Zen Master: Staying Sane in a Digital World

Emails. Slack popups. Push notifications. Texts. FaceTime requests. With so many distractions, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done. I’m not quite sure how this post got written, actually.

As a MailPoet user, you no doubt spend a significant amount of your day working online. You also probably feel overwhelmed and distracted on a regular basis, especially when it comes to handling the near-infinite to-do list of a blogger or entrepreneur. In this post, we’re going to breathe in, breathe out, relax, and learn how to handle the stress of the digital work life.

Start the day on the right foot

All that begins well ends well, according to a famous poet. I’d have to agree. The first hour of your morning often determines the trajectory of the rest of your day.

The solution? Keep the morning as sacred as possible. When you wake up, don’t immediately check your text messages, emails, or the news. In fact, keep your laptop and smartphone locked away in an entirely separate room.

Image by Freddy Castro

Instead, enjoy the quiet hours of the morning with a cup of coffee, breakfast, and a magazine. See how long you can go before plugging in – with some luck, you’ll forget about your job entirely!

Need some inspiration for creating your own morning ritual? Check out Daily Rituals, a book by Mason Currey that details the work habits of over 150 writers, artists, and other creative people throughout history.

Separate your lives

The modern world is pretty flexible. Want to work from a personal laptop while on a beach in Thailand? Easy. Need to drive your kids to the doctor’s office in the afternoon? No problem.

The downside to this flexibility, however, is that there are no longer clear boundaries between work life and personal life. Emails, messages, to-do lists, and other digital media are all mixed together on the same device. This can lead to feeling like you’re always at work, even when it’s 3 p.m. on a Saturday.

One easy way to separate your online identities is to use separate email clients for work and non-work. Rather than using one program to manage all of your emails, try separating work emails and life emails by app. When you’re not working, simply don’t check the designated app.

Focus on the present

Ever found yourself thinking about work while not at work? We all have. As mentioned in the last section, one way to avoid this problem is to separate your digital life into work and personal categories. But what if you still end up thinking about work?

Try being more present. Focusing on the current moment can be difficult, but like anything else, practice makes perfect. These guides on ZenHabits and Becoming Minimalist are a good start.

Turn it off to be creative

Creativity is fickle. It can’t be forced to perform and it doesn’t play nicely with schedules.

We’ve talked about this concept previously in a post called The Maker’s Schedule and the Manager’s Schedule. The gist: creative work requires long periods of uninterrupted time.

Conclusion: if you want to get creative work done, turn off your smartphones, iPads, pagers, homing pigeons, and all other distracting people and objects. Michelangelo didn’t check his Twitter feed every five minutes while sculpting David, and neither should you. This Google Chrome extension should help – it lets you block specific websites.

Delete apps from your phone and set up email notifications

Here’s a fun thought experiment: if you took an hour or two to respond to an email or a Slack notification (rather than responding immediately) would the world end? Unless you’re in charge of a nuclear reactor, probably not. Even then…

Image from AppStorm.net

Needless to say, most messages aren’t urgent. Consequently, wasting cognitive energy on being available is inefficient and counterproductive.

Take after us!

How does the MailPoet team stay sane? In more than one way! Both Tautvidas and Alexey recommend the Pomodoro Technique, Kim suggests turning your phone to grayscale (to avoid the shiny colors), and Arnaud stresses the importance of having a separate workspace. Vlad’s motto? Work hard, play hard.

On the support side, Rafael unwinds at the gym, while Valerio always remembers to leave work at work and unplug at home. Personally, I try to watch movies and read books – they help refresh my mind.

Stay calm and stay productive!

The modern, always-on work world is stressful, no doubt! By adopting a few of the practices above, you can slow down, stay calm, and stay productive.