Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at Montana State University’s College of Business Women’s Circle of Excellence. As the keynote speaker, I provided my perspective on “Making Life Work For You.”

As busy people jugging multiple priorities, it is often challenging to find work/life balance. I have already shared my thoughts on eating to feel good and find balance via my blog. Today, I’m writing about the importance of tuning things out.

The “Old” Days

Though the late 1980’s/early 1990’s seems like yesterday to me, I admit that lots has changed in the past 25 years – particularly as it pertains to technology and workplace culture.

I can remember my first “real” job – managing a branch for Bank of America (then NCNB). We had computers, but only to process loans and access account information. We worked during business hours and went home at night to a personal life without interruption. The only time I got a phone call related to work was if I had a sick employee.

The Wonderful World of Email

Just a few years later, email and PCs became widely accepted in the workplace. At first, email was a useful, during-business-hours tool. However, it didn’t take long until it turned into the perfect excuse to work all night. Corresponding with others via the taps of a keyboard became a substitute for face-to-face communication and the real way to “get work done.”

During the dot come boom, I dreaded opening up my PC when I first got to work in the morning, wondering how many emails I had accumulated overnight after leaving the office. That was a time when working all day and night was a badge of honor.

But have things changed?

Social Stimulation

Ironically, as a veteran marketing consultant, I have spent a lot of time writing promotional copy for smartphone companies. Many of the taglines touted the advantages of 24/7 connectivity, working around the clock, and staying in the know when you’re on the go. My job was to convince consumers that life wasn’t complete without being tuned in at all times.

With smartphones and social media, there’s hardly a waking moment away from the office. It is accepted and even admired to get calls, texts and emails from friends and work colleagues around the clock. Facebook entries and tweets are a common addiction as well.

The Age of Technology

Though technology has provided a great deal of convenience, luxury and entertainment, it has also severely restricted our ability to take a break, tune out and enjoy life. This notion of constant connectivity can lead to some serious stress if we’re not careful.

But we can’t simply pawn off a lack of work/life balance on technology, devices and gadgets. Culturally, things have changed as well. I question if there is such a thing as a “private life.”

Tuning Out

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to a love of text messaging. I have enjoyed reuniting with high school classmates and other old friends through Facebook. But I also recognize that it’s hard to take a break and “enjoy the moment” if a smartphone or iPad is always affixed to our hands and brains.

I truly believe our minds and bodies should soak up the sun, smell the roses and appreciate the little things in life – somewhere between all our commitments, texts and TV shows. Never-ending work and constant connectivity may not always the best means to get you there.

I’m not suggesting that we denounce work or eat potato chips on the couch every night to fill the void.  But engaging our minds and energy in activities and interests unrelated to our 9-5 job is healthy. Not reading those work emails at 8 p.m. is good for you. Engaging with your family in the evening rather than your smartphone or tablet benefits all parties involved.

To turn it off and tune out one night. When the next day arrives, ask yourself, “What did I miss?”

About the author

Melinda is a marketer, researcher and writer. She also has a passion for healthy living, every day.