This blog is part our recurring series Friday’s on Recur featuring Co-Founder of ASG Jake Brodsky, covering what’s happening in the market and common Founder questions about growing, selling and leading a SaaS business.
I was fortunate enough growing up with my family having “family dinner” just about every night of the week. My mom was an entrepreneur/consultant, working from home far before it was the cool (mandatory) thing to do, and my dad was a foot doctor. By 5:12pm every day, the 12 minute commute my dad had from his office, the whole family was home and working together to put dinner on the table.
The 9-5 workday was still very much a standard. At dinner, there was no TV, tablets and smart phones hadn’t been invented yet nor were there any other distractions. The question that immediately comes to mind is “what the heck did we talk about to fill that amount of time ever single day?!?” Having that much time with family or friends every night these days without devices probably sounds like a chore to many of us, but I wonder if that was a key element of happiness. The idea of being disconnected.
What’s more realistic at my dinner table these days is having just prepared a meal with my wife, our dog sitting under the table waiting for scraps, with both humans within arms reach of at least 1 device. The notification pings and we immediately check it and before long we’re both finishing our meal looking at our phones. Sometimes we rationalize it saying we’re on Twitter checking the news or on TikTok just allowing our minds to wander and reset for the next day, but that’s not disconnecting.
So what can we do about this?
Various companies are spending millions of hours and dollars thinking about ways to encourage (sometimes force) its employees to disconnect. Ideas generated have ranged from mandatory 2 week vacations, sabbaticals for long-tenured employees, to implementing network shutdowns on “off hours”. While these are great steps to see from employers, it’s really up to the employee to solve for her and his needs. The grind of work hits us all differently, resulting in needing to find different ways that we should each individually disconnect.
Here are the top 3 things I’ve done to help this dynamic.
- Reduce the number of devices and if possible, the versatility of those devices
I bought an Apple watch because I wanted to track the various workouts I had planned on doing. The idea of the watch was great, until it was constantly pinging me the notifications I was receiving on my phone. Yes, you can turn off those notifications, but why tempt yourself? The constant ping is addicting. So I returned the watch and regained my freedom. I was also in the market to get the new iPad, mostly for work to allow me to multi-task less and be more present in the never-ending Zoom meetings. So instead of buying the top of the line, I bought the bottom of the line to limit the capabilities of the machine, thus reducing how frequently I actually reach for it. It’s a slight mind-hack, but it works! Buy your technology for the need, not the ceiling of what it can do because it’ll expand your usage to do those things.
- Create a structured calendar with scheduled free/family/workout time.
The calendar is a powerful tool. I’ve tried many things with this tool. First, I tried emptying my calendar and making sure I had as much white space as possible. I know…rookie mistake. That soon failed as people saw my calendar was free and the meetings piled up. Often times, they came before 9am and well after 5pm. So I took the advice of many out there and went the complete opposite direction and calendared as much as I could, most importantly, recurring personal things like gym visits, family dinner, and even day offs. My team even took it a step further and blocked off every other Friday to be meeting-free to either be taken off completely as vacation or “me” time to finally get through the to-do list. Blocking time on your calendar for YOU can be a huge game changer.
- Pick up an activity that you can do outside.
Get some Vitamin D and give your eyes a break! Vitamin D is scarcely found naturally in food as we get the majority of our vitamins, but we can absorb it through sunshine (and supplements which seemed to fly off shelves as soon as they said it can help fight COVID). Most importantly, this structured time can allow you to give your body and brain a new activity to focus on. My two favorites have been signing up for the dog walks as much as I can (guaranteed 30-45 minute walk outside with a pure bundle of joy) and skiing (being fortunate that I live in a place that supports this). Both of those force me out of the house, away from the screens and constant notifications.
Whatever you find that works for you, give it a try. I’ve found that the more seriously I take disconnecting, the better I am at being fully engaged and connected when I am working.