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Opinion Editorials

America has an addiction to being busy, here’s what we need to do about it

(EDITORIAL) America runs on Dunkin’? More like America runs on burn out and caffeine for steam. We all need to get over being busy, here’s how.

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We’re all so busy

The day starts at 7:30 with coffee and a quick dog walk. A shower and oatmeal later, and email gets checked. News is read. Social media is managed. Work begins with a start as the phone is stacked on top of the tablet, thrown into a bag, and rushed to the office.

Email is checked again, fires are put out, calls are returned, and work conversations are had. Meetings commence, and set for the next few days, more tweets go out, and more emails are written, as we all hoard tabs in our browsers. The day ends, and we drive home, check email again, eat dinner, play with the kids, Instagram them, check email again, Facebook for a bit, work out, email some more, then go to bed.

This is a relatively standard day for the modern professional. Sound familiar? We sure as hell sound busy, right? It’s true, we are. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends.

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Being busy is an addiction, plain and simple, and our culture is just looking for the next hit. Be it a time saver or a shiny app, most people brag about how they are just oh so busy. For years, bragging about being busy has been a social commodity, with people getting “oohs” and “aahs” when they proclaim they’re so busy they only get three hours of sleep.

No more.

The glorification of being busy is being rejected by the masses, slowly but surely. I’m not convinced that the 4-hour workweek is the answer, nor am I convinced that bragging about working 80 hours a week is anything other than a sign of an inability to prioritize and manage tasks properly, but I am convinced that the glorified addiction to being busy can be broken.

But it’s tough.

I’m one of those people that are busy all the time. If I have an extra 30 seconds in a line at the store, I’ll check my email. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office and don’t have an internet connection, I’m nose-deep in a book. If I’m waiting for an image to upload on Facebook, I’m diving into my feed reader, and when I’m on hold, I’m most certainly tweeting. I’m guilty of being busy, and I was born that way. I don’t see it as a bragging right, I’m just a toe-tapper and always on the go.

So how does one break free? There are millions of articles on productivity that you can Google or read here, but here’s how I’ve been breaking free from being addicted to being busy:

  1. Waiting in lines, I chat up people around me instead of hiding behind my phone. Being aware of my surroundings has reminded me that networking happens everywhere, not just online.
  2. I no longer work without breaks – I walk around, I make a personal call in the afternoon, I go outside and gather my thoughts without distraction. This has boosted my productivity tremendously.
  3. I shame myself when I tell others that I’m “busy,” rather I now try to say that I’m doing well and am excited about the projects I’m involved in. It leaves a much more positive impression in peoples’ minds than a veiled complaint about my chaotic schedule.
  4. I say no. We’re all told to never miss an opportunity and to say yes to everything, but last year, I resolved to never knee-jerk agree to anything, rather, I always thank someone for the opportunity and vow to put serious thought into it. And then I do. Most of the time, I end up saying no, because it doesn’t serve anyone for me to be stretched too thin.

What have you done to reject the glorification of being busy and actually work productively and make time for family and friends?

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Hank Miller

    June 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Lani you’re always a good read.

    How much of this is hardwired behavior for the type A/AA entrepreneur? Most of us have the “if not working, thinking about working” mindset. If you genuinely enjoy work, is being connected a bad thing? Within reason of course….I know I can recharge with a day off….stretch it to 3-4 and I get antsy.

    Then there’s the practical side we all know – when it’s busy you better make it and store it for when it’s slow. Finding a balance can be tough but successful folks fit down time in.

    Enough with this, need to finish a blog post……

  2. AmyVernon

    June 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    It’s so true – we’re so addicted to being busy that we forget that’s not necessarily a good thing. I love #3, especially, because we try to glorify our busy-ness, as if it makes us special.

  3. Chris Lengquist

    December 25, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Work hard when you are working. Relax when you are relaxing. Be where you are.

    I know it sounds cliche, but I’m 50 now and I realize that enjoying my life and family is far more important than being busy for busy sake.

    Great write. Sorry it took me so long to find.

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Opinion Editorials

Dopamine detox to rewire your brain from internet addiction (it’s common!)

(EDITORIAL) So, you’re addicted to the internet. Whether your drug of choice is scrolling, posting, or interacting – it’s time for a dopamine detox.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Ah, smartphones. The best friend we can carry around in our pockets. This small device that’s nearly glued to our hands gives us instant access to many worlds.

It’s exciting to see what’s up on Instagram, take up to six stabs at Wordle, and scroll recipes you’ll never make on Pinterest. It’s also a place where we can share the highlights of our life and, in return, get validation through likes.

With that validation comes a small rush of dopamine, something we’ve all become accustomed – and some of us addicted – to.

While I’m not addicted to posting, I would say I have an addiction to scrolling. I can’t make it through a 50-minute episode of “Dexter” without picking up my phone to check an app or two.

And there is that dopamine rush with it, where you feel like you’re the most up-to-date you’ve ever been. But what about when this becomes too much and we’re overloaded with information and feel bogged down by the constant updates?

First, we need to understand what dopamine is.

It’s a neurotransmitter that works in two spots in the brain: first, its production helps us begin movement and speech. Second, we feel it when we receive or expect a reward. It even creates a kind of “high” similar to what’s found in nicotine and cocaine.

So, if we expect these dopamine hits from social media and we don’t get those results, the dopamine crashes to the ground creating burnout.

Well, this can cause burnout. And, while tempting, the solution isn’t as easy as just deleting all of your social media and walking away clean. Additionally, “take a break” features are too easy to swipe away.

So what can you do?

Mana Ionescu at Lightspan Digital recommends a Dopamine Detox.

While breaking an addiction takes longer than a day, Ionescu recommends starting there and tailoring it to your needs.

Here is what she describes is necessary for a detox:

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. ALL of them. You will be looking at your phone every 10 minutes as it is. You won’t miss anything. We lose endless hours of productivity because of those pings.
  2. Tell people to call you if it’s urgent. And teach them the difference between urgent and important. So do keep call notifications on.
  3. Stop over-messaging. The more you message, the more you’ll get responses.
  4. Shed the pressure to respond right away to messages that don’t need a response right away.
  5. Take detox days. Nothing but calls, confirming meetings, and using the GPS is allowed on those days.
  6. Put your phone on sleep mode at night. You can, at least on iPhone, set permissions so that certain phone numbers can get through, in case you’re worried about mom.
  7. If you’re dating, remember that texting is for laughing, flirting, and confirming plans. Please pick up the phone and talk to that person to get to know them. I will not take you seriously if you just keep texting.
  8. And yes, we all know the game, whoever looks at their phone first over dinner picks up the bill.

This won’t be easy, but your brain will likely thank you in the long run. And, when you’re back online, hit up the comments and let us know how the detox went!

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always but is amplified when a crisis occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything was disrupted and people are adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when leaders game plan, strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

7 sure-fire ways to carve out alone time when you’re working from home

(EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need downtime, me-time, and self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health but also our productivity at work will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well-rested, and well-treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time while working from home.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keep us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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