These days it is hard to find a young professional who does not have a smartphone and a laptop. Most of my friends have multiple email accounts and social media personalities. And with many professions demanding more connectivity, it’s often hard for the millennial generation to balance work and life. There is that constant pressure to be connected at all times, a fear that you will miss something and apprehension that your job success is determined by your ability to be reached an any time of the day and night.
Last year, for instance, I had a freelance job that required me to be on top of all commercial real estate news happening in the Midwest. Most days that meant being online 10 hours a day, reading articles, skimming press releases, making phone calls to follow-up on rumors, and through it all writing up to 6 articles daily on the happenings. The weekends tended to be a bit of a breather, but not always. I needed to check my emails at least three times a day on Saturday and Sunday to make sure nothing big happened while I was living life. And on holidays things were even worse. I might have a technical day off, but I still found myself writing an article on several federal holidays since news doesn’t wait for me to get to my desk on Monday morning.
That job started my obsession with having my blackberry with me at all times. The light would flash indicating a new email and I would read it. Nine times out of 10 it was spam or something that could wait. But what if it wasn’t? I lived in fear of missing something.
When I caught myself checking my emails for the tenth time when out to dinner with a friend, I realized something needed to change. The world was not going to fall apart if I wasn’t connected at every moment. I slowly I began to teach myself how to disconnect at the right times. I would leave my smartphone in my purse when out with friends. Or tell myself I couldn’t check my emails until noon on a Saturday, allowing myself a much needed trip to the gym before launching into work-related issues.
But that disconnecting, in a world that is ever more pressuring us to be connected, is a hard-fought battle day after day; especially when you feel your job depends on it.
How do you disconnect? What tips and tricks do you use to allow yourself time to live life?