Over the past month as I’ve appeared at the ICABA Business Forum and the Attorney Breakfast Club of Miami-Dade, a frequent conversation is how stressed out people feel by their digital lives. Between email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of things going pop, whiz and bang, folks have expressed how genuinely overwhelmed they are by all the technologies which are supposed to make their lives easier.
While I cannot profess to mastering the fine art of being in absolute control of my digital ‘ball and chain’, there are a few things that all of us can do to reduce the stress created by the expectations of our always-on, instant gratification society.
Disable Notifications and Alerts
While knowing about everything almost instantly seems appealing, it really does contribute to your stress level. Eech time your phone goes beep, for a text message, email or notification you become no better than Pavlov’s dog. Conditioned by these alerts, our knee jerk reaction to check and respond to everything is actually quite distracting and unproductive. In fact, multitasking is overrated, so it’s best to keep the number of tangential activities to a minimum. By disabling the notifications and alerts, you’ll find yourself more in control of your time and less affected by every new demand for your attention. It’s worked for me, so may the force be with you also.
Check Email Less Frequently
I have a few clients who check and respond to e-mail twice a day. While at times I find it quite annoying that I have to wait for a response, I quietly envy how in control that person must be of their time and more importantly their mental bandwidth. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to do this, considering that immediacy of response is a big part of my business, but I think it’s a great way to regain control. To be successful with this strategy, you must 1) set expectations with your clients on e-mail communication, 2) setup an auto-responder that informs senders of your protocol, and 3) stick to it.
Streamline Your Mobile Communication with Google Voice
If you are a solopreneur or started as one, it’s very likely you may have given out your cellphone number to everyone who would take it. Now you’ve grown, and the sheer volume of incoming calls is a bit too much to manage. A tactic that we’ve been suggesting to our clients is to get a new number from your cellphone provider and have your old cellphone number ported to Google Voice. With Google Voice you can control where and when your old number can ring to (if at all). With the use of a Google Voice application on must major mobile platforms, you’ll be able to dial out from your old number and your clients will be none the wiser. It’s a great way to permanently park your pesky number in the cloud, and regain control of your voice communication workflow.
Get Off the Grid
Even with these coping mechanisms, nothing is better than disconnecting entirely from what we IT folks like to call the ‘grid’. Take some time off, take a trip out the country, go hiking, or go relax on a beach somewhere. Whatever you do, turn off the gadgets and leave them behind if possible. We all need to disconnect from time to time, life is too short to do otherwise.