By Phyllis Myung
On my way back from Japan, I had a stopover in Newark. I had to admit that I was a bit shocked at the thousands of iPads that were present at the airport restaurants, shops and sitting areas. It seemed that the whole airport was wired and that robots could’ve taken over as cashiers, waiters and ticket scanners.
One of the most surprising things about Japan was the lack of solid public wi-fi. I expected the entire city (okay, the entire country) to be a wi-fi paradise. I mean, how else was I supposed to play Pokemon Go without an international mobile data plan? But in all seriousness, I foolishly assumed that I could connect to the Internet wherever I went and put my phone in airplane mode and searched for wi-fi. It could’ve helped with translations, communicating with my team and helped me out when I was locked out of house and then got extremely lost trying to find my way back to the house the next morning. (That’s another story for another time!)
But I landed back in the States and was greeted by the glorious internet everywhere I went. During dinner, I ordered via the two iPads at our table – one for each seat. I was able to pay for my dinner, browse the web, play games, watch the news and keep an eye on my flight status through it. How incredible is that? I didn’t have to get up to do anything!
Today, as I sit inside a trusty coffee shop with known good wi-fi, I’m able to connect to work, edit photos and put up a blog post. I didn’t even have to step into my home office to accomplish what I needed for the morning because I was able to do it all through my smart phone. It made me marvel at how far technology has come and it also made me think about how powerful an Internet connection and wired device can be.
Imagine if we could supply those who don’t have access to or are unable to go to school with the same. It’s remarkable how much learning could happen, right? But maybe this is also the step to having a more balanced life? We are able to connect with our work wherever we are and don’t have to be chained to an office. We can be present for the Little League games, dance recitals and dinner with our families.
The biggest danger, though, is that because of this constant ability to connect, we are terrible at shutting down our devices. My husband told me how his colleagues do a “stand up” every day to check in on tasks that need to be completed. In addition to these, one coworker also did a “stand down” at the end of the day to recap how the day went and to signify the end of work.
As a freelancer, this “stand down” idea jumped out to me. I’m not always good at putting boundaries of when I work and when I don’t. I tend to be a workaholic and find myself staring in front of a laptop at 1 am, wondering where the time went. But with modern technology, I find that while I may be present at various moments of parental joy, I’m also furiously answering work emails. It’s been a cause of burnout many times as well as family strife because I don’t seem to be truly present.
How do you balance work and the rest of your life? Do you have “stand downs” or other rituals you do to set your boundaries?
This post first appeared on The Napkin Hoarder.
Phyllis Myung is a freelance writer, consultant and speaker. Through her personal blog, The Napkin Hoarder, she shares her experience ranging from growing up as an Asian American with immigrant parents to raising a child of her own.