When it comes to work, one of the things I’m really thankful for is the improvement and miniaturization of our gadgets. When I started out as a graphic designer, I was stuck in an office. Laptops were slow and expensive, and not many people used them.
Now, I use a MacBook Pro. I can hook it up to a larger monitor if I want, but it’s fine without it. I use my iPhone for calls and email, of course, but I also use it to access Twitter and Facebook for myself and for clients whose social media presences I manage, and I can see email attachments like Word documents and PDFs on it. DropBox makes it easy to send larger files to clients and colleagues. These tools have done great things for my quality of life because I don’t need to be trapped in an office; I can work from anywhere.
I spent last week at a house on the beach. The location made it feel like a vacation, but I got a lot done. The house had a strong wi-fi signal, so I could work outside. I took some nice long walks on the beach during the day and took my iPhone with me; I didn’t miss anything that needed my attention.
And it hasn’t just been about quasi-vacations. In the days of big desktop machines, I had to make sure I had every possible document before I visited a client. Now, I take my laptop, and if I need anything unexpected I have it with me. If it’s a nice day, I just set myself up outside instead of feeling like I have to make a choice between enjoying the weather and getting my work done.
The downside of these technological improvements is that some people – actually, a lot of people – fall into the trap of being on the clock all the time. Mobile phones have a way of making people feel like they need to be available 24 hours a day. If you want to work efficiently and avoid burnout, it’s critical to counter the increased mobility with some boundaries. I make exceptions for urgent projects, but on a normal day I don’t work in the evening, and I try not to work on the weekends. Some people are strict about it and they set gadget blackout times, like a secular digital sabbath. Experiment with what works and what doesn’t, and you can create a great quality of professional life for yourself.
Alexandra Golaszewska (go-la-shev-ska) is a marketing & social media consultant, a graphic designer and the founder of Eastern Star Communications. She can be found on the web at http://eastern-star.net and on Twitter @AlexandraGola.