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How to Disconnect When Your Devices Are Your Office - SoundCloud
(531 secs long, 13 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Disconnecting from devices is a challenge for most people. A study of Americans found they check their phones on average 80 times a day! For remote workers, it’s especially difficult if there’s no separation between work and home and your devices become your office.

In fact, this is so much of a challenge that there is a law in France that gives workers the “right to disconnect” from their companies outside of working hours.

This is clearly something that several people struggle with, so I opened up the question of how to best disconnect from devices to the whole Buffer team, a team where we’re all remote and many of us have been for several years now. Here’s our advice on disconnecting from your devices as a remote worker.

Manage Your Notifications

One of the main things that comes to mind when you think of disconnecting is notifications. This study found that people receive, on average, 63.5 notifications per day.

If all of those notifications happened just in an eight-hour workday it would be almost eight notifications an hour. However, we all know that notifications come in at all times of the day, and that’s one of the main tips the Buffer team has on disconnecting.

Turn notifications off on your phone

Phones are really the main device that sit on the fence of being personal devices or work devices, since so much work can be done via phones it’s not uncommon for people to have Slack, Gmail, Trello, and other work applications downloaded on their phones.

Turning off notifications altogether is a popular one for the Buffer team.

One of our teammates, Mike, advises people to just get rid of notifications on your phone altogether. He says the best way to disconnect is to have “no notifications anywhere.”

Another teammate, Julian, avoids notifications by not even having the accounts on his phone. “I don’t have Slack or any work emails on my phone. I’ve had this set up for over a year and it’s been great!”

I’ve personally experimented with turning off Slack and email notifications on my phone and while I was a little anxious at first that I would miss something very important, it hasn’t happened yet and it drastically decreased the number of notifications I get on my phone.

Hide your work email

Another tip from Mike is to hide your email account on your phone to make it harder to access. He says, “I have my Buffer email account hidden on my phone, it doesn’t appear on my aggregated inbox view, so I have to deliberately go there and choose it to see any new messages.”

This deliberate action is a great way to disconnect. Instead of automatically seeing work emails you’d have to consciously click on them, which is hopefully something we would think twice about.

Delete apps if you have to

Do you really have a hard time disconnecting on vacation? One of our mobile engineers, Jordan, says he has to start deleting things if he really wants to avoid checking in on work. “On vacation I just straight up delete Slack, it’s the best tip for me personally that I’ve found to disconnect.”

Sign out of your favorite sites

Another great tip from Jordan is to sign out of work applications that he might want to visit. He says, “I also sign out of work sites that I might visit for my hobbies (i.e. Github) so I’m not tempted to check up on things if I see a notification. I’ll work on side projects to relax and often visit the same sites I use for work so that helps.”

Separate Yourself From Your Work Devices

If you’re serious about disconnecting, sometimes you have to physically separate yourself from your devices to make it possible.

Put your devices out of reach

On Mike’s end, he has a very specific set up to make this possible although he admits it isn’t without its challenges. “I tuck my phone in my backpack when commuting, and when I get home after work I set it to charge and put it in airplane mode until the next morning. Now, I’m trying my best to stay away from it until at least an hour after waking up, but the FOMO is real.”

Having lived in a bachelor apartment at one point and also been working remotely from home, I can confirm that this is possible, no matter the size of your home.

Never work from bed

A key one for me personally has been to set a rule that I’ll never work from bed. One study found that 80% of young professional admit to working from bed, but I’d argue that the mental and physical separation between bed being a place for sleeping and the laptop being a place for work is more important than being majorly cozy while doing work.

Try using one device for only personal use

One of our customer advocates, Kelly, uses her iPad strictly for non-work things. “I started a few creative courses on Skillshare and wanted to keep my iPad fully clean of interruptions so I didn’t link iMessage, social media, or email (personal or work). It’s nice to spend a chunk of focused time on something creative without being tempted to log into Slack or check work email.”

Photo by Lilly Rum

Digitally Separate Your Work and Personal Life

This was one of the most popular tips for the Buffer team with many people either already doing this or keen to implement it soon. The idea is that you have different profiles on your devices for your work and for your personal use.

In the browser

Our marketing engineer, Gisete, uses two profiles in Google Chrome. “So if I’m on my computer on a weekend I’ll just open my personal profile browser window and I don’t get anything from work there.”

You could also do like our teammate Stephanie and use different browsers altogether. “My Opera browser only has work stuff and it’s safely minimized and out of sight on the weekends. Chrome is great for everything else.”

On your operating system

The whole Buffer team really loved the idea from Jordan to create a completely different user in the operating system, for most of us at Buffer that’s macOS. As Jordan put it, “Logging out at the end of the day seems like it would send a nice mental signal to myself that I’m totally done pending an emergency.”

Use different apps

Slack is a really sleek and wonderful app that we all love. Over the last few years, people have branched out and started using Slack not only for work things but also for their families.

One of our engineering managers, Kara, said she had this setup and decided against it. “I had set up a personal Slack team that my husband and I use and I’ve concluded that I need to shut it down and switch to a different method – it’s just too easy to slide into work Slack when I’m sending a list of groceries to pick up. I’ve decided that it would be very healthy for me to use completely different tools for work and non-work things!”

Be Firm About When Your Day Ends

The final, and potentially most important piece of advice about disconnecting is around ending your day. This is something I know remote workers in particular struggle with and I’ve dealt with myself. When there isn’t a clear end to a day, like for most people it would be leaving the office, it’s far too easy to just let yourself continue to be comfortable sitting at home working until far too late in the evening.

Here’s what the Buffer team has to say on this one:

Close your laptop

In an article about remote work lessons, our Director of People, Courtney gave the advice to, “close your laptop and mean it at the end of the day. Work will always be there tomorrow.”

As a few extra steps, Julian says, “I close out all of my work apps on my computer and shut my computer off if I can.”

Mike heartily agreed with this advice. “Plus one on shutting down my computer at the end of the workday, keeping my desktop clean and some todo’s ready for the next morning helps for that. I feel I don’t need to carry over stuff from yesterday.”

Plan for the time after work

Another popular way to disconnect was to have ways to fill your time after work.

According to one of our customer advocates, Julia, “I feel like to really disconnect, I need to take up my mental space with something else. So even if I’m planning on just chillin’ and not doing much, I try to fill my day with things that will replace my work-related thoughts. A really simple one is reaching out to friends I haven’t talk to in awhile, or trying to make new authentic connections.”

Arielle, our community manager, has the same experience here. “I’ve found that scheduling a hard stop to my workday is the best way to disconnect from work! When I have plans to take a class, meet up with friends, or cook dinner for me and my husband, I have a much easier time closing my computer and putting it away for the evening.”

Another one of our customer advocates, Juliet, has found the most success with doing yoga right after work. “I’ve come to love doing 45 minutes to one-hour yoga session after work because one, it forces me to wrap up the day and two, it works wonders to break up my day from work so I hardly feel the urge to use any of my devices afterward.”

Over to You

How do you disconnect from work and from your devices? We’d love to read your advice in the comments!

Cover photo by Adam Adams

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Prefer to listen? Here’s the audio version of this post! 

My Morning Routine as A Remote CEO and Why It's Always Changing - SoundCloud
(325 secs long, 103 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Working remotely and having the opportunity to work from home, coffee shops, coworking spaces, or wherever else I might feel the most productive, means that I can design my own mornings because they don’t necessarily need to be spent commuting.

I’ve gone through many different morning routines over the years, and I don’t believe there is one perfect routine for everyone or even just for me. My morning routine is constantly changing and evolving.

So many times I’ve gotten my morning routine into a really great place, and then suddenly something happens like I take a trip, and my whole morning routine is entirely thrown off. Once I’m back in my regular location and trying to keep working on my morning routine, I’ve found that I can’t jump back into the place it was previously I know I need to slowly build it back up. Often times I’ll go to the gym and do just one exercise to kickstart it again.

A little while ago I had the chance to do an interview about my routine with the folks over at My Morning Routine detailing not only my routine but my philosophy around how often it should change and what I do when I fail at my routine. Here’s an excerpt from my interview, the full interview is over here in this blog post and for more morning routines they have a book full of them.

What is your morning routine?

I try to make sure I get at least 7.5 hours of sleep. Sleep is important! Right now, I wake around 6:30 am and drink 500ml of water as soon after getting up as I can. I quickly check company emails for any emergencies, and then most days I do 30 minutes of cardio (swimming or running) and then 10 minutes in the sauna. Then I have a simple breakfast, before starting work. This gives me the best start I’ve found for my day, gets the endorphins going, and makes me feel refreshed and ready to make progress. I know my morning routine won’t stay this way forever, though.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years, and are you currently experimenting with adding or removing anything from your routine?

It’s always changing, and I believe that should be the case. Routines are powerful when they become rituals that no longer require conscious thought and willpower. However, without iteration, they can become stale and can be hard to keep up.

In the last few years, changes I’ve made have been to bring exercise earlier in the day, and make it a top daily priority. I’ve also recently developed the habit of drinking a significant amount of water early in the morning: usually one liter by 10:30am.

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

I prepare my exercise clothes or swimming gear, to make that zero effort. I put my phone on to charge on the opposite side of the room so it isn’t the first thing I have within reach when I awake. I have 30 minutes of reading time on my Kindle to wind down from bright screens and give myself the best possible sleep. Most nights I journal to get thoughts and challenges from the day out of my mind and processed.

Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I generally check email for anything urgent, but I very rarely answer emails first thing. There are more important tasks I want to put my freshness and a full tank of willpower into.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I check it immediately for any urgent email and then don’t check it again until after exercise. During breakfast, I often use it to catch up on social media and read articles using Pocket, which I then add to Buffer to post interesting articles and my comments to social media.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

It depends on the day. I generally theme my days. Some are focused on managing and supporting my awesome executive team. Other days I’m working on the product, putting together documents for strategy and process improvement or digging into customer research or product metrics to find opportunities. Once a week I have “deep work Wednesday”, where I aim to have little to no meetings, and use lengths of unscheduled time to read and reflect on high-level vision and strategy.

On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

I know that the routine will be harder when I am in a new location and environment. I strive for the core pillars of good sleep, exercise, and water first thing, and don’t try to achieve the same full routine I have when I have had several weeks to build up the consistency.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day? 

I used to allow failing an aspect of my routine to negatively impact my whole day. I now see life as a continual fluctuation of routine. There is no constant but change, so if I fail, I know that I need to take away one or two layers of my routine, and get back to the basic pillars: good sleep, a mindful start, exercise, and water. If I fail, or I’m building back routine after some time away, I will do a quarter mile of swimming instead of a mile, or do 10 minutes of running instead of 30. The key is to do each element, even to a tiny degree. Once each aspect is minimally in place, I can build on it further.

Over to You

I’d love to hear from you in the comments! What does your morning routine look like? How often does it change? Were there any parts of my routine that were unexpected to you?

Cover photo by Bailey Zindel

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