You're looking forward to a holiday, but what will you do about work? How will they manage without you? Being armed with your cell phone, pager, and laptop may seem the hallmark of productivity, but experts warn of the unhealthy drawbacks to not unplugging these devices.
You open incoming email--no matter how busy you are--and text with one hand while typing with the other. Information flies at you, hurling faster than you can handle. The tools you once hoped would free your time have enslaved you.
The results of this multitasking? Irritability. Loss of focus. Obsessive behaviour. In short, symptoms that resemble attention deficit disorder (ADD), and, according to psychiatrist and ADHD expert, Dr. Ned Hallowell, the birth of a new culprit: ADT. Attention deficit trait (or ADT) is sweeping through contemporary corporate culture. Time is lost, impatience and irritability reign, and productivity declines as we become more dependent on technology and that once-celebrated skill: multi-tasking.
It's hard to accept, but try to remember that the purpose of a break is to leave business behind. Before you take time off, it's important to develop some coping strategies for the workplace and avoid falling prey to compulsive mobile-phone checking and furtive email peeks. Learn how to unplug and tune in.
Before Your Holiday
Set aside thirty minutes each day for relaxing and recharging. It may be harder than it seems, but it is essential to incorporate "me time" into your day, every day. Take this opportunity to turn off the phone, step away from the computer, lower the blinds, and remove yourself from the frenzy. When the time comes, you'll be better equipped to appreciate your holiday break.
The more you get sucked in to the computer screen, the more you get sucked away from human contact. Dr. Hallowell insists that performing well at work, and in personal and professional relationships, requires in-person encounters. Take a stroll or a coffee break with co-workers to reconnect and recharge.
Put the electronics down.
Staying plugged-in during your break isn't healthy; it blurs the boundaries between personal time and work time. If your summer holiday turns into an extension of your office, you'll spend less time soaking up the sun and enjoying your family. Mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and electronic notebooks make you easily accessible. If you really want to unplug from work while you're on holiday, unplug the gadgets. Without the distraction of Droids, iPhones, Xboxes and PSPs, you'll find you actually have time to do activities you enjoy.
Limit yourself to only a mobile phone, for emergencies. Silence the ringer while you're relaxing or having family time and don't succumb to the temptation to check your voicemail every 10 minutes. Give your colleagues specific days and times that you'll be available, and stick to the schedule.
Step away from the computer.
You want to upload your photographs. You need to check in with family and friends on Facebook. No, you don't--at least not right now. Enjoy the vacation before it slips away and becomes a memory. Facebook and uploading photos can wait. Use your holiday as it was meant to be used: for recharging and rejuvenating.
Avoid the distraction of work emails by forwarding work messages to a temporary address that you can check later. Or, put your email account on vacation hold and designate a co-worker as an emergency contact to ease your anxiety.
Surviving the Age of Multitasking
We live in an age that rewards multi-tasking. In this era of gadgets--filled not only with new technologies, but a new vocabulary ("googling") to match--it is increasingly harder to set aside time to focus on one task and one task only.
Be the boss.
You do have control. All it takes is a simple click of the "off" button to tune out phone calls, emails, text messages, and faxes. If you're stealing nervous glances at the clock, shut that off too. Every time you're interrupted, your brain has to reconstruct what you were doing.
Dr. Hallowell offers coping strategies in his book CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap--Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD. The chief lesson he encourages: regain control. We can't jump off this speeding train, but perhaps we can slow it down.