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Guest Blog: Chris Measures, Learning to Switch Off
We are constantly bombarded with information, hitting us simultaneously from different channels. A quick calculation – in a typical day I receive emails (through multiple accounts), phone calls (mobile and landline), Skype (calls and instant messages), Tweets, LinkedIn requests and iMessages, via three separate devices (smartphone, tablet and laptop). Occasionally I get a letter too, though I haven’t had a fax in four years.
And of course this onslaught doesn’t stop when we ‘leave’ work. Timezones mean that anyone working with Asia or the US has their day stretched at either end. With most of us keeping our phones close at hand the temptation to check emails is unstoppable – no wonder Volkswagen agreed to switch off email after the end of the work day, and certain sectors of French industry have agreed to safeguard the right of some workers to disconnect.
However, for many in the creative industry, particularly freelancers or those running their own business, removing out of hours email would potentially lead to missed opportunities that could imperil their companies or careers.
So, how do you strike a happy balance – switching off enough to relax and recharge without the constant worry that you’re missing something vital? I’ve got four tips (and before anyone says anything, yes this is a case of ‘do as I say, rather than as I do’):
1. Check regularly but not every minute
You are going to need to check your email, so set specific times to do this. Mid-evening, before you go to bed and with your breakfast should be enough, but if you deal with international clients in Asia and America you may need to tweak this.
2. Do you really need to reply?
Think hard about this one. Do you actually need to respond now or can it wait until working hours? If timezones dictate that you’ll lose a day if you don’t answer then go ahead and hit send, otherwise wait. Replying at all hours can give clients the wrong impression – that you have no social life or that you are so busy that you can only squeeze them in after the working day is done. For those desperate to email, jot down your thoughts and save it in drafts or schedule it to go out later in the day.
3. Take your phone on holiday – but let clients know you’re away
When I worked for a big agency I very firmly left my phone at home when I was on holiday. As the co-owner of a small business I don’t have this luxury, so for everyone’s sanity I make sure I can access WiFi when out of the country just so I know what is going on. But don’t spend every minute on your phone – check regularly but fit it around your holiday and make sure it doesn’t dominate. Ensure your clients know you’ll be away, and if necessary find a colleague that can babysit them in your absence, with you returning the favour at a later date.
4. Ban technology from the bedroom
Scientific research has found that squinting at small screens at bedtime messes with your ability to go to sleep. So don’t take your phones or tablets into the bedroom – check them last thing and then move them to the kitchen or somewhere out of earshot. It’ll also avoid you being woken by assorted pings and bleeps from various apps your children have downloaded or someone from Singapore following you on Twitter. And for those that use the alarm on their smartphone to wake up – for goodness sake invest in a clock or a watch. They really aren’t that expensive!
Technology does mean we can work from anywhere, at anytime (provided the broadband is working or you’ve got a 3G signal) – but we need to train ourselves that it doesn’t mean we have to respond 24/7. And on that note, I’m off to watch the World Cup…………
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