Over the years, many articles have been written about the number of hours human beings waste watching television. How much more productive would we as a society be, experts pontificate, if only we’d turn off the TV and do something productive with our lives?
While the TV certainly is no less a time hog as it’s always been, with adults tossing aside hours worrying over who will be the next American Idol or which celebrity will be fired by Donald Trump this week, today we have all new ways of wasting time. Smartphones allow us to constantly be in touch with every friend we’ve ever had in our entire lives, thanks to easy access to social media. We can text our friends in the middle of a movie, while riding up the elevator of the Eiffel Tower, or sitting in a four-hour presentation at work.
In her book, Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24-7 Habit and Change the Way You Work, Dr. Leslie A. Perlow annonces that 26% of the managers she interviewed admitted to sleeping with their smartphones. Her assessment was that smartphones have failed to become the productivity enhancement we once all assumed it would be.
“We feel overwhelmed, overworked, always interrupted, lacking time to focus,” Dr. Perlow writes. “While being so needed puts a burden on us–and our families, friends, and communities–it can also be fulfilling. Always being on, in fact, is becoming increasingly core to our identities.”
The small business owner feels both burdened and freed by being tethered to work by electronic devices. It’s a double-edged sword. Mobile devices allow workers to take a long vacation without worrying about things falling apart, but that same vacation never really quite feels like a vacation.
As Ndubuisi Ekekwe wrote in Harvard Business Review, “There’s an assumption that using smart devices boosts productivity, since they allow us to work constantly. But, we’re also jeopardizing long-term productivity by eliminating predictable time off that ensures balance in our lives.”
In the era before cell phones tethered us to work 24/7, workers were able to take an annual vacation to completely clear their minds and refresh for the upcoming work year. Because we never fully refresh, we’re always working, which leads to burnout and job dissatisfaction. Even the small business owner, finally realizing his or her dreams, working 24 hours a day can take a toll on personal relationships, family time, and general emotional well-being.
Constantly checking work e-mails and responding to calls from clients and employees can completely zap your ability to enjoy your time off. If your nights and weekends are filled with work, your personal life will inevitably suffer. It’s important for small business owners to find that balance.
To be truly productive as a small business owner, you need to be able to occasionally unplug, which means doing the unthinkable. Turning your smartphone off and living your life. Believe it or not, you’ll return to work more productive and you’ll prevent burnout.
That, of course, doesn’t apply if you work in a field where you’re required to always be on call, such as emergency services or computer network administration. Still…everyone needs a break sometimes. Consider asking a colleague to be on call for you and take a true break from work, if only for a few days.