When was the last time you spent a day completely disconnected from technology? How often do you check emails outside of work hours? Is your attention constantly grabbed by apps that notify you of everything going on in your world, as it happens?
On the one hand, technology has made our lives easier, allowing us, for example, to work wherever we are, whenever we need to. The downside, however, is unless we make considered decisions to disconnect, the risk of burnout is very high.
If you’re a driven individual the risk of burnout is considerable. While being passionate about our work is clearly a good thing, if we struggle to maintain balance and switch off from time to time, we have a problem. Burnout is one of those serious roadblocks in life, high achievers are wise to keep a close eye on.
Put simply, burnout is a state of chronic stress characterised by emotional and physical exhaustion. When deep in the throes of burnout common symptoms include unrelenting fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of appetite and irritability. It’s really not a great place to get to and the road to recovery can be a difficult one.
Avoiding burnout is up to you. Among the most important steps you can take include:
Make your health matter. Recognise that like any other human being, you are fallable. Your body and mind need rest and time to recover. Place priority on your health and take deliberate steps to manage the impact of technology and overworking.
Notice your behaviour. Don’t be a mindless slave to technology. Recognise when you are struggling to switch off and disconnect. Awareness is the essential first step toward changing any behaviour and ultimately taking back control of your life. Notice when you mindlessly drift back to technology or obsessively check in with your online world.
Manage interruptions. While technology improves accessibility and efficiency unless carefully managed it also increases interruptions and unpredictability. For many people, the constant flow of information makes the task of putting some sense of order and structure around their day extremely difficult and in turn stressful.
Put technology away. Keeping your phone or tablet at arm’s length can go some way toward helping you to stay off them. For many of us, the thought of being separated from our smartphone can be anxiety-inducing. Trust that the world will not come to an end and leave technology switched off until you actually need to use it.
Be present. Reflect for a moment on how often a meeting has been interrupted or delayed because someone is on their phone. Do you struggle to keep the attention of your colleagues who turn up to meetings with their laptops and a full schedule of things to get done during the meeting? While multi-tasking is an admirable skill, stop focus and be present in each moment you are in. If you are talking to your child stop looking at your phone. If you’re participating in a discussion stop checking your emails.
Work for good people. Getting ahead in our careers unquestionably takes dedication and hard work. However, recognise when you are working for someone who lacks decency and respect for your wellbeing.
One CEO I’ve worked with was furious a member of his team hadn’t yet responded to an email he sent late on Friday night. It was the first thing on Monday morning. Don’t work for this guy or his mates. They’ll take everything you’ve got to give and demand more. The only sensible course of action when working for an unreasonable person is to move on.
Co-founder and former editor in chief of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington put it well. “I wish I could go back and tell myself that not only is there no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance, but performance is also actually improved when our lives include time for renewal, wisdom, wonder and giving. That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion.”
What role is technology really playing in your life? To what extent are you connected 24/7 and how is that impacting your mental, emotional and physical health and vitality? Perhaps it’s time to switch off and recharge.
Karen Gately, a founder of HR Consultancy Ryan Gately, is a leadership and people-management specialist. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit www.ryangately.com.au