In a world where the words 'always on' and 'stay connected' have become popular taglines used for just about anything related to digital, I've also seen the term switch off becoming more and more popular.
The need to be needed in the fourth industrial revolution and to grow with the times has placed a burden on many professionals to be always switched on, to always be connected. With so many communication platforms available, gone are the days when you only expected a call that is work-related, many business people are conducting business via Whatsapp and even Facebook.
However, despite this rise in the trend to always be on, I also see people with more than just one cell phone, one for work and one for family and friends. Aside from the many practical reasons for this such as separate phone bills, I also see that there is a need for people to departmentalize their life, a need for them to take back control of their personal life which is separate from work, and a need to be present in the moments that really matter; the moments with family, friends, and the moments by yourself where you pause and reflect.
This need to prioritize family and personal time has increased in recent years as people experience less fulfillment from work with reports of corporate leaders involved in scandals, major companies instituting retrenchments and just the toxic work cultures prevalent in companies. These are amongst the things that have led to this radical shift in minds of business professionals prioritizing family, home and themselves.
This new shift, I believe, should be welcomed, and is surely something that more professionals should prioritize. There are many benefits to switching off, not only personal but also professional.
I am all too familiar with the rat race, when you start out, you try and prove yourself to your superiors so that you can take that next step forward. There are still many people running that rat race. With more than 10 years’ experience, maybe I'm simply in a different stage of my career, where I don't feel the need to prove myself anymore, I simply feel the need to do a good job and I don't need to wait for anyone to tell me whether it was good or not. I know. It is a special place to be, an empowering place. However, I don't think that once you reach this stage, you automatically start switching off, it is a conscious daily effort.
I also have not mastered it. When I go on leave, it takes me three days to stop thinking about work. Only on my fourth day do I become completely relaxed and present at home. It is a process, but as I am going through this process, I've learned some things that work for me, that help me switch off faster. I am sharing them with you in this blog post.
1. Practice gratitude
If you consciously look at your life and identify moments to be grateful, then it immediately changes your mindset. Don't wait for something big to happen to be grateful. Simple things like being at home and cooking with your partner. That is a special moment to be grateful for. I've heard of couples who rarely see each other because their businesses keep them so busy. When I am home cooking with my husband, I am grateful, because I know that so many couples do not have that opportunity. When I take my dogs for a walk, I am grateful, because I know that there are people who are too scared to take their dogs for a walk, because they feel unsafe in their neighbourhood. When I consciously think about these moments and identify them as something to be grateful for, home becomes an even better place to be and nowhere (especially not work) can compare.
2. Do the things you love
I love writing. I love sharing my ideas with the world, even if only one person is reading. If I can make even the smallest difference by sharing my story, it gives me great satisfaction. Once I've written down what's been on my mind, I can let it go. If I don't write it down, I keep thinking about it, so that I can remember it, but when I've written it, I know it's been recorded. When I haven't written anything in a long time, I feel restless and I often feel like I'm cheating myself because I am not doing what I love most. I also start resenting the things that I must do out of necessity. When you practice doing what you love daily or as often as possible, you can do the things you don't love as much with a better attitude.
3. Switch off
Don't access work emails after hours or while on leave unless the nature of your job or your contract requires you to do so. The great thing about being a professional is that you know how to prioritize, and you know how to manage your time. You know what you need to finish in your nine-hour day. Tomorrow will have a new set of challenges. Tomorrow, once you've switched off, relaxed, did some of the things you love, then you can tackle those other work challenges with a refreshed mind and heart.
I guess some employers would not be in favour of number three, but this is the reality. The problem is that there are employers who see people as objects and not people. People need purpose and they need to know that their employers care about them. Employers who care tell their employees to go home, to relax and unburden, especially to their hard-working employees and their top performers. The problem is that most employers feel the need to push their top performers harder to make up for the lack of production from the poor performers. This is a counterproductive approach and will not end well for that company in the long term. They will eventually lose their top performers and be left with the poor performers with whom they did not follow the necessary human resource processes. Squeezing people to the maximum, and pushing them to get every little bit of extra time out of them is inhumane and bad business, period.
If you work for a company like this, then as a professional, you must become stern in practicing the above-mentioned switch-off methods, set healthy boundaries and become a leader in your wellbeing.
Switching off is not slacking off. Switching off is about realizing that you can only perform as good as you feel. If you feel restless or stressed, then you become unfocused. When you're unfocused, you can't clearly direct your own steps or that of your team. When you switch off, you take the best version of yourself to work every day, and as a result, you have a more productive day. When you have a more productive day, it's easier to switch off because you know you've accomplished the most important tasks for that day, and then when you're home, you can be present. You bring your best self at home to your family, your friends, your children, your dogs and you live a more fulfilled life. Make switching off your new career goal.