For those of us who conduct business across different time zones, the ability to stay connected wherever we are, no matter the time of day, is essential. But more and more of us are online when we should be offline. According to the latest Gartner research, the number of ‘CrackBerry’ addicts will hit 73 million by the end of 2012.
I believe this is a modern manifestation of the Zeigarnik effect. The Soviet psychologist, who the effect is named after, would have noted how we are inclined to keep thinking about problems at work if they remain unresolved. We all know the feeling of having an unfinished project loom large in our minds when want to get some sleep. If you’re not careful you find yourself hanging about, unable to concentrate on anything else, waiting for the ping of the email or bleep of the text message, like a lovelorn teenager waiting for the phone to ring.
I believe the answer is to set yourself realistic goals every day. If you are still behind schedule, write a ‘to do’ list and leave it ready to tackle the next day. And if there’s an unresolved issue, impose your own cooling-off period by sending an email that invites a pause but keeps options open.
In the end, it’s all about self-discipline. I’ve no time for people who allow themselves to waste hours worrying. And I’ve never been impressed with those who seek to advance their careers by getting to work early, then hanging about at the end of the day pretending to work. I judge people by results. If you get the job done, I won’t be watching the clock to see you put in the requisite eight hours a day. But I do want you to keep your mobile on, just as I do. That doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to it.
Take one task at a time. If you work from home, keep an area as designated office space and don’t let people bother you when you’re working. When it’s the end of the day, don’t be tempted to stick around for a little while longer but close the door and either switch off or switch to something else. I prefer to move on to something that provides a different kind of mental refreshment. So if I’m not dealing with Regus, I’m thinking about one of my other businesses.
Some people find meditation or yoga very helpful. Taking exercise can help you empty your mind. Even something as simple as changing your clothes can put you in a completely different frame of mind. In the end, it’s got nothing to do with technology, not much to do with holidays (I can take them or leave them, personally) and everything to do with you. Take one thing at a time, and pace yourself. Make sure you have enough variety in your life to give you periodic mental refreshment. As my parents might have said, a change is as good as a rest.