We all know that work isn’t everything, and we also know that part of living a full life means unplugging from work. But for many of us, it’s really hard to disconnect – with phones and emails and that constant feeling that we should be DOING SOMETHING, we can’t seem to turn it off.
Why is it so difficult?
Part of the reason is our culture’s definition of success, which is focused on achievements, accomplishment, external accolades, and financial rewards. In order to be successful, we’re told, we must be working all the time. We talk endlessly about how busy we are, and we run ourselves ragged answering emails on nights and weekends. We are jointly complicit in rewarding and recognizing those who never disconnect – as loyal, committed, and productive – without actually stopping to question whether results are improving or if we’re just creating more activity and busy work.
So… If you want to live your life by the definition of success that says you should be busy all the time, and if you want to live to work, then go for it. You should be very happy in our current culture.
But if you want to live your whole life, not just your work life, then here are some ways to unplug, guilt free.
And I’m suggesting you do these things not because they will make you more productive at work. I’m suggesting you do them simply because they will be enjoyable and they are fundamental parts of living a whole life.
And now for my plea… When I lived in Latin America, I noticed that no one responded to emails after 7pm or on weekends. It didn’t matter how much I wanted to progress on an initiative or resolve an issue or how many emails I sent. During those times, people were not going to respond. It wasn’t because they weren’t dedicated to their work. It was because they were with their families and friends and enjoying their personal lives. And you know what? The business didn’t suffer because they weren’t answering emails on nights and weekends. The business continued doing fine and life went on.
When I moved back to the US, I realized how much work we create for ourselves and others by always being connected and by answering emails at all hours of the night and day. I get emails from coworkers that are sent at 9pm, 11pm, 2am, 4am, and 6am, and I wonder when does anyone sleep or enjoy personal time! So instead of continuing with this practice, why don’t we agree to stop sending work emails after 7pm on weekdays and on weekends? In 99.9% of the cases, the impact to the business will be zero, and if something really important comes up, we can make the pledge to call or text each other. But not email. Let’s stop making work for each other just so we can brag about how busy we are.
Let’s stop wearing our workaholic tendencies as badges of honor and start spending time living our whole lives not just our work lives.