Power of Down Time and Disconnecting

We've all seen it and we're (probably) all guilty of it.  I sure am.  Smart Phone addictive tendencies. If it's the last thing you check before falling asleep, the first thing you see in the morning, and a part of your daily life -- even while on vacation, you need to know about some insightful research.

Leslie Perlow, author of Sleeping with Your Smart Phone and Harvard Business School Professor, challenged a team of Boston Consulting Group professionals to take "predictable time off". These "world's leading business advisors" fit the addictive tendencies I mention above, and over 90% work over 50 hours per week with a third clocking in at 65.

The results reported in Harvard Business Review were very telling -- I highlight a few below:

  • 51 percent (versus 27 percent) were excited to start work in the morning
  • 72 percent (versus 49 percent) were satisfied with their job
  • 54 percent (versus 38 percent) were satisfied with their work-life balance
This parallels a recent change at Volkswagen, which turns off the email push to Blackberries beginning 30 minutes after the end of the work day until 30 minutes before the next starts.  Interestingly, this is only for union workers in Germany -- not management, but I wonder if this will become a broader trend given the research findings.
My relationship with my first Blackberry (and the expectation that I would always be "on" as a PR professional) started ten years ago, so it is a tough habit to break.  In the last six months, I've been turning off on Sundays, and I have seen my creativity, productivity and energy levels increase.  Last year I even took a 10 day vacation without my phone.  (Well, I brought it with me, but it was turned off the entire time.)

The areas where I'm still struggling are early morning and evening times, when the urge to connect, produce for clients, or just make sure everything okay, is a strong one.  Perlow's research proves something I've known deep down for a long time -- that constant connectivity is neither the most efficient, effective, or health way to run a business.  It also proves that "mother is always right" because she told me to establish a set schedule and stick to it within the first month of starting my business.

Here's to a more productive, creative and healthier way of working!