Workaholic. I’ve never liked that term, but when people describe me, they always seem to use it. When speaking to college classes about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, I often mention that entrepreneurs are always working, that we don’t have days or nights off, sick days, or the traditional 9-5, and the more I listen to myself speak on this topic, the more I realize it’s really not healthy. It can lead to an early burnout, which is something I have definitely experienced. We shouldn’t feel the need to be working non-stop, although it is how we have been programmed, and we often glamorize how hard we work, especially since the social media boom. Upon recently taking an advanced Transcendental Meditation course, I asked the instructor about the current smartphone problem. She said phones should be entirely shut off for two hours before going to bed. But wait, I check my email at 9:30 pm; how will that work? Well, maybe I shouldn’t be checking email at 9:30 pm. Why am I even doing that? So it got me thinking on how to create a healthier balance of work and non-work.
A few weeks ago, I started incorporating an entirely tech-free day into my weekly routine. I’m not just referring to social media (which I have mostly outsourced to social media maven/flutist Nicole Riccardo). When I say “tech-free,” I’m talking about all my Apple products. SHUT OFF. Phone and laptop completely off for the entire day. Think Amish; they have the right idea here, and I have a newfound respect for their lifestyle (horses and buggies, anyone?) I chose Sunday as my tech-free day because we were never supposed to be working on Sundays; they were supposed to be a day of rest, and I decided I needed to take that day of rest and recharging. I admit, it was difficult not to check emails at first, as I felt I was missing important business or orders to fulfill. But business can wait until Monday, and it always does. I had an unusual and incredible lightness about me all day, and knew I was onto something. I felt like I was taking back my life!
The Flute View’s Barbara Siesel also does a tech-free day on Saturdays.
"Starting around 7 years ago I joined a synagogue after being away from my faith for over 20 years. I joined a very progressive and deeply spiritual place with a great community. After a few years I decided to observe what we Jews call Shabbos, or the Sabbath, which we observe from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. During that time I turn off my cell phone, and on Friday attend services (sometimes Saturday too). I spend time with friends, I do something fun, go to a concert or theater, spend time in nature, take a hike; I completely stop thinking about work!! It's a way to recharge both spiritually and physically, so when Sunday or Monday comes, I'm ready to start again with enthusiasm and a feeling of reset. I often find that great creative ideas pop into my head during this day of rest as my mind becomes free of doing what I think I'm supposed to be doing!! It also adds a rhythm to my week and gives me something to look forward to if I'm in a difficult time. Truthfully, if an important concert comes along on a Saturday I will always do the performance, I then try to think of the day as in "Shabbos time" - maybe everyday should feel that way!!"
Recent books such as “How to Break Up With Your Phone” have become popular as many of us are feeling the need for guidance on how to limit and optimize our screen time. As musicians, this cannot be more true. We do not have the types of high-pressured jobs where we need to be glued to our phones texting or emailing our bosses or co-workers. We spend our days practicing our craft, making music with others, teaching our students, and performing in concerts. I often think of my days as a conservatory student in the early 2000’s, and then again in 2009 when I started Fluterscooter, with nostalgia and appreciation for the simplicity of it all. I never had expected to work 7 days a week for unlimited hours and would have laughed at anyone if they told me that is what I would be doing now.
You can only do so much work until you crash or lose interest, or both. And I’ve been there. I’ve slept for over 30 hours after crashing from work and work-related travel. I’ve cancelled plans with friends because I was too tired to even speak. For the first time ever, last year, I had to pull out of a festival last minute because I was just too exhausted. And it’s not just me; many colleagues my age and younger are also feeling this same pressure and making themselves sick. Have you heard of karōshi? Also known as “death from overwork” in Japan, it lately has become "so common for employees to work themselves to death, they created a word for it" (Business Insider). Unless we start taking better care of ourselves now and educating the next generation, the future looks alarming. Having Sunday totally tech-free makes me more enthusiastic about starting work on Monday, and I have a renewed sense of gratitude and purpose. A tech-free day is just a start to my healthier balance, but I finally feel I’m on the right path.
Want to try a tech-free day on a Saturday or Sunday (or weekday, if you can)? Here are some fun, old-school things you can try:
- Read a book or real newspaper (yes, the paper ones without the spammy pop-up ads). Magazines work, too.
- Make plans to see friends irl (in real life), and make them turn off their phones when you see them. If you’re driving to get there, you can’t use your smartphone for navigation (this one is particularly difficult for me) so either write the directions on a piece of paper or remember how to get there. I think paper maps are also still a thing.
- NATURE. It’s everywhere. Explore. Discover. Breathe. Get quiet.
- Practice without any distractions. Find some new pieces to start learning and don’t listen to them online before you start. Own Your Interpretation!
- Cook a meal without looking on YouTube.
- Go to a concert. There are lots of free ones. Since you won’t be able to post it to your story or check your phone during intermission, I guarantee you will feel more connected to the performance.
If you do feel the need to keep your phone on for that last minute freelance gig, you can still do that! Just turn off all your notifications for that day (text, email, and all apps). And start turning off app notifications in general, as they only add clutter. Use your smartphone as if it were a landline. This may sound difficult and you may be tempted, but think of it as a challenge! And this challenge starts Saturday night. How many of you sleep with your phone inches away from your head? (raises hand) Stop it. Put it in another room altogether. I’ve been practicing this during the week, too. And for those of you who are on the verge on burnout, feel free to reach out to me. Just not on Sunday.
Andrea "Fluterscooter" Fisher enjoys spending time with deer. She is also founder and owner of Fluterscooter bags, a sought out lecturer on Entrepreneurship, co-founder of The Flute View magazine, holds two degrees from The Juilliard School, and can play flute and organ at the same time. www.fluterscooter.com