Nearly a year ago, my leadership coach famously said, “Any idiot can work 25 hours a day.” Great advice for a new entrepreneur. But somehow, in the last few months, I’ve forgotten to heed her advice. Without even realizing it, I’ve become the working-all-the-time, barely sleeping, running, running, running entrepreneur. And nothing seemed to be wrong until Tuesday when I arrived back in Chicago from my latest trip home to see family. Almost immediately upon arriving home, my throat hurt, my eyes ached, and by Wednesday morning, I was in full-blown sick mode with a terrible cough/cold.
It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that I realized what was happening. It was Career Girl Writer and my personal health coach, Rebecca Niziol,who gave me the wake up call. This wasn’t the first time I’d been sick recently. Three of the past four weekends, I’d spent at least one day working through a terrible headache or runny nose. But even with feeling like crap, I’d kept on working. On top of that, in the days before, I’d fallen down and twisted my ankle and knee….twice. Rebecca helped me to see that I was literally falling down. My body was screaming “REST,” and I knew I had to listen.
So reluctantly, I agreed to a 24 hour total unplug. Following a morning meeting on Friday, I shut off email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and prepared for a long day/evening of TV watching, reading, and boredom (I assumed). Saturday morning, I turned email back on, realized nothing was blowing up (whether I want to admit it or not, Career Girl Network doesn’t exactly engage in life or death situations – ha!). I then did the unthinkable. I turned it all back off. Later on Saturday night, I thought to myself, “There must be some middle ground.” There is.
My 24+ hours unplugged taught me more than I could have imagined. And because of that time, I’ve taken some actions to continue to remain more unplugged than ever before in my career:
- I turned off notifications on my iPhone and iPad. It took me less than an hour to realize how often I listen for or look at my phone to check its alerts. It was as if my brain was constantly waiting for that “ding” or “bum bum bum” to alert me that someone wanted to talk to me, an email was in my inbox, someone was Facebooking or Tweeting or Instagramming me. Upon turning my email and social media back on, I set all of their settings differently. No more sounds. No more lights. No more badges. Now, I have to consciously decide to check things and on my own time.
- I realized email doesn’t need to be up all the time! Whenever I’m working, whatever I’m doing, I always have my Mac Mail program running in the background. And the moment that little red “1″ comes up, I click right on over to find out who’s emailing me for what. No more. For instance, as I write this article, it’s Sunday afternoon. My email is closed. And guess what? I’m writing faster and more efficiently, and I’m sure my other projects will be the same when I’m not always looking for that “You’ve Got Mail” notification.
- I changed my email preferences.I looked at my email preferences for the first time in months and realized my Mac Mail was checking for new messages every minute. Every minute! I did something drastic. I changed it to 30 minutes! Because, seriously, is there anything you get via email that truly needs to be dealt with in less than 30 minutes? If someone does email you with an immediate need, and you don’t respond, trust me, they’ll call you or text! This will save you an incredible amount of time when email is open!
- I put my computer away. The problem with living in a laptop-filled society is the presence of our laps. When we’re watching TV, reading, hanging out with family, etc. our laps are always available and screaming for our computers to sit on them. When I finish a project, I generally close my laptop and set it on the coffee table or couch in front of me. And suddenly, five minutes later, it’s back on my lap, and I’m doing something new. Now, when I’m done with a project or work time, I’m putting the laptop in my laptop bag and out of arm’s reach. That way, I have to intentionally pick it up.
What do you do to keep yourself unplugged? Is your “plugged in” life causing problems for you emotionally, mentally, or — like me — physically? Consider taking some of my tips and applying them to your own life. You might find you’re more productive, and if nothing else, healthier.