A quest to tame technology-driven interruptions and distractions in my daily life.

Archive for February, 2012

Out of Office

I see a lot of crazy things. People with two cell phones stacked on top of one another. Parents amidst the maelstrom of their child’s glee at a bouncy house place, yet lost in their smartphones. All of us together alone.

But one of the things that I notice most often and feel the most profoundly is our collective unwillingness to leave work at work. Or put another way: since employing The Off Switch in my daily life, I am continually shocked that we have allowed ourselves to be accessible to our jobs most waking hours of every day. Work is great and all, but nobody wants to do it all the time—especially when you’re only getting paid to do it some of the time.

One of the most powerful changes I made and one of the easiest ones to stick to is turning off work email after hours. I no longer do email on my phone—so that’s no issue—but when I leave work for the night or the weekend, I stop checking work email until I’m back at my desk. And I don’t rely on self-control… I turn it off on my iPad (my only non-work email device). Anyway, for me, this change was a liberation not only from the distracting interruption of getting and checking the emails… it was the way I would often be pulled into that world all evening or all weekend.

As I’ve recounted before, the bliss of not being connected to clients and coworkers and media contacts is so so worth it. Still, I struggle with how to reconcile my personal limits and the way the rest of the modern world seems to operate. Currently, I just don’t check or reply to messages until I’m back at my desk—regardless of when they came in—and nobody seems bothered. But sometimes, clients in particular seem perturbed that I am not available when they are.

Do I send them an explanatory note when they become a client or put a disclaimer below my signature? I tried an Out of Office auto reply, but that got a “concerned” call from a past client. Then there are the texts. Even though clients can’t get me by email (and probably because they can’t) more and more of them are texting me nights and weekends with quick questions or needs. I try to be polite and reply—if partially because I’ll forget to reply otherwise.

For me, the limits are mostly about common sense self preservation. We run an often hectic, service-oriented business with nearly 20 clients at a given time, dozens of colleagues corresponding weekly, and hundreds of media contacts—not to mention inter-office emails. I’ve learned that if I don’t draw a line, nobody will. The reality is, people have either just let self control atrophy or they no longer consider the timing of communication as being a relative component of common courtesy.

I could go on, but I won’t. In the end, we each must learn to live with our own boundaries. If my need to establish balance in my life is off putting to your need for convenience… tough. All I know if that I’m not going back.