026: Disconnect For Your Health

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This week Justin shares about how we should regularly disconnect to keep technology a tool instead of the place we live for our mental, emotional, and relational health.

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00:00 Hello and welcome to Process, a podcast by Effective Remote Work. My name is Justin DiRose and today we’re talking about disconnecting. On episode 50 of the Tools They Use podcast, I joined Francesco D’Alessio to talk about ways you can mitigate loneliness being a remote worker. One of the items that I brought up in that discussion was disconnecting and so today I wanted to dive a little bit into what that might look like for you and how to do that. But first I wanted to throw something out there for you. As remote workers, sometimes depending on our company’s cultures and stuff like that, it can be difficult to stay connected. And so an idea that I am tossing out there too and I would love to get your feedback on is this place of a remote worker water cooler type place. So we’re thinking maybe like a Discord chat that’s connected up with our pro membership over on the Effective Remote Work Community so that if you sign up for pro you get access to an exclusive private chat community to be able to just hang out with other emote workers.

01:16 If that’s something that you’re interested in or if you have ideas on that, hit us up on Twitter @effectiveremote or head on over to the Effective Remote Work Community and vote on the poll and share your thoughts in the topic there. So let’s dive in for today. Now as remote workers, we’re often connected nearly 100% of the time. We don’t have trips to the coffee pot to connect with coworkers. Nor do we rarely ever go to in person meetings with people at work. So that means that all of the day to day normal interactions that we have with people we’re collaborating with usually take place via voice, text or video communication via our computers, iPads, other tablets, smartwatches, smart phones, whatever means we have available. And with that being quote unquote available basically means being online and connected. Now with most of these amazing technologies on our smart phones, that means that they are available anywhere, any time.

02:33 And that means it’s very easy for work stuff to creep into every moment of every single day. I bet you can understand a little bit that this might be a little bit of a problem. I know for me, when I am connected all the time, and especially when I’ve got email open, I’ve got Twitter or Facebook or other social media that’s opened very regularly for me, I can get pretty overwhelmed both emotionally and mentally with all of the information that’s coming at me. That’s a real problem. And as a result, then I have a hard time one disconnecting from those feeds and news sources because they give me some sort of dopamine hit when I consume them, but two, I’m completely unsatisfied because it’s lacking the emotional and relational connection that I need. So additionally, you might want to disconnect to just get a separation from work for awhile.

03:39 It’s really, really easy with these things being available all the time, these communication tools being in our pockets with us all of the time to let work creep into every single hour of the day. Additionally, you might need a mental break from things that are at work. Honestly, one of the most effective things that I’ve been able to do at different times that has led me to solve fairly complex problems, whether it be something with programming or something with a business process or even something relationally with another person in business is to step away and do something else. Let my brain chew on it subconsciously and then I’ll come back and I’ll have a different set of ideas.

04:23 As I mentioned, it is very easy to get overloaded with the infinite feeds on the Internet and with that it can also be very difficult to remember that the opinions and ideas expressed in these online avenues actually come from real people when you only see their or an avatar online. I think it’s extremely important to remember that we’re talking with real people that have a far more nuanced and complicated view on the issues that we’re dealing with in the workplace than can often be expressed in written or audio only forms of communication. And I think it’s important to disconnect from these digital things even though we’re not talking to those individuals, but get ourselves in quote unquote meatspace, hearkening back to way old times in the Internet world, but getting in connection with real people face to face, that have deeper complex opinions about things can cause us to remember that the people we’re working with through these digital means are really people too, even though we might fully agree with them, we might not agree with them in different ways.

05:45 They might communicate differently than we do. It’s just important to step back and remember that we’re all people. And lastly, a big reason you might want to disconnect from these digital inputs and these digital things. It’s just to create margin in your life. It’s very easy, as I mentioned, for work to creep into lots of different areas in our lives, but it’s also important to remember that technology can do the same thing in ways when we’re not being intentional. For example, you may pick up a habit to pick up your phone and check the news on a certain website when you’re cooking dinner, but maybe that time could be used to start unwinding from the workday or giving attention to something else, like maybe your kids or your spouse. Having your phone in that place turns off the ability to do that or it makes it a lot harder to do that.

06:48 And when you disconnect intentionally from technology, it makes it a little bit easier to focus on what’s at hand versus having your mind be someplace else. So we’ve discussed a little bit about why you might disconnect, how might you want to go about doing that? There’s a few different ways and obviously the approaches are different for everyone, but these are some things that I know that I have found to work. But there may be other options that work for you differently than me. But one thing that I have found to be extremely helpful is to hold office hours. I’ve mentioned this in the past quite frequently actually, but I try to work a consistent set of hours Monday through Friday and I try to keep that usually between the hours of eight and 5:00 PM. Granted, if my work schedule needs to flex, that will change.

07:45 But ultimately that is what I try to do because it sets good firm boundaries on when I should work and when I can’t. Additionally, it might be a good idea to consider not putting work stuff on your phone or if you’re like me religiously use a feature like Downtime on iOS. Funny story about that. I was messing around with putting a pass code on downtime or screen time on my phone and I had turned off Safari and Mail on my phone. Well, I’ve only added the passcode and then I proceeded to forget it and now I can’t remember it. So it’s just completely turned off unless I want to completely reset my phone to factory settings and start from the beginning. Yikes. Right. Well, I’m actually, I was really upset about that to begin with, but now I’m starting to embrace that idea of, well maybe I should just see how this goes where I can’t get access to anything work or consumption related on my phone cause I don’t have anything else installed for apps on my phone and I don’t intend to put anything there. But with that, you might want to consider not putting your work stuff on your phone because when you have that in your pocket and it’s there and you don’t have a feature like downtime that can turn those things off or you’re just cancel it like I do half the time then you just don’t have the option when you pull your phone out.

09:18 Also, I find it important to regularly take breaks throughout the day. I am 100% guilty of not doing this myself, but when you are working on the computer and you’re pushing hard and you’re getting stuff done, it’s important to take a mental break and walk away every few hours just so that you can reset. Get some water, go out for a little bit of a walk, even just around the house, outside down to the mailbox, whatever it is, it helps. And then also with that going outside kind of reframes your mind. The other benefit of doing something like this is that it eases strain on your eyes. One of the things that can happen when you work on a computer very regularly is that you can develop strain and unless you take regular, frequent breaks to look at something further away from you, you can have some issues with your eyes as a result of that.

10:12 I don’t have the exact science on that in front of me this time, but it’s something to keep in mind. Lastly, especially in the realm of developing margin, it’s important to know your values and to let your values influence your decisions on how you spend your time. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I try to make decisions on how it affects my family and so if I’m going to take more time to work, then I need to be aware of how that’s affecting my family. If my family’s not around for those hours, then it’s no big deal, but if I’m missing out on critical time with my children, then it is a big deal and that automatically takes precedence over any work that I have to do. Now granted, these principles don’t just apply to work. They can apply to anything going on in the digital space of being a remote worker, whether that’s socializing or whatnot, it’s just a really good idea to intentionally disconnect because when you live in an always on available date in the digital world, it can very easily creep into becoming your default and having that be your default is while it can be good in a lot of different ways, tere’s a lot of good that happens too from intentionally disconnecting and making sure that we’re keeping technology as a tool, not the place that we live our lives.

11:38 Well, that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or if you want to connect with other remote workers looking to grow in their effectiveness, head on over to the Effective Remote Work Community at community.effectiveremotework.com. If Twitter’s your thing, you can find me @justindirose, and you can find Effective Remote Work @effectiveremote. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show at podcast.effectiveremotework.com. Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.