The busy season is here. It’s the time of year when your workload increases, and you find yourself working late, answering emails past midnight, and feeling like you’re constantly on call.
The problem with being plugged in 24/7 is that it can harm your productivity and quality of life. You’re missing out on real-life interactions, not getting enough sleep, and probably making poor decisions because of information overload.
But there’s a solution: unplugging.
Unplugging isn’t about going off the grid completely; it’s about being intentional about your time and energy so that you can get more done in less time.
Unplugging for productivity
Staying productive during busy season can feel futile. We struggle to get things done efficiently and effectively because we’re rushing from one thing to the next without taking time for ourselves or others.
The internet has become an integral part of our lives and our work. We use it for everything from checking email and social media to filing taxes and sending invoices. But with all this convenience comes distraction and a lack of focus. Unplugging helps us avoid this cycle by giving us respite from our digital devices so we can rest, recharge and reconnect with ourselves, our families, and others around us.
The benefits of unplugging
The weeks leading up to Tax Day can be extremely stressful. And when you’re stressed, it can make it difficult to produce your best work. One way to combat this is by taking breaks throughout the day.
You may feel guilty about taking breaks because you’re afraid it will make it harder to get back into work mode once you return, but research shows that taking regular breaks throughout the day actually improves productivity.
Ultimately, there are many reasons why taking breaks is good for your productivity:
- Reducing stress and burnout. Working continuously without taking a break makes you more likely to suffer from burnout and stress. Breaks help you recharge and relax so that you’re ready to go when it’s time to work again.
- Improving focus and concentration. When we’re tired or stressed, it’s easy for our minds to wander off task — leading us to lose focus and make mistakes. Taking regular breaks allows us to rest our eyes and let our minds wander. As a result, we’re better able to concentrate when it’s time to get back to work.
- Enhancing creativity and problem-solving skills. Our brains are highly active during rest periods — so much so that they sometimes produce creative ideas while we’re sleeping! Taking frequent breaks throughout the day will help keep your mind active.
Here are some specific tips for how to unplug and stay productive:
- Set specific times of day for disconnecting. Choose times that work best for your schedule, but set aside at least 30 minutes daily to unplug and recharge. It might be before bedtime, during lunch, or first thing in the morning before checking email or social media feeds. Make sure everyone understands why this time is important — and stick to it!
- Create a disconnection routine. Pick specific activities to help you switch gears from “work mode” to “unplugged mode.” This might mean listening to music while getting ready for bed or taking a walk with friends during lunchtime. The more routine unplugging becomes, the easier it will be for you to switch gears when it comes time to focus again on tasks. If you’re going on vacation or taking a break from work, set aside time before leaving to properly disconnect from your devices and prepare for being away from them. Try turning off push notifications on your phone and tablets to turn off incoming messages and emails while offline.
- Use tools and apps to help with disconnecting. There are many apps that block access to certain websites or apps at specified times (think Freedom or StayFocused). You could also use a tool like RescueTime that tracks how much time you spend on different sites or apps so that you can see where you are spending your time online — and make adjustments accordingly if needed.
- Update outdated processes. Sometimes the most straightforward way is to automate repetitive tasks and digitally transform your firm. Less time is spent on administrative tasks (like entering data into spreadsheets or updating databases), allowing more time for strategic work that requires human judgment and creativity.
Studies have shown that unplugging can be beneficial to productivity. It decreases stress, helps us focus, and improves brain function. The bottom line: When it comes to maximizing our productivity during the busy season, taking a break is key.
Learning how to become more productive — and, more important, healthier during this time of year — will be the best way for you and your firm to thrive.