A few months ago, LinkedIn had a series of articles on My Life Outside of Work and provided some tremendous insights from influencers like Richard Branson, Mary Barra, Maynard Webb, Robert Herjavec, Suze Orman and Janine Allis, to name just a few. I have to say, they were all great reads and waxed poetically about balance, hobbies and inspiration. However, they all left me with a sense of dread because I need to say honestly, here and now: Hello, my name is Patrick and I an unable to relax.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, I’ll dive into some thoughts on work versus relaxation.
Nothing is wrong with being busy and loving to do things. I love to travel. I love tinkering in the garden and the house. I love design. I love museums. I love to ski, fly fish, hike, bike, etc. (part of the move to Denver). I love to stay active. But as I’ve noted earlier, I have a very hard time fully unwinding. Napping, as an example, is totally out of the question. I can’t turn my brain off for a power nap. And yoga? Well, let’s just say I was not invited back…
Relaxation for me is as packed as office time
I’m not saying this with glee. I wish I had the brain to fully unplug. I don’t think I’m wired that way. What’s the phrase? “Idle time is the devil’s playground.” So I fill it. I putter, I futz, I fish, I cook, I paint. And at the end of a weekend, or a trip to our cabin, I still feel like I need a vacation. And over the years, it’s become increasingly hard to relax because of one thing: Wi-Fi
At our cabin in the remotest part of Montana, we installed Wi-Fi so that we could justify staying up there for longer periods of time and not miss a lot of work. Thus, we go up there to “get away” and find ourselves working – at night after we’ve played our 20th round of Mexican train (sidebar: I highly recommend this game if you haven’t tried it), after breakfast when the fish are no longer biting, in the middle of the day before a hike… you get the picture. And that frenetic action of today’s ever-connected world has taken over how I compartmentalize my life. I can’t slow down. I just do things in chunks that allow me to work in between. I’ll literally answer emails any time of the day or night. Clients might find it good, but in the spirit of this outside work series, it is not.
Same holds true when we celebrated by hubby’s birthday in Paris, when we travel to Mexico, or when we have a three-day weekend like this weekend. The problem? We (ok, I) have become conditioned to being part of the online community 24/7. It is expected. It is demanded. It is the norm. And I am addicted to the immediacy.
Sometimes I feel like a Pavlov experiment. If there is a ding on my phone, I have answer it, STAT! I might miss that important client need. I might miss an important notice from my son’s school. I might miss finding out the latest on Instagram or Facebook.
When I launched CORE Innovation Group, I found myself in a unique space. Obviously I need to work, I need to make sure my clients are satisfied. But, like many of the influencers in this series (ok, most of whom have massive organizations and opportunities to delegate), I also find myself able to schedule my time differently. So, I’m committed to making small changes to how I work, and how I live my life #OutsideWork.
It’s about the small changes, because if you try to cut cold turkey, you will fail
Here are the ways I’m starting to slow down and ENJOY what I am doing.
- Don’t purchase Wi-Fi on the plane. Force yourself to read a book, or the The New York Times cover-to-cover. Force yourself to look out the window!
- Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” at night. This great little feature means I can have my phone in my bedroom in case there is an emergency and someone needs me, but I no longer hear every email that comes in, or any texts from random people. I’ve chosen who can get to me if needed, but otherwise I get to actually… sleep!
- Don’t take your phone on walks. We take our phone with us everywhere. But when I have it with me, I end up reading stuff while walking. I finally purchased a little iPod touch so I can keep my music but not have my phone. And because I used to say “I need to take pictures” when I hike (and thus I’m still tethered to the phone), I instead have a trusty digital camera that allows me to take a pic and later I can get it to my laptop.
- Schedule a ski day. Having something that forces you to disconnect is important. I am trying to schedule a ski day every two or three weeks (usually on a Thursday) so I force myself to get out and enjoy a day without cell or Wi-Fi service. Find that one thing you can do that will untether you from the world, if only for a few hours.
- Dinner table digital detox. At night, as a family, we put our phones in a pile during dinner and we make sure we don’t use them. Same holds true for dinners out. I am enjoying my family for 40 minutes. Hallelujah!
- Schedule down time! For some of you, this seems like a no brainer. But for me, as I said earlier idle time is hard. If I schedule it, I will do it. Simple enough, but like anything it takes practice, so on my calendar I have “down” blocks.
#OutsideWork time for me will never be on a beach in a hammock for three hours. (In fact, the very cool pic at the top of this page was taken in Spain while I was working. It’s the only time you’ll see me in such a “relaxed” state. Literally, I ran and took it but went back to work.) But learning how to enjoy life a little more without work, learning how to find inspiration from doing nothing (as others in the series have noted) is a personal and professional goal.
So here’s to Montana in July more unplugged. Here’s to our next trip to Paris. Here’s to 30 minutes with a good book at my house sans Wi-Fi! Here’s to me reclaiming my time #OutsideWork.
I’d love to hear from you and how you experience life outside work. What changes have you implemented in your own lives to help your ability to relax?
Patrick Jager is the CEO of CORE Innovation Group – expert strategy and implementation in media, communications and business development.