Is your CrackBerry attached to your hand like you were born wielding it? Does your partner joke that you're having an affair with your iPhone? With the workday being slowly extended from 9 to 5 to 24/7 through technology, it's become all too easy to be logged in, all of the time.
Too often we think that if we're always working and available, we must be getting more done. But never logging off is like never taking a vacation --
The following five executives turn off their devices at least once a day to focus on their family and friends. Taking some time to live in the real world doesn't hurt them -- and it may even help you. As we start the new year, try to take some time each day (or at least once a week) to recharge your personal batteries, even if just for a few hours.
Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats:
"On the average night, I will shut off my BlackBerry between 9 and 10 p.m. You can't live in the moment and appreciate what's right in front of your face if you are hunched over and pecking away on your smartphone. [Also] when you are too available, people who are perfectly capable of making decisions on their own lean on you for approval. If they know you are not going to respond to a question posed to you at 10 p.m. via email, then they are forced make the decision on their own. This can develop strong managers. While I value the ability to remain in touch with my agents and employees no matter what time of day, no matter where I am, I know that what means most in life is quality time with your family and loved ones. These are the memories that you will remember in 20 years; not, say, the sales figures for June 2011."
Ruth Danielson, president and founder, Mulberry Street Market Intelligence:
"My staff know that if they call, text or email me on a Sunday, they won't hear back from me until Monday morning. If I'm out with friends or family, my BlackBerry is off or on silent. This includes dinner time and movie nights at home. A myopic CEO who can't take her eyes off her BlackBerry is bound to get fatigued and is going to make missteps. It's also important to set an example for my staff and contractors. I don't want my people working all of the time. I don't like losing great people to burn-out. I learned a long time ago that after a full day's work, it takes me much longer to solve problems or complete tasks, when I can produce fabulous results in minutes when I'm fresh, rested and happy. Finally, if you and I are in a meeting, I'm not checking my BlackBerry to see who else wants me right now. I'm where I am, right now, and not anywhere else."
Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK:
"When my workday is over and I leave the office, I am switched off of my phone. I realized several years ago, after being a slave to my hand-held devices, that the only way I could truly disconnect, decompress, and be 100 percent switched on for my family, was to let it go. But really, the most critical members of my leadership team know how to reach me in an emergency, which rarely happens. Anybody else can wait for the next business day. My assistant reviews all emails and only forwards into my 'private inbox' those messages I need to see. Personal friends and family know a special code to get to me directly (although I don't check even those in the evening)."
Sonny L. Newman, president of EE Technologies:
"After reviewing the report (daily sales and bookings) at 7 p.m., I generally put my smartphone on the charger until the next day around 6 a.m. Turning it off protects me and my team from getting random rambling emails (that may be overreactions to a particular situation) and my down time and family time from being interrupted. It is a mistake to be available 24/7 because it sacrifices long-term success for short-term crisis management and temporary resolution. Being available also creates unnecessary demands from others who know you are there and just have a 'quick question,' and leads to failure to plan in advance because [people] will call at the last minute. Being unavailable allows others to grow to their potential and is part of the succession strategy for my company."
Still uncomfortable logging off? Try to limit who you're connected with to key members of your team, like Seth Rabinowitz, partner at Silicon Associates does:
"I have two assistants who can reach me at any time, any place in the world, without exception...even by satellite phone. At certain hours and on certain days, absolutely no one on planet Earth is able to reach me on my smartphone, other than those two."
Having one or two gatekeepers allows you to be interrupted only when you absolutely need to be.