Once Upon a Time in the Land of 9 to 5
Once upon a time, we lived in the Land of 9 to 5. We woke up, made breakfast, read the newspaper and went to work by 9. We toiled consistently for a few hours pausing to chat with co-workers or make a quick personal call. Midday, we went to lunch, maybe ran an errand or two and came back to work for the afternoon. And we accomplished, with regularity, things on our handwritten to-do lists. At 5, we left work for the corner bar or nearby gym, and eventually arrived home for dinner and a few hours of relaxation before our world seemed to wind gently to a halt. The day was done and we went to bed.
Today, we live in the Land of 24/7/365. We wake up and grab breakfast while we scan emails, news apps, Twitter, Facebook and more on our smartphones, tablets and laptops. We work at all hours, from all places, pausing frequently to check for the latest texts, tweets and posts. By midday we are overwhelmed. At 5, we keep going not yet having made a meaningful dent in our electronic to-do lists. Eventually, we arrive home for dinner and several hours of interaction with some device that delivers endless options for us to respond to, play with, obsess over. Eventually, we tear ourselves away from the pop-ups and pings, while our world frenetically keeps going. The day blurs into the next while we force ourselves to stop and sleep.
Life in the Land of 24/7/365 is at once remarkable and remarkably stressful. No doubt technology and social media have significant merits. But what is the consequence of a world that buzzes along with ever increasing speed and volume 24/7/365?
Many of my clients report serious problems in the Land of 24/7/365. Chronic overwhelm. Distractibility. A lack of sustained productivity. Frustration with truly endless to-do lists. Limited time for exercise, play and family. Stratospheric stress. Sleepless nights.
Articles aplenty – tweeted, posted, e-blasted – extoll the virtues of unplugging. This week Geoffrey James suggests: “Completely disconnect for 12 hours every day.” in his Inc. article 10 Easy Ways to Get More Done. The January issue of Sunset Magazine reports in The Unplugged Home conversations linger, hobbies are rediscovered, balance is restored.
I am as addicted to email and my smartphone as the next person. Unplugging sounds great in theory, difficult in practice. I have no magic answer, but to increase awareness. Think about a day in the Land of 9 to 5. Have we too quickly jettisoned some of that way of life in the Land of 24/7/365?