A few months ago one of our Impact colleagues wrote an article “How to connect in a meaningful way”. This title inspired us to write our own piece…”Disconnecting with purpose”.
Agata and Ewa are two women from two different generations who find themselves in the same trap of being connected with work far too much.
Despite working together in Impact’s Warsaw office and seeing each other almost every day they found themselves communicating by email well into the evening. For Agata staying connected 24/7 had become the norm - it felt very easy and only natural. Agata’s very best global colleagues, working in different countries and on different continents, were always those she could count on no matter what the time. “These were my role models: people who - no matter their daily obligations linked to their senior roles in the business – were always there, ready to help, ready to answer my email, slack or skype, even if only for 5 minutes, they would always find time to help.”
Naturally, Agata chose (or rather just subconsciously followed) that path. By setting her email account up on her mobile, enabling push notifications, etc., she was sure to never miss any news, no matter how “important” yet another spam about Rayban sunglasses is!
And so for two years this continued. “I was always happy with my work-life balance. But the beginning of this year ‘welcomed’ me with total exhaustion I just couldn’t bounce back from. I developed a problem with retaining weight, although was eating for three. I had a problem with falling asleep despite feeling extremely physically tired in the evening, and exhausted in the morning. I was losing the bigger picture. Suddenly the future stopped looking so bright.”
But it turned out Agata wasn’t the only one feeling like that.
Ewa has worked for Impact for many years – totally passionate and always happy to take on new and interesting challenges. However, during this journey she had forgotten about the balance between her passion for work and her private life. Without being asked she had fallen into the habit of being ‘online’ around the clock. Despite promising herself that she would do something about it, Ewa still found herself opening her computer every evening to answer work emails.
After a few weeks of extended email exchange - usually around 10pm Agata and Ewa asked themselves “What the hell are we doing?” The very next day they met for breakfast and had an intense and meaningful discussion about their way of working. Including questions like:
Does our business really require us to dedicate our free, family time?
Do we really need to stay alert 24/7? What will happen if we don’t?
They agreed to take a challenge to disconnect with purpose and close their “virtual offices” at a specific hour, and as a start, not check emails after 5pm or at the weekend for three weeks. This wasn’t easy, and to be honest they didn’t manage to stay totally “off the grid” for the whole three weeks. But they decreased their online presence by at least 70%. The downtime achieved by disconnecting provided Agata and Ewa with the space to recharge. This is regarded as being a huge factor in enabling creativity and innovation as well as greater productivity.
It is three months later and Agata is sleeping better, feeling better, seeing the future in bright colours again, and has much better blood results! Her personal and work email accounts on her mobile are still in the passive mode – no push notifications or emails and reminders popping up every 5 seconds ☺
“The “Virtual office” is not the only trap we tend to fall into. There’s also the great bunch of social media (Facebook, Messenger, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Viber, Whatsapp and a lot of others I, as a 30 plus year old have no idea about). Not to mention online shopping and gaming, also accessible via mobile devices, which makes it so easy to do in bed, before falling asleep, keeping you even more alert, instead of letting yourself lower the heart rate, relax, and prepare for a good night’s rest. I’m not a preacher of “cut the online” cult. For me the learning is: stay alert and listen to your body, mind and heart and if you see worrying symptoms, don’t be afraid to change your habits. Be mindful of your own self.”
For Ewa she felt she could write pages on how hard it was to change this habit (maybe she will do that one day) but more importantly she felt that this small experiment was one of the most useful things that she has ever done. “Not only did I realise that my work did not suffer by me finishing at 5:00pm but that it actually made me even more productive, not to mention happier. I know that I will have to continue to ‘rebalance’ again every so often as old habits can return but at least I know that I can do it as I have done so before so successfully.”
Here are Agata and Ewa’s six points that could help YOU to disconnect with purpose:
- Make your disconnection into a three week long project (three weeks is the length of time it takes to make a new habit)
- Find a colleague who will go for a “disconnecting journey” together with you
- Keep a short diary to notice what helps you to disconnect and what stops you from disconnecting
- Observe if your work really suffers because you have disconnected
- Meet your colleague after three weeks to reflect on your journey
- Enjoy this experiment – life is worth it ☺