It’s no secret that the accessibility of technology has made it more comfortable for us to live and work. The convenience of having a palm-sized computer in our pocket allows us the possibility of checking our email while we wait in line for coffee, and it’s easy to check our work schedule or text our colleagues when we’re having drinks with friends. But somehow, despite technology’s marketable promise of time-saving capabilities, it feels like we have less time and more anxiety than ever.
Our habit of crossing the work/life line is also detrimental to our health: according to research by the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, “Smartphones put us in an ever-increasing state of hyper-vigilance, where we’re always feeling compelled to check our calls, texts, social media alerts, work email, and more.” says David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “This keeps the adrenals constantly activated and cortisol levels elevated.” Heightened cortisol levels mean higher blood pressure, a faster heart rate and anxiety, all of which lead to decreased mental performance.
No wonder we’re always so stressed out. Those who follow creative and entrepreneurial paths are even more likely to suffer from technology induced anxiety, because for us, work often is our personal life. But it’s important to remember that everyone is multi-faceted and needs to practice self-care to prevent burnout, and one aspect of self-care is indulging ourselves in ways unrelated to work. So how do we find a way to separate business and personal life?
Time management, a learned practice essential to success, is also an important player in a healthy work-life balance. It’s more than a habit that tells us when to walk the dog and call our boss. It’s a valuable skill that, when developed, heightens our focus on the present moment. And that kind of laser focus increases our productivity and decreases our stress. At its core, it means we know how to work when we need to work and relax when we need to relax— neither of which involves scrolling aimlessly through our news feeds.
The following are a five ways we can improve our time management skills and, as a result, learn to balance our work life with our personal life.
- Disconnect from technology. Whenever possible, turn off your phone and dedicate yourself entirely to the task or activity at hand. If you need your phone on for work calls or texts, keep it across the room to prevent you from picking it up to scroll mindlessly through apps or emails. At least once a day, dedicate thirty minutes to yourself without your phone— no exceptions. I leave my phone at home when I walk my dog, and it’s done wonders for my peace of mind. After just a few days of this practice, you’ll notice your awareness of the present moment getting sharper and will feel more calm as a result.
- Turn off push notifications at a certain time. Even if you’re working for yourself, dedicate work time to working‚ and the rest of your time to living. Whenever you’re done for the day, turn off push and sound notifications. This will prevent you from opening up your email when it dings in the middle of the movie you’re watching with your partner. Your personal relationships will improve as a result of your attention to them. Additionally, you won’t be thinking so much about what you have to do tomorrow, because you’ll be enjoying the present.
- Meditate. At the start of 2017, I resolved to spend ten minutes a day meditating. I didn’t know exactly how to meditate, so I went on YouTube and found guided morning meditations that I play as I lay in bed and prepare for the day. This practice is one of the most valuable tools for productivity and stress-relief that I have in my arsenal. It allows me to visualize my day and prioritize my tasks and engagements as a result. On mornings I don’t meditate, I notice a vast difference in the way my day unfolds— always in a more frazzled and stressful manner. I encourage you to put meditation into practice in your own life. Ten minutes isn’t much— everything else can wait.
- Set boundaries. Don’t let work take over your life. While your career may pay your bills, your relationships and passions ignite your heart. Don’t make anything more important than anything else. If you wouldn’t take your mother’s call during a work meeting, don’t interrupt your mother to take a work call.
Schedule your life as much as you schedule work tasks. Set aside one day a week and an hour a day for something you enjoy. It can be as simple as reading fashion blogs or something more intensive, like taking classes in rock climbing. Schedule time to meet friends for coffee and play board games with your dad. Your ability to indulge yourself in activities solely for the purpose of enjoyment will determine how much joy you get from life. They also help you to build a balanced life that you don’t feel the need to escape from.