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“Turn That Damn Thing Off!”

Even before the pandemic, constant accessibility in the digital age put the romantic idea of work-life balance to the test. But with comprehensive home office, team chat solutions have led your colleagues straight into your living room – sometimes even worse. How do you put them outside the door again and get the necessary recreation time?
“Turn That Damn Thing Off!”
Photo: Ivan Samkov on Pexels

BING! BING! BING! At lunch with your eldest, or over a glass of wine for two in the late evening, there’s always something beeping, jingling or vibrating somewhere, usually nearby in your pocket or on the table. And most of the time, you could have saved yourself a look at the display: Someone has sent another funny GIF on Microsoft Teams, Mueller from Finance reminds you by email to sign someone’s virtual birthday card or – BING! – you haven’t confirmed your monthly absences in the company’s digital tool yet.

It’s clear: If you hadn’t looked directly at these messages, the world wouldn’t have ended. But you had to click to see them, didn’t you?

The answer is: No. You don’t always have to click. And you don’t always have to make sure that your status is set to “Available,” that you call back directly or drop the cooking spoon when your office neighbor asks for a meeting.

In 99% of the cases where it rings, beeps or pops, it’s quite sufficient to react later. Let’s say when your lunch break is over. Or, well, yes, on Monday when you go back to work (you can usually tell you’re at work by the fact that you don’t have a bottle of wine in your hand with your sweetheart waiting to toast with you).

To get through this – and stay sane for the next few months – you should take the following four steps.

Be Honest with Yourself

The company would not have allowed you to work more often from home if they didn’t trust that you were more productive there than in the office. This has nothing to do with charity, but it has to do with calculation. The nice thing is that you always wanted to commute less, so now you get what you want – and so does your boss.

Image of: What If Working from Home Goes on…Forever?
Article Summary

What If Working from Home Goes on…Forever?

The pandemic forced workers home, but high productivity and cost savings may keep them there.

Clive Thompson New York Times Magazine
Read Summary

But that doesn’t mean that you have to be available 24/7. Your salary hasn’t increased for these added weekly working hours. This means that you should be honest with yourself and record how much you work. Analyze and rethink your new daily rhythm – take into account your loved ones, who are happy to see you more, but also the fact that you are still constantly absent.

Here’s some food for thought:

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Always On, Never Done

Smartphones make professionals available 24/7, but the real culprit for long work hours is incompetent management.

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Full Catastrophe Living

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn shows those who work under pressure how to use mindfulness to revive their calmness and well-being.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Bantam Dell Books Read Summary
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To develop your “grit,” combine passion and perseverance over time.

Angela Duckworth Vermilion Read Summary
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Overworked and Overwhelmed

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed, create mindfulness through awareness and intention.

Scott Eblin Wiley Read Summary

Set Boundaries…

You need breaks, enough sleep and something to eat properly. You have to reserve these times because no one else will do it for you. Make sure that you plan time for work (Hint: Never hesitate to set your team chat status on “DND” for tasks that need at least a little concentration), time for family and time for yourself. And make sure that you don’t miss out on the latter when others are pushing!

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The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down

A Zen Buddhist monk offers best-selling advice for developing loving relationships and achieving serenity.

Haemin Sunim Penguin Group (USA) Read Summary
Image of: Pause
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Whether you call it a break, vacation or sabbatical, taking a “pause” will restore you.

Rachael O’Meara Perigee Read Summary
Image of: Take Back Your Time
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Take Back Your Time

Americans work longer hours than citizens of other industrialized nations. Would you like to just stop and simplify?

John de Graaf Berrett-Koehler Publishers Read Summary
Image of: Life Matters
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Life Matters

Bridge the gap between your work and your family. Focus on what matters most to achieve quality of life and peace of mind.

A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary
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Stillness Is the Key

To perform at your peak, learn the art of inner stillness.

Ryan Holiday Profile Books Read Summary
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Why We Sleep

A best-selling neuroscientist describes how sleep affects your health and its role in problem solving and creativity.

Matthew Walker Scribner Read Summary
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Virtual Freedom

Hiring virtual staffers – whether overseas or local – can increase your productivity and efficiency.

Chris Ducker BenBella Books Read Summary
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Work Naked

On second thought, keep your pants on.

Cynthia C. Froggatt Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers Read Summary

… and Stick to Them!

The best set of rules and boundaries in the world will not help you if you are the first to break them. So you have to make sure yourself that you don’t reach into your pocket during the next BING! on lunch break, that you don’t check your mails on Saturday night if there is no direct reason to do so, or that you keep other old routines in the new system because you are afraid to attract negative attention. What will make you stand out negatively is that you are not yourself – with your loved ones.

Here is how to build your fortitude:

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Atomic Habits

Habit expert James Clear details how you can change your habits by exerting the smallest of efforts.

James Clear Random House Business Read Summary
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On Form

Balance your mind, body, emotions and spirit by managing not your time, but your energy. It’s the new paradigm.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz Nicholas Brealey Read Summary
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10 Simple Solutions to Worry

How to live a worry-free life

Kevin L. Gyoerkoe and Pamela S. Wiegartz New Harbinger Publications Read Summary
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The Stuff

Life is tough. But if you have “the stuff,” you can overcome any challenge.

Sampson Davis and Sharlee Jeter Gallery Books Read Summary
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Keep Going

Listen to a Lakota Indian wise man to learn some basic truths about life: the joy, the pain and the will to “keep going.”

Joseph M. Marshall Sterling Publishing Read Summary
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Authentic Happiness

How to get happy: Surprise, you don`t have to get rich. Instead, join a religion, move to a democracy, marry and be good.

Martin E.P. Seligman Atria Books Read Summary

Don’t Be the Next “Mueller from Finance”!

Remember him? Further up the page we talked about him, because he reminded you to sign a virtual birthday card. Apart from the fact that you ran out of cool sayings and quotes after the twentieth of these invitations (and that was a few months’ ago), this is of course a nice gesture. But these gestures are so numerous that it has become impossible to pay the same attention to everyone here, i.e. to always be equally personal, honest and creative. The same applies to remote events of all kinds that fill the digital agendas: Some may be meaningful and exciting, but when sent en masse, from all directions, they only cause headaches. This shoots over the top.


Have the courage to miss out sometimes, you don’t have to join in everywhere.

And don’t be the one who sends around stuff that distracts your colleagues, upsets them (while making lunch) or makes them forget their pause. This is usually the case if you communicate in an unclear manner and have no chance of clarifying any misunderstandings that may arise – for example, while you stand in line together waiting for your lunch or meet in the corridor. You remember? A long time ago in an office canteen far, far away…?

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The Joy of Missing Out

Dismiss the idea of balance in your life. Instead, for joy and productivity, lean into your priorities.

Tanya Dalton Thomas Nelson Read Summary
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If you think you’re too busy to read this, can you afford not to? How to stop being so busy that it makes you crazy.

Edward M. Hallowell Ballantine Publishing Group Read Summary
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The Distracted Mind

If you get distracted easily, here’s why and here’s how to regain cognitive control.

Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen MIT Press Read Summary
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The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Video Meetings

Video conferencing from home doesn’t have to be daunting – for yourself or your colleagues.

Brian X. Chen The New York Times Read Summary
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The Procrastination Cure

A former world-class procrastinator helps you conquer your procrastination habit and get things done.

Damon Zahariades The Art Of Productivity Read Summary
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Get It Together

Career expert Lauren Berger provides practical tips for managing your life and reducing stress.

Lauren Berger McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary

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25 We have curated the most actionable insights from 25 summaries for this feature.
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22 We read and summarized 22 books with 6536 pages for this article.
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