Removing ourselves from our work is hard work. I thought I was good at it. Then one day, while playing with my 2 year old son on a Saturday morning, I looked down and habitually clicked the email app on my phone. After reading a few notes, I looked up and my son had ventured to the next room.
I didn’t blame him.
In that moment, I thought, what in the world am I doing? I have my son sitting in front of me, giving me his full attention and I’m reading emails on a Saturday. I became very self-aware that weekend and caught myself checking my email while my wife was driving us around town, while we were at a cookout with friends and while I was lying in bed. That was just Saturday.
The following weekend I tested something. I turned off my work email on my phone at 8PM on Friday and turned it back on at 8AM on Monday. Admittedly, I was a bit anxious. What if I miss something? I found myself engaging old habits and clicked the mail icon expecting to see my work email (it’s amazing how well-trained we are!).
Two things happened when I turned my email back on Monday.
- I saw no emails that needed to be responded to over the weekend.
- I returned to work with new ideas and felt mentally rested and rejuvenated.
The revitalized energy excited me!
I had been connected to work, uninterrupted for basically 6 years. I had never fully removed myself, even for a day.
That week, I set a call with my team and shared my findings. I told them I was going to commit to this going forward.
As remote workers, we don’t step in and out of the office. I committed to them that I would “step out” of the office at 8PM every Friday and “step back in” at 8AM every Monday. I encouraged them to do the same.
I’m two years in and will never look back. Here are some of my learnings:
- If someone really needs you, they will get ahold of you via text or call
- You will have more ideas and more energy at the beginning of each work week
- My only exception is quarter-end, where I will remain connected
- If I’m on vacation – I do the same thing. Extra benefit is you empower someone on your team to be fully responsible as your back-up.
- If you need to do work on a weekend, this doesn’t stop you. It only makes you take a conscious effort to do it. You either need to (1) turn on your laptop or (2) turn your email back on your phone. Those seem simple, but relative to just clicking a mail icon, they require conscious and deliberate effort.
How do you start?
Tip #1: If you’re anxious about it, try just doing it this Saturday
Tip #2: If you have 2 phones, lock your work phone away.
Tip #3: If you have 1 phone and use Apple Mail, go into the Mail settings and “toggle” off mail from your work account.
Tip #4: If you have 1 phone and cannot “toggle” the mail off, move the app as far from the main screen as possible, ideally hidden in an app grouping.
You will feel uncomfortable. You will feel anxious. But if the entire country of France can do it – I promise you can, too!