us. This soap opera drama in the workplace deserves a lot more attention so I will write on it further later.
Guess what? I am not an emergency surgeon. I don’t know about you. If you are, then perhaps this doesn’t apply to you. Except that it does because you have hours you cover and hours that you are off. If you don’t then I would prefer that another surgeon work on me or my family, please. We all require time away to recharge and refocus. Ask yourself, is this really required? Is this actually absolutely necessary to run a great business? If so, am I truly the only one who can handle this? Am I in charge here? If the answer to all of these is yes, then get someone to handle things when you are away. If the answer to any of these is no, well then…
Love yourself enough to give yourself the time away that is required for a healthy, sane and optimal renewal. That may be a few minutes in some cases or a few weeks or even months if you have let it build up over time. Do not let that last line discourage you. If you really require months, it doesn’t mean that minutes or any time carved out for this is a waste. Quite the contrary, it is the beginning. The decision and the action of that first minute can turn it all around.