Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not something people decided — the trend has crept up on us silently like a fog. From the 1960s through the 1980s, many professionals went to work at 8 in the morning and left at 5 in the evening. Work rarely interfered with personal lives, with the exception of physicians.

For many of us that schedule is inconceivable. Some companies now demand you request permission to leave behind the laptop when you vacation. Seventy-five percent of vacationing employees check in by phone or email, some several times a day. As time management consultant and author Harold Taylor notes, “Work is no longer a place you go to and then leave.”

Should we accept this as the new normal, or is there reason to be concerned?

Many studies have concluded this constant connection is creating high levels of stress. And that causes a myriad of other issues including higher risk of heart conditions and problems with concentration and memory that affect work performance. Up to 90 percent of all primary health-care visits are related to stress, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in lost production and $277 billion in treatment for everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of “Crazy Busy,” sees many people who can’t focus, are forgetful and think they have attention-deficit disorder. He labels their condition “attention-deficit trait.” Almost half of all American workers don’t take their vacation days. Apart from the health risks, people who don’t get out of the office tend to be less creative, less productive and, ultimately, less effective. To improve performance, people need to take time off.

Can you take control?

To develop the mindset that technology should work for you will require you change some habits and readjust your thinking. Consider the bottom-line benefits to you personally, to your family and to your career.

Deciding on real motivation to change is key to making the change. Here are some ways you can take back control:
– Set boundaries on how often you check email. If the idea of not being constantly available makes you nervous, start checking your email every 15 minutes and gradually build up to an hour, then two hours. Having your email notification constantly on is death to productivity.
– If you have a project that needs your full attention, turn off all communication devices. You will be surprised at how much faster you will complete the project when you give it your total focus.
– Do you get jittery thinking about going to lunch and leaving your cell phone in the car? A client of mine said she forgot to take in her cell phone to a lunch event and never enjoyed anything so much.
– Take your vacation. Start the year by scheduling time on your calendar.
– Have a no tech day. Resume your hobbies. Often our best ideas come to us when we are having down time.

Trying to be productive by being connected via technology 24/7 is counterproductive. Instead, we increase our stress, make more errors, find it difficult to focus and get our lives out of balance. Start thinking about time management in a holistic way and control technology so it works for you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

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