I find it ironic that I am writing about how to do less work on the week of Labor Day, yet this week- something had to give. Finally, in the age of accessibility- I became too accessible, and the noise level got too high. I found myself rescheduling with a client via phone, texting my supervisor my weekly report, all while responding to a request from a new client via email. This was on a Saturday.

I realized, I can’t ask you to be in the present moment if I can’t even be present on the weekends. So in keeping with my own integrity as a therapist (and person), I thought today’s post might be a helpful prompt to those struggling with their own personal “noise,” inspired by my own cacophony of electronic clatter…

Not too long ago, in the days of hypercolor and geometrically shaped accessories- we used to have to wait to get in to work before actually working. We did not have the “luxury” of checking our voicemail or emails until we were actually sitting at our desk in front of our commodore 64’s (as an aside, I was not doing much outside of helping Barbie find a date and playing Ducks Ahoy when I had a Commodore 64).

Nowadays, we don’t even have to go to work. We can send emails, texts, video chat, hold global conference calls- all from the comfort of our pj’s and papasans. We can send important documents, reschedule with a client, follow up on a voicemail- during the time it takes to switch sides of the volleyball court and start a new game. But are we still having fun?

Sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that we are getting more work done and having more fun, when we actually end up being more reactive, doing more work than we need to, and drowning out our fun in a flurried flood of electronic chatter. We become addicted to being accessible.

In a 200 person studyin Britain, Renaud and Ramsay found that people who are excessively reactive to email, are actually less productive then their less compulsive cohorts. They also found that more than a third checked their inbox every 15 minutes, while some were caught checking up to 40 times in one hour.

Maybe you have experienced this yourself. When someone asks to set up an important meeting, you immediately respond with dates and times…when maybe that meeting is unnecessary in the first place and the person was just reacting out of their own personal addiction to all things electronic. What if you waited a day to answer? Would the extremely important meeting soon become not so urgent?

What if you chose to only check your email once or twice a day? The same with voicemail? What if you separated your work from personal email addressses, so that your work emails weren’t immediately forwarded to you while you’re watching Letterman?

Some of us (myself once included) think the world would completely stop spinning on its axis if we somehow became less accessible. If we left work for 9-5, and home for home. You might get a taste of this if you have ever misplaced, or GASP– lost your phone.

Yet, how much better would you be if you let go? What would it be like to listen to that audio book you’ve been wanting to get to, notice your surroundings, or simply be  in the moment while driving home. What would it be like to actually be present with your family or loved ones when you’re with your family or loved ones? Would the quality of your life change for the better if you were able to truly shut off during your evenings and weekends?

So here’s what I am pledging to do, and maybe this can give you a few ideas of your own:

1) Creating a separate office line (this can be easily done on the cheap through services like RingCentral), and reserving my personal phone for exactly that- personal use.

2) Stopping my work email from forwarding to my home email

3) Adding a message to both email and voicemail, that they are checked once daily, so the person understands their message will be returned within one business day

4) Sending out a message to work contacts, clients, colleagues, etc about the new change (this is similar to letting those around you know you’re going on a diet, so you’re actually accountable 😉

What can you do today to begin trimming the fat in your own life?

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area under the supervision of Dr. Richard Oelberger (PSY22186) . Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).

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