As technology brings us closer, it also makes it tough to maintain healthy boundaries with our time. For many of us, this is especially true when it comes to our work/family balance and our time spent online.
Forty years ago, most careers allowed you to simply punch out on the time-clock, put your hard hat away or push your rotary phone to the back of your desk, and head home to your family. There was little expectation that you spend much time thinking about your job after you left the doors of your factory or corporate office building.
Today, we live in an age of constant information and global connectivity. This is great when it allows us to read Simple Marriage from our iPhone, and it means that I can write a blog post about having fantastic sex while enjoying a bagel at my favorite coffee shop. There is no doubt that technology gives us the tools to be more connected than ever before.
It’s Hard to Cut a Wireless “Cord”
There is a dark side to all of this technological goodness. The vast majority of Americans have a cell phone, and many of us have a “smart” phone and/or laptop computer that gives us ready access to email and the Internet. While this has the power for good, the constant connectedness is making it increasingly difficult to just “leave work at work” and spend undistracted time enjoying our spouse and children.
How bad is it getting? Well, a recent Gadgetology Study by Retrevo revealed that 7% of those polled check electronic messages on their phone during sex!
While I have never taken it that far, I am certainly guilty of letting work matters interrupt the family time in our household. Even though I spend a lot of my “spare” time helping others have a happier married life over at Engaged Marriage, I also have a full-time professional career as a consulting engineer.
It is so easy to make my family wait to start dinner while I answer “just one more” client email or let playtime with the kids turn into “TV babysitting hour” while I put the finishing touches on an important project report. Even when I’m not actively working on my laptop or smart phone, it can be really tough to shut work out of my mind when I know there are likely emails and voice-mails awaiting my attention. And, of course, non-work social media is an entirely different time-sucking curse!
3 Tips to Help Maintain a Healthy Online Work/Offline Life Balance
Whether you work for a corporation, run a business from home, make your living online or simply enjoy socializing on the Internet away from your job, it’s easy to let your internet time impact your family life. We all know this is not what we want, but what can we do to be proactive and make sure it doesn’t become (or remain) a problem?
Here are some tips that should help keep your spouse happy and keep your family ahead of your work, where they belong:
1. Set Healthy Boundaries
The best way to stay true to your priorities is to create some boundaries with your time. For example, I have established a “no computer time” rule for myself where I don’t use the laptop (or my smart phone) between the time I get home from work and when we get the kids to bed. By setting up this boundary, I free my time and my mind to enjoy my children, play outside or help my wife out with dinner each evening.
Tell your spouse about your boundaries and encourage them to let you know if they see you slipping and not holding true to your commitments. Your family should be your best accountability partner, and they’ll know better than anyone when they feel like you’re not keeping them your top priority.
2. Sacrifice Personal Time, Not Family Time
It’s important that you don’t let your family time suffer as a result of the time you spend online attending to work (or non-work) matters. The best way to handle this and keep a proper balance is to limit your internet use to your own personal time. Maybe you respond to client email or write a blog post instead of watching T.V. or taking a nap, but you shouldn’t be missing your date night with your spouse or your daughter’s dance performance to review your department’s timesheets.
3. Set Aside Time to Really Talk
Aside from our “no computer time” each day, my wife and I have found that setting aside a little time to just talk to each other without distractions has been a tremendous benefit to our relationship. Honestly, if you simply commit to spending 15 minutes per day engaged as a couple, it can have a seriously meaningful impact on your life together.
I just released an e-course around this idea called Marriage Mojo: 7 Steps to Romance for Insanely Busy Couples, and it’s totally free if you want to learn more about this idea and how to put it into practice in your marriage.
When Work Should Come Home
We have spent a lot of time emphasizing how to keep work from interfering with your family time by limiting our online activities. However, this is not to say that your job should not be part of your married life.
Our careers are an integral part of our lives and where we spend a lot of our time. We need to be able to openly communicate with our spouse about what’s going on at work and support each other at the end of a long day. To help make those days a bit less long, we also need to have some frank discussions about the lifestyle and married life that we really desire, and our work is a major part of those plans.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this important issue.
Do you struggle with keeping your career from interfering with your family time? What tips can you share for finding the right balance?