Smartphones make us always accessible, and as a result the constant beep of incoming emails and updates means that this technology is often blamed for allowing work to creep into weekends.
"The problem stems from the fact that most people have a fear of missing out," says Michael Woodward, organizational psychologist and author of . (Keynote Publishing, 2012) "With the mass proliferation of wireless technology, we have created a norm of constantly being in the loop."
But it comes at a price: "We've created a frantic environment where entrepreneurs constantly feel the need to check in," says Woodward.
Protecting personal time is more about blending than balancing. "You have to find a way to blend the work, family, and social aspects of your life in a healthy way that makes you feel comfortable," he says.
Ironically, the technology that caused this problem can help correct it, too. Here are three ways to use your cell phone and laptop to help eliminate business interruptions on the weekend:
1. Filter your phone calls.
Many entrepreneurs use their cell phones for business and personal calls, and that means you're available around the clock. While Caller ID is helpful, an unknown number might be tempting to answer in case it's a potential client. Instead, use the Do Not Disturb feature on your iPhone or Blackberry. Calls are automatically sent to voicemail without the phone ringing. And the feature allows you to white list certain phone numbers, so you won't miss important calls.
More sophisticated office phone programs, such as 8x8, allow you to keep your cell number private. On weekends, program your office phone to forward calls to your cell phone. Instead of the phone ringing, the app will pop up and ring. This will allow you to clearly distinguish business calls from personal calls. You can set up the system to automatically send business calls to voicemail, and you can program preset numbers to always ring through. Packages start at $29.99 per month.
2. Limit or block your access.
While turning off your phone is one option, it's easier to put your phone on Airplane Mode, which will send calls to voicemail and disable email and text notifications. If you're tempted to check email, Gmail users can download the free Inbox Pause app [www.inboxpause.com], which is similar to the pause feature on a DVD player. When you’re ready to take a break from email, simply hit the “pause” button. Then hit the “unpause” button when you’re ready to get back to work and the email you received during your pause will be automatically delivered. Or you can block your Internet access altogether with free programs such as LeechBlock or Focus Me. Both will take your computer offline for an amount of time you designate.
3. Delay email replies.
When you send or reply to emails over the weekends, you send clients and staff a message that you’re available around the clock, says Woodward. Instead, set boundaries around appropriate communication time. You can still check your email on weekends, but use an app like Boomerang (for Gmail users) or LetterMeLater, which will send your email at a later time or date. This can be helpful if you have a great idea over the weekend that you want to share with your staff or client, or if you simply want to handle your reply right away.