Last summer around this time, I wrote a blog post about the power of recharging. At the time I wrote the post, I was just returning from a much-needed vacation in which I was able to get away and unplug from the hustle of work. The post focused on concepts such as advance planning and communication, as well as setting expectations and boundaries. As we gear back up for vacation season in the U.S., my mind went back to this subject. Because recharging was so beneficial to me at that time, I thought it would be worth revisiting the topic again from a slightly different perspective — "how can we recharge when we don't have the luxury of a week away from work?"
In this age of technology, many of us have our cell phones by our sides at all times. Further, many of us have opted to receive work emails on our cell phones. This certainly has many benefits and, in many respects, gives us more flexibility than we've ever had before. For example, on long travel days, we are able to stay up to date on what's happening at the office, such that when we return we're able to jump right back into our work. However, the downside is that we can allow ourselves to be pulled in too much.
With this in mind, here are my tips for unplugging on a more regular basis. In many respects, the concepts aren't all that different from preparing yourself to unplug and recharge during a vacation. Similar to the items I mentioned above, advance planning, communication, setting expectations, and setting boundaries all play a role. Just like anything else, planning what you want to accomplish and how you are going to schedule your day to allow you to achieve those tasks will best position you to be able to unplug when the time comes. Of course, many days come with unexpected fires that must be dealt with. In this case, it is a matter of reprioritizing — figuring out what has to be done today versus anything that can potentially be pushed back to another day.
Setting expectations and boundaries with your co-workers and any others with whom you regularly interact is critical. Letting them know when you will be available, and more importantly, when you will not be available, particularly on evenings and weekends, will allow them to coordinate with you on any important items during those times that they know you are available. Further, setting boundaries is just as critical. For example, I will unplug from my electronics at the family dinner table. I've found that when I've set boundaries but not held to them, it changes the expectations that my co-workers have regarding my availability.
Further, if we set expectations and boundaries but do not have open and transparent conversations with our co-workers regarding what those expectations and boundaries are, we are setting ourselves up for potential misunderstandings. With this in mind, much as it is in many other situations, communication is key to success. Further, a shared understanding of what defines critical items that must be addressed today, versus those that can be deferred to a later date is also important. Once those critical items have been defined, it also is essential to let your co-workers know how to reach you should any of those critical items arise. Lastly, as those critical situations come up that force us to reprioritize, we should ensure that we are communicating to the appropriate individuals what our new priorities are, and getting their agreement, as necessary.
Another way that I've found to unplug on a regular basis is through exercise. I recently took up running again, and I'm really enjoying it, particularly when I am able to run outdoors. By its nature, running is an activity that forces me to unplug. However, as I get into my run each day, I find that my mind is often working through issues in the background, given me clarity on some of the work issues that I may be struggling with identifying the best way to approach. When I return to work, I am able to tackle some of those items much more quickly than I would have otherwise.
I recognize that there may be times when it is difficult to unplug. And I'll admit that I'm not always good about unplugging. I also recognize that while internal audit is a vital role in our organizations, in the vast majority of instances, we are not dealing with life and death situations (and in those instances that we are, unplugging is not a recommended option). With this in mind, finding a way to unplug on a day-to-day basis not only allows us to focus on family and other priorities that are important, but it also allows us to return to work the next day with greater focus and clarity, enabling us to more effectively and efficiently complete the tasks at hand.