BY ALEJA SEABRON
We’re all familiar with the term “work/life balance,” a coveted state of being that seems unattainable. We pressure ourselves to achieve this dream by exercising, unplugging from technology, mentally disconnecting from work, and going on vacations, but for most of us, it’s an ongoing battle, particularly since the ground transportation industry never sleeps. As we all know, it is 24/7/365, and being tethered to our phones for texts, social media, and emergency calls has become the norm for not only owners but also non-managerial staff.
As a presenter, ideally I’d have audience members who are gazing thoughtfully into my eyes as I offer them life-changing information. But I’ve learned not to take it personally when the people I’m lecturing to are looking at their phones, tablets, and smart watches because I understand that their businesses keep going, no matter where they are. And to be honest, many attendees are actually using technology to simplify their experience in an educational session: They use their phones to take notes, snap photos of slides, or even take photos of me to post to their social media accounts. Sometimes they even quote me in a tweet or enter my information into their contacts on the spot. On the flip side, you’ll sometimes see presenters with their phones out as well so they can read their presentation notes or manage their slides. Tech is welcomed, encouraged, and useful in business settings. But what happens when it consumes you?
We see it every day: the person who’s checking Facebook while driving or sending emails while holding up the grocery line. A quick Google search yields endless video compilations of people falling into fountains or tripping over bushes because they’re texting while walking. I notice it most when I’m out to dinner: It always amazes me how many people are staring at their phones instead of talking to or enjoying their company around the table.
“Tech is welcomed, encouraged, and useful in business settings. But what happens when it consumes you?”
My daily routine always starts the same way: wake up, check my phone for messages or alerts, check my email, and play my favorite phone game until it’s time to get up and have coffee. I’m on call all day and into the night, and each time my phone pings me—which is easily 10 times an hour—I pick it up. Until one day when the unthinkable happened: My phone wouldn’t turn on. I panicked at first: There were so many things I suddenly needed to Google, so many places I didn’t know the way to without GPS navigation, and photos I wanted to share. But it got better after those first 24 hours of weaning myself off an addiction I didn’t even know I had. I soon found myself more relaxed, more present with the people in my life, and more observant of the world around me. My phone was eventually repaired, but as a result of this experience, I began putting technology limits on myself, not wanting to slip back into my overconnected habits. They might work for you, too.
❱ Silence Is Golden
If there is a big project you need to complete or a meeting you’re attending, put your phone on silent and put it away so you can’t see it. I find that even if my phone is on silent, if I have it in front of me and see the light blinking, I’m still likely to pick it up. I’m much more productive without having alerts pop up, pulling me away from my important work. Out of sight, out of mind!
❱ Phone Pile
When you’re out to dinner with a group, put your phones in a pile. The first one to pick the phone up pays for the meal! Believe me, the money you can save is incentive enough—especially if you’re eating with a large group. Make a game out of it, and see how much fun you have with your dining companions when you remove the barrier of technology.
❱ Be Hands-Free
Stay safe out there on the roads and connect your Bluetooth—but if you absolutely have to. Please don’t text and drive or answer emails while you’re behind the wheel. If it’s too tempting, put your phone on airplane mode. You’ll still get all your notifications when you reach your destination, but you’ll be free from technological temptation—and safe!—the whole way there and back.
For every two hours you spend in front of a computer or on your phone, dedicate at least one hour to human interaction or alone time. So for every eight hours at work, spend at least four with your family, at the gym, embroidering—whatever you enjoy that has nothing to do with technology.
❱ Time Off
If you have time off on a weekend or vacation when you are not on call, disconnect! Uninstall social media, turn off email alerts, or leave your phone behind. Not every experience needs to be recorded on your camera. There are so many events I’ve gone to that I honestly can’t even remember because I am always behind my lens. Tragic, isn’t it? Since there is an app for everything, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are apps to keep you off your phone. Moment filters distractions like Facebook while still letting critical messages through. SPACE tracks your mobile usage and compiles that data into an addiction score.
❱ Hire Help
Whether you hire internally or externally, be sure to train your staff properly and create policies and procedures so you can truly relax when you leave the office. There are plenty of amazing answering services, and there are plenty of competent people looking for work. Take a chance! Having a second line of defense is definitely worth the extra expense: I promise you.
Think about what matters the most to you and why you work so hard. If the answer is your family or your hobbies, then consider pumping the brakes on your tech consumption—if not steadily, then at least a few nights a week. Your quality of life will improve, and although it may seem counterintuitive, your professional life will benefit from your more balanced approach.
If you’ve tried these tips, please let me know how they worked for you! I’d also like to hear if you have any creative tech/life balance ideas to share. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. [CD0218]
Aleja Seabron is the social media manager for The LMC Group. She can be reached at email@example.com.