As someone who grew up surrounded by technology and constantly uses it for a living (and is the textbook definition of Type A), one thing I definitely do not do is disconnect – ever. I’m on my phone, laptop, and iPad all day for work – and after work, I’m scrolling on TikTok, watching Netflix, or reading a book on my iPad. My screen time hours are through the roof (trust me, you don’t even want to check my Settings app).
I’ve noticed that my peers in public relations tend to have the same issue. Because what if one of our clients had an emergency after hours or over the weekend, or what if we missed some critical breaking news as it came out… The list of ‘what ifs’ goes on and on.
Recently, however, I’ve hit my technology limit. From finishing my college degree online to working online a lot of the time, I’m “teched” out. Any of my other COVID-era grads feel the same way?
So what are you supposed to do when your eyes are twitching, your thumb is sore from scrolling, and your attention span has been lowered to that of a squirrel? It’s time to unplug.
“Unplug.” I’ve heard it before but I can’t say I’ve ever actually done it, and I’m not sure it’s completely possible in our tech-centric world or in the PR profession … unless you happen to go to cabin-deep in the woods with Bigfoot. However, I’ve discovered that unplugging can be big or small.
As far as big unplugging goes, I am very lucky to have gone on a trip to Antigua for a week that I won from Sachs Media. (Mind you, I did say this was a big one!) I know not everyone can be as lucky as me to get to hang out in the Caribbean for a week laptop-less, but taking a chunk of days off proved to be immensely helpful for me. I was able to clear my mind, enjoy spending time with my favorite person – my mom – and sip on many piña coladas.
Clearing my mind allowed me to jump back into work after my time off, ready to go. I had more ideas than usual to help my clients meet their goals, more creativity, and a more enthusiastic mindset than before I left. While there was the initial stress of coming back and the inevitable flood of emails I’d have to answer, all of that went away once I got through the first day back – partly because I work with a super-awesome team that helped ensure that all went well while I was away.
Now, let’s talk about some more manageable ways to unplug. Over weekends, I set a rule for myself that I’m only allowed to open my laptop once all weekend. This limits my screen time and forces me to not check my email and Slack too much. I’ve found that it’s important to set a realistic goal for yourself in order to not get discouraged.
Another way to unplug is to only do your work within your work hours, as much as possible. This is something especially difficult to do when working from home, but I’ve noticed that it’s extremely helpful to give yourself hard start and stop times so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Another tip for those working from home is to actually give yourself breaks, and not ones where you’re on your laptop or phone. It’s completely acceptable to take 5-10 minutes every once in a while to step away from your work by going outside for a quick walk, making yourself a snack, or snuggling with your cat or dog. When work was in-person, you took 5-10 minutes every once in a while talking to your coworkers or grabbing a coffee. Breaks while working from home are just as valid and necessary!
The bottom line with having a good separation between your work life and not-work life is this: There is no wrong way to go about it, as long as you are prioritizing your mental health and happiness, while still getting your work done.