The Way We Work
September 28, 2010 by Tamara Rice

For most contractors, connectivity -- to the Internet, at least -- is fairly vital to the flow of business. However, in the world of texting, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, etc., a freelancer can easily find himself bombarded with more than just work and in desperate need of some time unplugged.

If your field of business involves tweeting and posting comments all over the Internet, then by all means, don't unplug yourself from the technological world entirely. However, boundaries are a good idea, especially for those who don't earn money trolling Facebook.

Without boundaries, it's all too easy to slip into excess. And, as Jasmine Boussem at the Huffington Post points out, internet/technology addiction has become so common there are even rehab programs to help people get past  it. In other words, being overly connected can become progressively problematic in your life, and if you think you are immune you might be wrong.

Ask yourself the following ...

1. When was the last time you watched television without a computer in your lap? Not that watching television is a sacred pastime, mind you. But is it really necessary to engage in emails and social media while simultaneously being entertained in high definition? If you find it difficult to sit on your couch and relax without your laptop or your smartphone in reach, then you probably need to unplug.

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2. When was the last time you shut your cell phone off while spending time with family or friends? Talking on the phone during a social gathering wasn't polite in 1960 and it's not polite now. If the call is important, the caller will leave you a message. It's that simple. And don't think that texting is the answer, because it is noticeable and it is almost as rude. Most of us have been guilty of occasional texting at the table -- even a restaurant one -- but that doesn't make it cool.

3.  When was the last time you took a weekend off of work emails? Everyone has their own work rhythm, but if you don't plan on doing any work until Monday, why would you read your work emails on Saturday? You'll benefit from a day or two in which your brain does not have to process work in any way, shape, or form -- we promise.

Starting to realize that you might be overly connected? Don't worry, you are not the only one.  Consider taking up these habits to keep your connectivity in check:

- Spend one day off line a week. (You can do it, we promise.)

- Don't surf the Internet while you're on the phone, unless the nature of the phone call demands it. (Sometimes multitasking = rude.)

- Don't tweet or update your status unless you have something to say. (Maybe your 300 closest friends and business contacts don't want to know what flavor your latte is today -- we're just sayin'.)

- Talk to your good friends and family, don't just text/email them. (Even solid relationships have the potential to slide without meaningful contact. Keep them healthy by talking and meeting as often as you can.)

- Don't take work calls in your down time. (Caller ID and voicemail were created for a reason. Put your work hours on your outgoing voicemail message and then keep them!)

Wondering if you need to unplug? Try this Internet Addiction Test. If the results aren't what you hoped, it might be time to cheer yourself up by reading the Top Ten Signs You Are a Cell Phone Addict.

Tell us: What do you do to keep your life in balance? Have you had to make changes to avoid letting technological connectivity overshadow the rest of your life?

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.