Do you or your employees have the 'Will to Disconnect'?
Does this sound familiar:
· You view nights and weekends as optimal time to work while others are not emailing to scheduling meetings?
· You view taking a bathroom-break as a nuisance?
· You spend your weekend trying to “catch up” or “get ahead”?
· You feel guilty when you try to relax?
· You attempt to multitask as much as possible?
If you answered yes … you might be challenged with the ‘will to disconnect’. The will to disconnect is the ability to turn it off, be present and enjoy relaxation.
If you are an employer dealing with turnover and burn out, this is a skill you must embrace.
But its not easy. For most professionals, I would say this is a challenge.
Yet, For most high performers, this is a critical skill they have mastered that ensures consistent and long-term success.
An example: The most successful person I’ve know, Mike, was my role model because he had the will to disconnect. He shut it down on the weekends and nights.
I remember going on his boat one weekend, (yes, he was the one who could not only afford a boat but actually had the time to enjoy using it – regularly). It was a Saturday and I was early in my career. His wife found me on the back of the boat during one of my many “check ins”. You see, at that time I was in the habit of constantly checking my text messages/email, especially because I had some big deals in the works. I was constantly “checking in” on my phone like it was a newborn that depended on my love, attention and care.
As I slid my phone back into my bag, we started a conversation. Turns out Mike’s Dad had died of a heart attack when Mike was 10 and his Mom was constantly working after that. She rarely got time with Mike and his two sisters as she had to work multiple jobs. All her hours were rightly so dedicated to financially providing for her family. But Mike swore when he had a family, that he would be present, he would be so successful at one job that when he wasn’t working… he wasn’t working.
Nights and weekends, his wife said he keeps his phone and laptop in his bag. She’s seen him stressed and disappointed about a deal at times but said, that’s why you invest in having a healthy family- because when things get tough we remind him that his worth is not tied to his performance. That he’s loved unconditionally. That we’ve got his back.
That really hit me. At this time, I’d let a lot of my relationships go… I was too busy to take calls from my Dad. I didn’t go out with my friends because nights were my time to ‘catch up’. I was in a romantic relationship that wasn’t good for me… If I worked out, I could justify that precious time in the morning if I was listening to a training or educational podcast.
Upon reflection, I had very little 'will to disconnect'…and I was lonely, unfulfilled and on my way to burn out at 25.
We create these habits because we are addicted to the technology and/or we pick up on them from our workplace cultures.
It’s known technology has been created to grab our attention and keep it! "Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally like literally a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting," said former Mozilla and Jawbone employee, Aza Raskin.
From a workplace culture, these type of workaholic tendencies can be learned. We have something called mirror neurons that Mirror neurons not only enable us to imitate' other's actions; they also enable us to mirror other's intentions and emotions as well. If I am in a meeting and I see someone else pull out their phone, I am likely to do the same. If one person starts sending emails on the weekend, I start thinking I need to do the same thing.
The will to disconnect is not only a physical skill like not pulling out your laptop, not working nights and weekends, not checking your phone every few minutes.
It’s also a mental skill, it’s the ability to be mindful and make healthy choices which looks like:
· not thinking about work when you are not working,
· to have a work issue pop into your mind and to choose to enjoy the time with your friends or family,
· it’s the ability to not feel guilty when relaxing or partaking in a hobby that is not productive, just for fun.
Mindfulness, or being present in the moment is the muscle you need to flex to untangle those neural networks from years of hyper connection to work.
Employers, your high performers are most likely the most loyal, responsible, persistent and committed employees out there. These are amazing traits… but left unbalanced it can harm your high performer, their loved ones, their performance and culture.
It’s ironic that the belief of valuing work more than your sacred personal time is actually what can create your professional demise.
And guess what… an afternoon at a spa or a weekend off will not cure this behavior that will surely lead to (if you’re not there already) burnout.
You can be successful without sacrificing everything.
And it doesn’t mean stepping back from your career, it means moving at a different, more sustainable pace.
When I look at Mike, he was 45 had 3 kids, a happy supportive marriage, had time to invest in friends, enjoy hobbies and had almost paid off his house. He was a consistent high performer who embodied the will to disconnect.
I started strengthen my will to disconnect (with the below tips) and within that year my performance improved, my motivation skyrocketed, my friends depend, I got out of my unhealthily partnership and pursued my passions as I got certified to teach Pilates and ran a marathon.
Our Performance based Mindfulness corporate training teachings you not only the neuroscience behind why we do the things we do, but HOW to break the cycle of unhealthy habits. Because let’s face it, you can probably get another job… but you’ll just recreate the same situation elsewhere.
How to increase your Will to Disconnect through Performance-Based Mindfulness:
1. Stop the glorification of busy
This is probably the hardest skill for my on-the-verge-of-burnout- high performers. We’ve talked about the brains dopamine addiction to accomplishing things and so when we start to move at a more sustainable pace … we can miss that hit. We can feel ‘lazy’ and very uncomfortable doing nothing, like taking a walk without listening to podcast, or monitoring how many calories we are burning, etc.
I’d like you to start taking performance breaks.
A lot of my clients try to “win” at rest, meaning they are trying to accomplish something even when they are off. Instead, I’d like you to shift your mindset, that rest actually helps you win later.
2. Set expectations and escalation plans:
If you have a role where there are proverbial “fires” you need to set expectations and escalation plans.
This has NEVER failed me.
At first you might need to create an automated email message for after work hours and on the weekend “Going forward, I’ll be unavailable after 7 PM and on weekends. If you need me after that time, please send me an email and I will get back to you the following business day. If it’s urgent (which is defined by XYZ) then please text me.”
3. Make Connection Difficult:
Technology was literally built to addict us to it and when we forget about it, we notifications to remind us is there.
· Use screen time and silence notifications during the work day.
· Be discerning: try to use your phone more as an alarm to time block or to actually make phone calls rather than spend hours texting when a quick convo could take care of it.
· If you really struggle with this: buy a personal phone and computer. At the end of your day and before weekends turn your work computer and cell phone off. Do not upload work apps or emails to your personal phone.