A character from Richard Linklater’s film Waking Life boldly states that “This is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive. And things are just starting.” Inspiring words, to be sure, and having witnessed the break-neck pace at which technology has evolved in the last ten years, it is hard to disagree. For better or for worse, we live in an interconnected world that not only makes anything seem possible, but also makes everyone seem accessible.
Clearly workplace cultures and environments that very effectively take advantage of these tools are those that allow accessibility and yet incorporate filters that permit engaged employees and employers to make the most of their time. Of course this ability to be connected with anyone at any time forces individuals to make choices to preserve our boundaries, manage our time, and remain connected on our own terms. This connectivity also forces employers to decide which tools waste time, and which allow effective collaboration and easy interface to catch up on tasks after-hours. After all, the idea of plugging in at 9:00 am and then a hard stop at 5:00 pm is no longer the norm, and may not be the most efficient way to stay connected and collaborative. If we believe that balance and quality of work are better measures of productivity than hours worked or where the work took place (i.e. at home, or in a coffee shop rather than in a cubicle), then we owe it to ourselves to evaluate how we can optimize that productivity without becoming overwhelmed by being “always on”. Emily White, COO of Snapchat put it this way, “Rather than the choice to consciously disconnect, there’s much more of a trend of choosing who to connect with and in what context.”
What does this mean for us every day? It means prioritizing work that is important, working in focused intervals that optimize productivity, allowing for breaks and leisure, setting boundaries, and most importantly, striving for quality in everything we do. When our most valuable resource (our time) is managed well and respected, then integrating work as a breathing, flexible part of our life becomes possible and our potential is maximized. Attaining this balance is, of course, easier said than done, and there is no “one size fits all” solution. Be that as it may, if we could intentionally create meaningful, productive, and happy moments while integrating our lives with our crafts we just might be able, as Linklater’s character hopes, to pursue our passions and cultivate all the layered aspects of our lives.