A 3-minute guide to making the Laptop Lifestyle work for you 

The ability to work remotely came into its own during the covid pandemic – and there’s no doubt it’s provided more opportunities for women, in particular, to work flexibly within the workplace. But at what cost?

Clients feeling swamped by work and unable to see a way through it described the scenario as feeling as if they were living from work as opposed to simply working from home. Pre- Covid, when there was option to do so, people would take their laptops away on breaks and holidays and, thanks to mobile devices, felt like they were constantly “on”. Once you have them with you – and who goes anywhere without at least their mobile these days? – it’s easy to whip them out and catch up on work emails or do that “little bit extra” whilst away.

The ease with which we can ‘switch off’ in the true sense of the words these days has been seriously compromised. And it’s the increased level of distraction and virtual ‘noise’ which contributes to the feeling that we are doing lots of things badly rather than focusing on doing a few things well.

It’s a feeling I know only too well: I’ll never forget arriving at the beautifully lush Thai Island of Koh Phi Phi for the first time, just starting to wind down in my flip flops and sarong – then taking a call about urgent advice needing my attention for a Court of Appeal case the following week. More fool me for having had my mobile (a) with me, and (b) on, and (c) having answered. But I stewed on the contents of the call for at least 48 hours afterwards. It was the first of many breaks which were similarly disrupted during my career as a criminal barrister. And it was so unnecessary.

Solutions to Quieten the Digital Noise

Older, wiser, I’m now a coach empowering professional women to achieve career ambitions. I’m often hired by HR and L&D teams who, despite their obvious loyalty to the firm, agree with me that NOBODY should feel they’re on duty 24/7.

So what do I offer by way of solutions?

1. Change your mindset

  • If you can’t handle the interruption, don’t respond or get a separate personal/ work phone. If you do allow the interruption, be accountable for the fact that you personally made that choice and risked the possible consequences.
  • Ensure you communicate clearly with your work/ organisation about the boundaries and acceptability or otherwise of calls/ other interruptions whilst away as a way of guaranteeing their support.
  • Whilst at home/ work, ask yourself honestly, “Do I have a healthy relationship with my mobile/ laptop and life balance?” If the answer is no, consider what improvements, however small, you could make to support better time ownership.

2. Avoid the ‘Death Scroll’

Start your day with gratitude as opposed to the mobile phone social media ‘death scroll’. Think of, and even journal, a couple of things that make you feel grateful to give you a pro-active sense of your own purpose and owning your own day before you allow in the reactive distractions of the digital world around you.

3. Plan

Jim Rohn said “You run the day or the day runs you”. His point was around the importance of planning and prioritisation, and sticking to your own as opposed to someone else’s schedule. To this end, consider:

  • Allocating 2 or 3 specific times in the day to check emails/ social media.
  • Removing notification sounds/ alerts/ banners from your phone or laptop.
  • Engage the “Airplane mode” facility for specific times during the day.
  • Use the “out of office” function during the day, not just exclusively for holidays. A most effective one I saw recently read as follows: This is an auto reply. It may be unconventional, but I usually only check and deal with emails at 12:00 and after 16:00. This means I can provide a better service to everyone, including you, as I’m not sat in my inbox all day. If you need something urgently from me, please just give me a call.

4. Be Present

Don’t be constantly on the phone dealing with work problems when you are with your children, or when working from home, sit yourself in an area where you can become easily drawn in to domestic dramas. Instead, dedicate pockets of time dedicated to which ever specified activity. Time blocking in this way ensures that every task is completed in short, manageable bursts which you commit your full attention to, as opposed to feeling constantly conflicted and distracted.

5. Practise Acceptance

If you are a mum working from home around childcare, accept that there may be isolated times that distraction is unavoidable. The alternative – perhaps a full day in the office, staring aimlessly at the kids’ photos all day whilst engaging in a whole heap of mummy guilt – might be far worse. Acceptance is a very freeing mind-set.

6. Switch Off

Literally. Unplug. Lock your digital tech in a box for allocated periods in the day. If you don’t already, start with the rule “no tech at the (dinner) table”. It might be tricky at first, but how many short days of pain for some significant long term gains? Dr. Rangan Chattergee’s 4 Pillar Plan to creating a longer healthier life includes a suggested Seven Day Digital Detox which provides a helpful starting point. Then the biggie: switch off for a full 24 hours. The cold turkey solution to the digital revolution and one which I bet a whole heap of us secretly yearn for. Try it.

One day you might thank yourself.

 

Nikki Alderson Biography

Nikki Alderson, specialist Corporate & Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker & Best Selling Author, & former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience,

  • supports organisations, law firms & barristers’ Chambers to retain female talent; &
  • empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.

Nikki specialises in 3 areas:

  • Women Leadership Transition & Change;
  • Enhanced Career break returner support; &
  • Workplace resilience, confidence & wellness.

She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching , (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX) nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category & finalist in the 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.

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