Between working from home and people pretty much knowing you’ve nowhere to be, the notion that we should be accessible at all times is wearing thin, says Aisling Keenan…
This tweet from author and podcaster Emma Gannon the other day gave me pause.
Pause. That’s something I haven’t really done in a while.
I’m not one to turn my phone off, leave emails unanswered or not promptly return a phone call. Usually. But as every single ad, email and conversation we have right now will remind you, these aren’t ‘usual’ times. This tweet jolted me upright, reminding me that setting an ‘off’ boundary might need to be done during this lockdown 2.0.
There’s a certain power that comes with the knowledge that, by and large, people are at home, working from home (for those of us who can) and pretty much planless for at least the next few weeks. We’re not allowed outside of our 5kms, so there’s a lot of home focused activities happening. So when a friend phones you and you don’t answer, or when someone asks if you’re free for a Zoom quiz, what are your viable excuses? There are very few. For me, Emma Gannon’s tweet inspired a boundary-setting mission, and made me think about ways in which I might ‘switch off’, both literally and figuratively, over the next month. It’s no surprise many of my methods involve iPhone avoidance. That’s how the bad juju gets in, you see.
ONE: Close. The. Drapes.
The ‘do not disturb’ setting on my phone is my new BFF. Remember in Cinderella, when the evil stepmother locks the door of poor ‘Rella’s bedroom, after dramatically pulling closed the heavy, dusty drapes, blocking out any and all light? Think of your ‘do not disturb’ that way. When you simply don’t want calls or social media contact, use it.
TWO: Read, read, read
There’s nothing that will switch your brain to relax mode like old school, non-Kindle reading. Pick up a physical book, leave your devices elsewhere, and escape into whatever world the book creates. I personally have indulged in a little healthy schadenfreude by reading Dawn O’Porter’s latest non-fiction book, Life in Pieces, which chronicles her own tales of life in lockdown with her family. It’s sometimes comforting to read about someone else’s mundane (but hilarious) struggles.
THREE: Buy an alarm clock
I read and thoroughly enjoyed a review of an alarm clock by Irish author Sarah Breen (of the OMGWACA books) the other day, which was published on The Strategist UK. In it, she reclaims hours of sleep by not bringing her phone to bed, stopping the endless doom scrolling (Twitter is a cess pit right now, for the most part) and relying on it to tell her the time and to wake her up. Turns out, alarm clocks are the job.
FOUR: Set work/life boundaries
Working at home leaves many of us open to looser interpretations of what exactly our working hours are. There’s a temptation to never be ‘off’. Your set hours go out the window and all of a sudden you’re answering 11pm emails and apologising for the unsocial hours to colleagues. If you can, build subtle but strong boundaries; Turn off your work email notifications, or pause your inbox (Gmail users can avail of that one); Have set working hours, and where possible, stick to them; Tell key colleagues what time you’re finishing up work so they know you’re not available at all times.
FIVE: Meditation, yoga, yada yada yada
Look, I’m not saying we all need to transform into zen goddesses and start umm-ing and ahh-ing our way through our mornings, but if any way of taking a quiet ten or 15 minutes per day to yourself works for you, be it meditation, using the Headspace app or indeed following along to a Yoga with Adriene class on Youtube, take that time for yourself. Even if all you do is sit quietly on the edge of your bed, it’ll help.
SIX: Don’t let the guilts get you
You have every right to ignore your Whatsapp groups for a day or two. If you don’t return a non-urgent phone call straight away, it’s not the end of the world. Sure, if you’ve got a smartphone you are techically accessible, but just because people come at you doesn’t mean the impetus is on you to immediately respond. Try to remember that – we ALL have a whole lot going on, we’re living in a time of constant anxiety… Give yourself a contact break and don’t apologise for not freely giving away your limited and precious bandwidth.