Technology is marvelous. I delight in getting different plug-ins and programs to play nicely together, so that clients can focus on their expertise. Constant connectivity is wonderful—it makes it easy for me to share pictures of my daughter with family in Australia or chat with a client in California or a vendor in Massachusetts.
Technology also makes it easy to never stop working.
After all, you can check email anywhere or text a response or even call in to a meeting while you’re driving. Our smart phones get blamed for disrupting our work-life balance, but if you use them right, they are tools to reach that balance.
My work with Mindful Life really made me see that I really needed to have strong boundaries to create the kind of balanced life I wanted. And I learned how to use my phone for my own good instead of against it.
Setting Weekend Boundaries for Better Balance
I don’t work weekends unless it’s at my instigation. I’m happy to occasionally work on projects on weekends if I have spare time, if I feel inspired, or if I want to get ahead. I do not allow clients and colleagues to set unreasonable demands and deadlines that require me to work weekends. I’m protecting my clients from the same burden.
I establish these expectations from the very beginning of my working relationships with new clients by outlining these personal and professional boundaries in my website design proposals. For example:
“A website project is a tango dance. Both of us need to be committed to this project. If you cannot contribute to the collaborative process at any time throughout the project, such as if questions go un-answered, and content is not shared with me, that’s usually ok, but when you pop back ready, willing and able, the schedule will adjust accordingly. A few days here and there could result in weeks variation as I coordinate and balance all client work.
We are both building and nurturing our beautiful little businesses, our loved ones, and our lifestyle. Now, I love a target deadline (I do! I thrive on them!) but this whole process needs to be a little flexible and comfortable so that we can all attend to our personal needs, and to take care of our loved ones. If you have a drop-dead deadline for the launch of a product, we will set our deadlines with some cushion. Our journey to lift-off will be smooth and carefree if we both commit to open and honest communication, and to expedite providing photos, imagery and text, respond to emails, and provide feedback quickly.”
But what happens when a client sends a frantic email on a Saturday morning? Or the files I’ve been waiting for upload Sunday afternoon? I’ve taken steps to stick with my boundaries—and my phone is my assistant.
4 Ways to Make Your Phone Enforce Boundaries
Here are four steps I’ve taken to keep my weekends work free:
1. Moved the email app from my home screen. By moving the email app from my home screen to the last screen of my iphone, I have to consciously seek it out to check it. It’s now a mindful action to check email and, although only milliseconds, I have time to consider whether I really want to check the email – or not.
2. Turned off email notifications on my phone. I have to consciously open the app and refresh the screen in order to download new emails. That means on a Saturday morning, I stop and think before I hit refresh, and I ask myself, “How will I feel after I see my emails?” If I believe an email could trigger a stress response, then I usually justify waiting till another time.
3. Turned off other notifications. Similarly, for all other business apps (Basecamp, Slack, WooCommerce, MailChimp, and even Facebook) I have turned off notifications. No more little red flags unnecessarily begging for my attention.
4. Separated business mail from personal mail. Have you ever gone into your email on a Saturday to find the time for a party you know is in an evite, only to see a message from a client? It can be tempting to respond right away. Even if you don’t, you likely start thinking about what to say or what you’ll need to do. To avoid just such problems and to make it easier to leave my work email alone when I’m not working, I’ve set up a gmail app for business and a different mail app for personal use. If you’ve been using one email account for both, it may take a little doing to make a switch, but it’s well worth it in the gained life balance.
Greater Awareness = Less Wasted Time
In addition to holding my weekends sacred, I’ve learned to be more mindful of how I spend the time when I am working. That means, no more Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook rabbit holes wasting the whole day. It also means that I focus more because I’ve learned not to check my phone so much. And in both cases, I’ve got my iPhone set up to keep me on track.
I use one app to track how often I pick up my phone. Most of us don’t even realize how often we check those little devices in our pockets. The tracker makes your more mindful of what has become a bad habit. Like a challenge? Once you get a baseline of how often you’re checking, challenge yourself to check less frequently.
Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much screen-time you have on your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can choose to force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.
You can even track your family’s use from your own iPhone and set up time for your entire family to be screen-free using family dinner time. As the Moment tagline reads, “Put down your phone and get back to your life.”
Another great app to track how much you use your phone is Realizd. Realizd has a goal of “helping you reduce your screen time, address phone addiction and start a digital diet right now.” Again, by tracking, I realize just how much time I’m using (or wasting) in any area. Am I spending too much time choosing photos? Did I log on to Facebook to respond to a question in a group and end up scrolling for two hours? The first step in changing behavior is knowing what it is you’re doing.
- App website: http://www.realizd.com
- itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/realizd-insights-into-your/id1041249752?ls=1&mt=8
These two apps have helped me decrease the time I spend checking my phone and staying on it.
If you’re blaming your phone for lack of balance in your life, it’s time to take a closer look.
Start tracking your use—and at the same time make changes to make it harder for you check email or apps mindlessly. They’re there if you need them, but make yourself work at it. Time away from work benefits every one of us. Technology gets blamed for turning us into 24-7 workers, but you can change that—and you can use your iPhone to do it.
Mindful Life has been a life changer for me. Find more mindfulness for yourself here. And I so enjoyed helping them make their site beautiful and fully functional for their growing business.