I recently read that people who compulsively check their email are more likely to be depressed. As someone who doesn't check his email frequently (outside of work), and considers himself a fairly happy person, this correlation struck me in thinking I might be on to something.
Being constantly connected means being constantly available. At least that's the common feeling in most business relationships--and, come to think of it, even among friends and loved ones. But there's a trade-off to that all-encompassing access.
The truth is, always being on is a recipe for disaster. It's not sustainable. What it is, is draining. I believe constant connectivity does not necessarily translate to higher levels of productivity. Now I'm not some Luddite advocating the return to an analog age, but what I am advocating is turning off for extended periods of time to allow us to recharge our minds, and in turn, become more productive.
How many times have you heard "Why didn't you text me back?" or "How come my email wasn't responded to immediately?" Having a tiny computer in our pockets makes us feel that we're never really off the clock. And when that happens, it's easy for resentment and fatigue to build.
Turning off is more than just shutting off your smartphone. Turning off means eliminating outside distractions so you can experience the world around you. Exposing yourself to different situations and cultures, finding new experience to immerse yourself in for even just a couple of hours--the key is to lose yourself in the moment, the rhythm of life, instead of waiting to react, the inherent behavior at work when we constantly reload our oppressive inboxes.
For many, this can be anathema. A sin even. People have asked me how I'm able to turn my phone off in the middle of the day. Many even shoot me a look of wild bewilderment when I respond calmly, and with a smile, that it makes me more productive. Here's how I do it, and the benefits I've gotten.
Concentrated breaks lead to positive distractions
When I'm feeling exceptionally stressed and overworked, I'm not functioning at my optimum level. That's a simple scientific fact. When that's the case, it's easy to make mistakes--easy to misinterpret and misunderstand signals from ourselves and others. That's why in those moments I make it my priority to take a break, one that's a positive distraction. Studies have found concentrated distractions can lead your mind away from negative thoughts. Something as seemingly mundane as a small walk around the block can do wonders to clear my head. Fresh air, fresh perspective, a quick limbic system jumpstart--when I'm dealing with normal levels of stress (like most workdays), this is how I respond. A few walks during the day really helps me to sort myself out and gain direction on what I really need to work on, and what I can leave for another day.
Recharge with someone you trust
Author Dan Zadra once said, "Worry is a misuse of the imagination." He couldn't have been more right. When things are a little higher stakes, I go with my dad to a local day spa, and indulge in a steam, sauna, shower, and a massage. Not only does my body get a chance to rest and recharge, but if I'm really wrestling with something that's on my mind, I use my father as a sounding board. The mentorship and counsel he gives me I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. The biggest asset he offers, beyond his years of experience, is his perspective. And he subscribes to an ethos I've happily adopted: When you have negative thoughts, throw them out. Literally. It may sound too simple to be true, but it's extremely effective, and great advice to practice. If you don't trust me, try it yourself and reach out and let me know what happens. I'm confident it'll make you more productive. It works for me.