The pandemic has disrupted your life and blurred the lines between working at home and living at work. Your job role may have shifted as we grapple collectively with how to provide essential services with little to no human contact. The volume of emails, texts, tweets, and meetings has increased exponentially. And you’re emotionally spent from all the change, disruption, and uncertainty.
If you wish things could magically go back to “normal,” you’re in good company. But the truth is “normal” wasn’t working for you if you consistently had too many things on your plate, were constantly putting out fires, or never had enough time or resources to get everything done.
And research shows our “new normal” isn’t much better. We’re working more but getting less done. And all this technology is making us less (not more) productive.
Why is this?
It’s partly because we’re experiencing the largest work-from-home and homeschooling experiment in history. Or, as the Canadian government reminds us, we’re not working from home or homeschooling. We’re at home during a crisis trying to get work done while taking care of our loved ones.
Yet while the current pandemic is unprecedented, change and disruption are constant in life. Consequently, I believe our current challenges aren’t entirely the result of recent events, but rather an epidemic of what I call Intention Deficit Disorder (IDD). We experience IDD when we wander through life on autopilot and out of alignment with our core values or when we’re busy without a clear purpose in mind.
For many of us, IDD begins when we wake up in the morning. Even before rolling out of bed or greeting our partner, we may be up checking emails, responding to text messages, scrolling through social media, and going through our mental checklists for the day.
Then, we rush to the computer and spend most of the day in a perpetual state of distraction. By the time work ends (and it never does really), we’re exhausted from non-stop Zoom meetings and sitting behind a screen all day. We have little, if anything, left over for our loved ones. And when we finally fall asleep, our devices are right there beside us.
Yes, you may be busy. Your inbox may be overflowing. And your calendar may be full of important calls. But being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive or making a positive impact.
The truth is you don’t need more time, tech tools, or productivity hacks. You need fewer things on your plate, clearer intentions, and firmer boundaries.
If this sounds anything like you, you may be asking yourself: how do I create more tech-life balance in today’s changing world?
The simple answer is: set boundaries for when, where, and how you use your technology.
Here are three simple things you can do right away to create more tech-life balance:
Make a plan for your day and week
Survey data show one of the biggest distractions in the workplace is lack of clarity about what’s important to focus on in a particular moment. Consequently, when we are distracted, we may find it difficult to get back on track because we’re not clear about what’s important.
You can correct this by taking a few moments at the beginning or end of your days and weeks to establish your intention and priorities. You can think of this process as setting the address for your intended destination in your GPS. Without a destination, you drive around for hours and end up in no place in particular. This is like being busy without making a real impact.
Research shows that when you do this process by hand, you are more likely to remember AND follow through on the intention and priorities you set. This is one reason I created the Intention Planner.
Practice being socially distant from your devices
When working, eating, and sleeping, we have a perfect opportunity to be socially distant from our devices. These breaks allow our brains and bodies to recover from the stress of being constantly connected.
- Start by charging your devices outside of your workspace and adding tech breaks to your calendar to check-in throughout the day on any important calls or messages.
- Turn off notifications for non-missional critical apps.
- Put away your devices during meals.
- Buy a real alarm clock and charge your devices outside your bedroom so you can get uninterrupted rest at night.
Establish your rules of engagement
These rules spell out things like:
- Which hours will you be available for work each day?
- Which hours will you be available for life outside of work?
- Which tools should colleagues use to reach you for urgent matters? What about non-urgent issues?
- What’s an urgent matter?
- How soon should someone expect a response from you depending on the level of urgency?
Establishing and communicating these boundaries removes the guesswork around when and how you are available for your work and personal life and reduces any anxiety you may feel about needing to be on and available 24/7.
These small changes won’t make things go back to “normal,” but they will set you up for a more mindful approach to making an impact in today’s changing world.
The not-so-simple answer requires you to answer what I believe are the most important questions anyone could ponder, which are:
- At the end of your life, what will be your lasting impact and legacy?
- What changes must you make to lead a life aligned with the legacy you want to leave behind?
I believe there’s nothing more important than taking time to ponder your life’s intention or why you wake up every day.
For me, it’s very simple: I desire nothing more than to be the best partner and father I can be and to support changemakers like you in living their best lives while making the world a better place.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put away your devices and make an appointment with yourself within the next seven days to establish and communicate your rules of engagement.
This small change won’t make things go back to “normal,” but it will set you up for a more mindful approach to your work, life, and technology.
Meico Marquette Whitlock, the Mindful Techie, is a digital wellness and leadership coach who helps changemakers create lasting work-life and tech-life balance so that they can do good work better. Meico is the founder and CEO of Mindful Techie, author of the Intention Planner, and a certified mindfulness teacher. He has worked with organizations such as Blackbaud, Network for Good, Cigna, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund. He has been featured on ABC News, Fox 5, Radio One, and at events such as the Nonprofit Technology Conference. Learn more at mindfultechie.com or connect with him on LinkedIn or Instagram.