Are you in Sync?

“Some of us have formed neural connections that drive us to carry our phones in our hands at all times, often looking down and hitting refresh a few times, even though nothing has come in.”

A very poignant line picked out from this post. Our gadgets have permeated deep into our beings. Email percolates into dinner time. Email is the last thing you see before you sleep. Email is the first thing you peruse when you wake up. We work across timezones. There is email every hour. There is an implicit expectation to respond. At any time.

Who really sets this expectation? Really, who does? You.

About a week back, I switched off email sync on my phone. What I do after hours should have no place for an email response from someone working a different time zone. If I respond, I have automatically set the expectation that I will respond to email no matter what time. If you really think the process through, the implications of you not responding to that email, are not that dire. If someone’s dying, or losing a million dollars, your phone will ring. You won’t get that news in the form of a push notification.

Sending email. Do you send email to someone knowing that their working hours are up? That they are in a different timezone? Yes. It is because we all are severely multitasking, and that one email sent, is another item crossed off our to-do lists. But do we all expect a response? We really should not. I do not. I never will. Maybe this is looked at as a lack of ambition in many environments. But to me it is basic decency.

Setting expectations. Do you set expectations? It is one of the toughest things to do, because depending on who is at the receiving end you might be viewed in a negative light. To keep reminding yourself that that one hour workout, and dinner with your family is as important, if not more important than getting that document out today; is no easy task, specially if your environment is not conducive to a healthy work life balance. But you will get over that discomfort eventually, and your standards will be set. People find it “new” when they come across someone who says “no” for work-life reasons. “New” is not always welcome. But it is what it is. “Work-Life” balance is a huge buzzword among firms today, but to actually guard your balance needs work.

So whether that means unplugging every weekend, every evening, choosing to get that document out at midnight as asked to, or choosing to ignore that and get it out the next day — find your own balance, stick to it, and don’t impose it on others. No matter what level they’re at. I find that people are pleasantly surprised when I respect their hours irrespective of whether they’re junior or senior to me, and that is wrong. It means they’re used to being taken away from their non-work choices and they’ve grown to expect it. Your balance is yours to keep.

Don’t always be in sync. Just always be very good at what you do.