You check your emails and send text messages from almost everywhere. But, if you're not taking now-and-then breaks, you could be hurting your effectiveness says Joanne Cantor, founder of Your Mind on Media, a Madison, Wisconsin US consulting firm that helps companies manage cyber-overload.
Research backs that claim: A 2012 study by the University of California, Irvine and US Army researchers found that being cut off from work emails periodically significantly reduced stress and increased focus.
We know... You own a business. People depend on you. You can't disconnect. Cantor says that's not true. Maybe you can't turn off your smartphone entirely for a week, but here are four ways you can buy some tech-free time.
1. Recruit a gatekeeper. Business owners used to have secretaries who understood the critical people who had to get through - and had tactful ways of running interference with those who could wait. An assistant or trusted second-in-command could field calls while you're working on a project that needs focus, or when you simply need a day off. If that's not an option, change your outgoing voicemail message to inform callers you're unavailable and let them know when you'll be available to answer their calls.
2. Schedule your prime time. The best time to be tech-free is when you are most productive or creative. Block out those windows as you would an important meeting - a disconnected hour or two several times a week can make a difference to your creativity, focus and the quality of your work.
3. Use a distraction-blocking app. Even as our smartphones, tablets and laptops seek to monopolise time, there are a collection of apps to help us disconnect. AntiSocial and Freedom are site blockers, making any time-sucking sites (like Facebook) unavailable for as long as you choose. iPhones, running the iOS6 platform, and apps such as I'm Sleeping and Ultimate Call Block offer "do not disturb" functions, and also allow you to white list certain people (your gatekeeper, spouse, or child's school) whose calls will ring through.
4. Change your culture. If you've spent time cultivating an "always on" workplace, it's not going to change overnight. Work on a communication hierarchy for your team, setting boundaries for essential and non-essential contact.
For example, if the issue is urgent, reach out with both phone and text messages. Non-urgent issues will be communicated by email with a please-respond-by time notice.
Article submitted by Patrick Greenaway of ActionCOACH Business Coaching.