Work is like sand: it gets everywhere

Work is there all the time. Even when we are not at work and not working it is there for many of us: our thoughts are mostly dominated by work. Our smartphones mean that work is like a shadow – it is always there next to us.

But we’re told that technology will liberate us. The more robots do the less we will have to. But history seems to suggest the opposite. Why is it that we are busier than ever?

Do we want our children to work like this? Probably not. But doing one thing and saying another sends out mixed messages. It is adults who constantly check their phones. When there is a minute free our automatic response is to fill it. What we need is more emptying and less filling. Practically that means guarding those times when we are not working. After coaching an executive I tell them not to switch on the radio during their commute. Just a little time to think each day can make all the difference.

Thinking about our work dominated lives is even more important now. This is because work like sand gets everywhere. Cafes, poolsides, kitchen tables: all potential workspaces. On the one hand, it frees us from having to sit at a desk far from home. It enables us to work at a time and place when we can work productively, But this freedom comes at a heavy cost. For instance, it might seem very enlightened for a company (as some do) to say take a holiday when ever you want. That is the explicit policy. The implicit message though is make sure you are on top of your work. That is impossible. There is no end. So such well-meaning policies create a trap: take time off when you think you have completed everything.

Try and find a time and a place where work is not allowed. Remove any reminders of work (especially smartphones). Start with your journey to and from work. You will benefit and the rest of your family as well.