By S Zuhair Naqvi/Doha
Mixing work and personal life is something that we are all either guilty of or victim to. In the old days, before the advent of smart devices and social media, space and time barriers played a major role in separating work from the rest of one’s life. However, as hyper-connectivity tools such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Skype have bulldozed through those barriers, we have nothing but obituaries to write about work-life balance, and personal-professional discipline!
It’s 9pm, I light up a cigar, and pick up my phone to make that long overdue call to my mother. “Oh wait, I have seven WhatsApp messages…. Oh my, that’s a funny a video on the group, which reminds me, I forgot to e-mail John about our corporate videos. Better do that now - . Oh gosh, thank heavens 3M has finally sent me the quote I needed, let me forward it to Timmy now. “PING”- Oh, it’s the yoga group – should I join them on Friday or not? Let me check my calendar. Oh dear, I totally forgot I have that conference call at 8am tomorrow! Better WhatsApp my PA to print the documents and send for my review… It’s now 10pm, the cigar is burnt out, and so am I.
Extensive research has shown that, as we get drawn into hyper-multi-tasking, several things happen: we lose concentration, our cognitive abilities shrink dramatically, our data-retention and memory - the mind’s RAM - reduces significantly, and most importantly, the resulting mental fatigue makes it almost impossible to separate feelings from facts, impairing our objectivity and judgment. Being “switched on” and “on standby” all the time makes us stressed, irritable, and at higher risk for heart-attacks, digestive problems and even physical injuries, due to a stressed nervous system!
The impact of this on our lives is obvious. At work, we become less productive, likelier to make mistakes and take wrong decisions, and less adept at learning, all of which adversely affect our careers. At home, the impact is worse! Rather than attending to families, or following our own personal goals, be they sporting, social, spiritual or other, we skim through the periphery of life, its obligations and its pleasures, staring at them around the sides of our screens, as our loved ones longingly wait for a few minutes of our undiluted attention.
So how do we beat this? First, we adopt “Desk Discipline” i.e. restricting work to specific spaces. If we MUST work from home, we can have a designated chair and table to work from. Outside of this space, we do not touch work. We can even go as far as to avoid work unless we are wearing a specific work-related piece of clothing such as a tie, or our work ID Card. By the same token, we do not engage in personal activities while in these spaces or wearing work clothes.
Second, we embrace “Device Discipline” including having different work and personal devices, switching off e-mails outside of work, and separating communication apps from entertainment apps, hence avoiding the constant beeps of texts and messages! It’s just a matter of setting up simple rules that work for each of us, and following them. Research states that if we engage in a specific behaviour for 21 continuous days, it turns into a habit! It’s just a matter of setting our minds to it! So let’s get started with some “Desk & Device Discipline”, and start living fully immersed, 3D lives - both at work and outside!
*S Zuhair Naqvi is the Managing Director of DicoTech Qatar WLL, and an EMBA alumnus of HEC Paris, Class of 2016.
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