Switching off

April 2, 2014 § 8 Comments

It worries me a little that in our 24/7/365 culture, where everything is open and available all the time, that we never, ever seem to disconnect from work.

Perhaps this is just  my perspective, because I’m a freelancer, so the lines get a little blurred. But I don’t think so. More and more I see people taking work home, answering work emails late at night, and even taking their work with them when they go on leave. (Yes, Dave Luis, I’m looking at you.)

I think we do ourselves a huge disservice when we do this last thing – and I speak as one who’s going on holiday soon and is trying to decide – as usual – whether or not to take her laptop. You know… just in case.

Where did we get the idea that we are all supposed to be available and accessible at all times, simply because we have the ability to be so? Why do we believe that we must respond to that phone call, email, text message immediately, when in fact, all of these things are simply tools? More importantly, they are your tools.  Tools that you decide how to use if you choose to use them. Tools that are there for your convenience – not anyone else’s.

It’s about boundaries, and control and learning to understand what’s truly important.

I learn this lesson every time I take a bit of leave. My job is literally a no-work-no-pay one, so going away for 10 days means 10 days of no income. And that means that in the weeks preceding my leave I work like a dog, and my to-do list just seems  to grow instead of shrink, no matter how many things I tick off at the end of each day.

Inevitably, though, there are things I don’t get to – things I thought were life-threateningly important while they were on my list. I go on holiday, I come home, and I pick them up again. No-one bats an eyelid. My clients’ businesses continue to run. My house is still standing. The world continues to turn.

But there’s something else to consider: you disempower your colleagues (and clients, in my case) if you regard yourself as indispensable. Because basically, you’re being a control freak. And maybe there isn’t one person who can step into your shoes wholesale, but I’m willing to bet that if your colleagues each cover a small part of whatever it is that you do, they can fill the gap while you’re gone. And then, when they go on leave, you will do the same for them, and respect their hard-earned rest time – that’s how teamwork should work.

I know it’s a wrench. And I know it’s hard to relinquish control. Believe me, I know. But I also know that on the couple of occasions where I’ve been firm with myself, it’s been completely worth it, and I’ve been better for it.

When I come back I’m better at my job, and a better human being in general, simply because I’ve taken the time to replenish the well of my creativity and productivity.

Go on, I dare you.


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§ 8 Responses to Switching off

  • Trish U says:

    And I dare you too.


  • It is quite amazing when we do finally realise that the sun still comes up if we are not around controlling everything. You are also right that we work so much better when we do take a complete break. We need time to recharge and think and see the world differently. Enjoy your holiday even if means eating dry rice for the next month.


  • mariekeates says:

    The two jobs I’ve had that I loved the most took over my life. I did the emails and work at him thing with both but never minded. Now I have a job where I walk out the door and forget about it but I don’t love it. Life is strange.


  • a complete break give the person morale and new spirits that he or she will be perfect after a considerable break


  • alicejblack says:

    I’m not terrible for doing this though when I leave work, because of the nature of my job, I’m constantly thinking about the women I work with and wondering if they’re okay and how they’re getting on. I think that maybe that’s natural though!


  • weealwyn says:

    Reblogged this on Wee'Fitter'Alwyn and commented:
    Some important questions raised for me about dis empowering colleagues and clients when believing we are indispensable in the workplace- even for leave.


  • pipmarks says:

    I just finished an amazing week with no TV, no mobile phones or computers, no radio, & no newspapers. The world was still there when I reconnected. Missed a few good posts though that I am catching up on now!


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