Are you a slave to your devices?

Jun 24, 2015

Thanks to technology, it’s now easier than ever to be a freelancer. With a few clicks, you can coordinate work schedules, invoice automatically, and manage projects. You can collaborate remotely – even on tremendously complex gigs – while working a world’s length apart.

You can use all sorts of high-tech doohickeys to lessen the impact of mundane tasks, build snazzy marketing campaigns for your business, and land long-term projects (often without ever meeting your clients in the flesh).

You can also become a slave to your devices.

Workers around the world are struggling with the ramifications of the rapid infiltration of technology – particularly mobile devices – into the workspace. Tech often speeds communication and expands scope – but it also erodes boundaries between working and free time. That’s especially true for freelancers, who often have difficulties drawing those distinctions to begin with.

It’s great to be able to have instant access to your work/clients, and vice-versa; it is not great when that access translates to constant contact. It is not healthy to never unplug.

Geez, you may say, lighten up! I know, I love my little gadgets, but I’m not as bad as my hollow-eyed tech-crazy friends. I’m connected, yes, but not excessively!

Oh, really?

A quick unscientific quiz to establish if you are indeed too connected to your tech:

Whoops! You left your primary mobile device (iPhone, laptop) at a friend’s house; it’s perfectly safe there, but you won’t be able to access it for a full 24 hours. You...

a) Shrug it off. Nothing too bad will happen; it’s just a phone/laptop.

b) Try to be cool, but spend the entire 24 hours twitching and sweating.

c) Break into your friend’s house and take back your device. What’s one broken window between buddies?

d) PANIC!!! Friend? What’s a friend? All there is, is your sweet electronic baby and GOD KNOWS WHAT IS HAPPENING TO IT RIGHT NOW!!!

If you answered... a): You are more mentally healthy than most of us, and you may stop reading this post.

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If you’re like me, and the VERY SITUATION POSITED IN THE QUIZ ITSELF makes you feel uncomfortable, you probably need to draw some boundaries between you and your tech.

Start small. If your habit is to wake up in the morning and instantly check your email, hold off for ten minutes – have a cup of coffee, look out a window. Build in “screen breaks” to every working day.

Create some basic rules for yourself and really try to enforce them: no screen-time after 12 AM; no checking your email during a meal; no Facebooking while you’re with REAL LIVE ACTUAL FRIENDS. Little detoxing steps like this can prepare you to spend whole days away from your devices.

Limiting tech’s ubiquity in your life is a concrete way to stop work-creep – the constant feeling that you must be plugged into your job 24/7. It’s a simple way to reduce stress (after the initial shaky feeling of unplugging) and draw boundaries. What’s more, it’s good for your eyes, good for your attention span, and good for your soul.

Step away from this post. Step away from this screen. Step away from your tech. Just for a little while - turn it off.

Want more tips for turning it off? Crowdsource solutions with other freelancers in the Work - Life Balance Hive!

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.