The Productive Solopreneur Series | Digital Minimalism
If you’re looking at ways to boost your productivity you’ve probably considered your physical environment. What is happening around you that either increases or decreases your level of productivity?
Perhaps you’ve even considered how your physical health and ability to focus on the task at hand impacts how productive you are each day.
But have you given much thought to the psychological factors that impact your daily output?
In my last blog post in this series, I looked at how to begin the process of not thinking about work when you’re not working; and in this week’s post, I’m continuing along a similar thread by exploring how you are mentally separating your working life from your daily life and the psychological impacts of being able to do that.
I’ve seen it happen so often…
Separating these two aspects of life is where so many people who work from home go wrong. And I learned this lesson the hard way.
We start out with the best of intentions right.
We set our working hours, maybe even getting a separate work phone, or setting up a desk that is separate from the goings-on of the house, with the aim to be able to pack up at the end of the day and not consider ‘work’ until the next workday rolls around.
The temptation to work late one night, or to do a quick job on Sunday rears its head if we start to get behind on our work.
This may not seem like a problem if it’s every now and then. But the reality is that this is habit-forming behavior and it creates a bad pattern.
Think about a time that you’ve stayed up late at night to get something done...maybe working into the small hours of the next day. How were you feeling that next morning when you had to return to your desk? I’m going to guess that you didn’t jump out of bed with a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm; I know I certainly haven’t the times that I’ve plodded away while the rest of the house slept peacefully.
You were probably feeling less than energetic; tired, lethargic, and pretty unproductive.
Meaning...you didn’t get everything done again that next day, and there’s a good chance you were tempted to work late again to catchup.
And this is where this vicious cycle starts.
So what’s the solution?
Well...it’s one that is simple in theory, but if you’re like me is going to take some determination.
Set strict and specific parameters for working and commit to NOT working outside of those parameters.
This means that you start working at a very specific time and end at a very specific time.
And if you run over and work looks like it’s going to be late? Then you just have to accept that it’s late.
When you take a step back and look at the big picture, it is not worth running yourself into the ground, taking away time with your family, and becoming burnt out to keep a client happy.
Remember the reason why you started working this way in the first place...and I’m going to bet that it was to live the lifestyle you wanted, and not to become stressed out, overwhelmed, and overworked.
Just as important as setting the parameters of your working time, if not more important, is what you do outside of that time. This is what is really going to make a big difference to your mental health, your productivity, and your ability to focus when you return to work.
That’s because working online comes with a very particular challenge: unplugging!
The problem is that even if you are mentally disciplined enough to stop working at a given time, you’re still going to face the challenge of getting the privacy you need. Because when you work online, your clients, your customers, and your creative pursuits can always reach you.
In other words, as long as you have a phone in your pocket, you are at risk of receiving an email about your work that will cause you stress and arousal and prevent you from properly relaxing.
And here’s the other thing: even if the message isn’t from your client, simply thinking that it might be will be enough in many cases to make you stressed and prevent you from fully relaxing.
Even simply looking at your phone can cause a slight increase in arousal, as the blue light from our phone triggers the release of the stress- hormone cortisol! If you’ve just spent the last 8 hours staring at a screen... this is a problem. When is your break?
Digital minimalism is a movement toward unplugging and switching off.
The aim is to remove any unnecessary technological distractions and to scale back your interaction with technology as far as possible. This is a perfect compliment to the solopreneur lifestyle for all the reasons that we’ve just discussed.
How do you get started? Here are just a few things you can do right now to scale back your reliance on technology:
Have a separate phone for work.
Change your phone display to monochrome as this has been shown to reduce addictive phone-checking behavior.
Turn off notifications.
Create strict ‘no screen’ hours where you don’t look at any screens for that period of time. This should definitely include 30-90 minutes before going to sleep.
Sleep with your phone and other tech in a different room.
Take up “non-tech” hobbies.
Take vacations away from technology.
If digital minimalism is something that you’re interested in and want to find out more about, you can find plenty of information online - I know, the irony right.
But check it out and see if it’s right for you.
And let me know in the comments whether your a digital minimalist or what other strategies you have to unplug from your work.