Finding Work-Life Balance in a Digitally Connected World

I was sitting in a conference room last week brainstorming with a customer. The conversation was riveting, the project exhilarating, and outside the conference room windows was the gorgeous Alaskan sunrise. Yet my attention continued to focus elsewhere.

The red blinking light on her BlackBerry.

work life balanceAs a Steve Job’s fangirl, I have long since converted to some form of iDevice, although I refuse to go so far as the watch because I think there is such a thing as TOO connected. I remember those BlackBerry days. The red light would cause a moment of panic. In an instant, I would reach for the phone eager to respond to what had a 50% chance of being junk mail at the time. Was it a client needing something? A prince promising me his fortune if I only sent him my bank routing number? I would quickly find out.

The use of a mobile device for work drastically affected my work-life balance. Never more than a few inches away, I was over vigilant to the blinking red light. Too vigilant. In time, I discovered better ways of using that device to maintain my sanity and maintain my connection at the same time.

To start, I will kick it old school for a bit. Do you remember the days before the mobile phone? While this is dating me, I remember having to carry a quarter in case I needed to call someone. I remember that if someone wanted to talk to you, they had to wait until you got home, leave a message on your machine, and you would return their call as soon as you could. And guess what? We all survived, managed to continue to do business, and maybe we were a bit saner. Can we apply that same philosophy to our ever-connected world?

Here are a few strategies that I use:

  • My Ringer Is Always Off: Yes, I know this is crazy, but it’s not essential that people have the ability to interrupt whatever we are doing at any point in time to reach us. We can still use the phone as an answering machine, and return calls when it’s convenient. I still subscribe to a 24-hour response rate, but with the ringer and all other sound notifications off, I can remain present in my situation.
  • Do Not Disturb: I have trouble turning my own brain off, and Do Not Disturb is a great help for me. I set a specific time in which I should be off the phone and let Do Not Disturb police my behaviors. All notifications cease and I can focus on winding down for the evening. It even has a great safeguard in place in case an emergency arises—repeated calls or people in your Favorites will break through the DND.
  • Don’t Fetch: When we used to walk in our house, we physically had to go check the machine. I use that same philosophy with mail. Let me choose a time that is convenient, and then I will ask the Mail app to go look for mail. This allows me to set a time to handle email, rather than be bombarded with every email as it arrives. Plus, this saves your battery life and your data plan!
  • Tummy Time: When I’m having a conversation with someone, the phone gets a little tummy time. This means I won’t see any text alerts or visual notifications appear, and I can focus on my conversation. Bonus—this actually saves your battery life, too. A sensor detects the phone’s position and won’t send the notification to the screen.
  • Notifications: Limit the notifications to ones that you actually need. Do I need to know each time my photo is liked on Instagram? I will often even mute other social media conversations to make them less obtrusive. I limit my notifications to the ones I actually need (phone, text, and boarding passes).

A mobile device is a great tool to remain connected, but the three-dimensional world is really fun to connect with, too. So, this holiday season, give your phone some tummy time and enjoy those around you.


Sheri Weppel

Sheri Weppel

Sheri Weppel started her career as an art teacher covered in finger paint, clearly teaching people about out-of-the-box thinking (or at least off-the-construction-paper thinking). While working on her master’s degree in Instructional Design and Development at Lehigh University, she realized that we could learn a lot from the public-school classroom. Concepts like micro-learning, learning styles, gaming, and training on demand were common in grade school, but were considered new concepts in the corporate sector.

Because one degree is never enough, Sheri continued her studies at Lehigh with a focus on Gaming for Instruction. In her spare time, she spent her evenings losing to her husband in Scrabble and wanting to throw the letter Q across the room, making her realize the emotional attachments we can have to games. If we could harness that desire to succeed, compete, or win to a learning environment, what impact could we have on learner motivation?

Countless games of Scrabble later, Sheri started at GP Strategies as an Instructional Designer and was able to inject those concepts into solutions for her customers. This is often a challenge for customers that want to use gaming but often don’t believe they have the time or budget required to successfully launch into the gaming space. Sheri is driven to help these clients find a balance in embedding gaming elements into instruction in a practical manner.

In the past nine years, Sheri has held many roles within the organization, from instructional designer to sales lead for blended learning, and is now focusing on the off-the-shelf product GPiLEARN+, growing the product into a true blended learning solution. Regardless of her role, Sheri is always focused on working with customers to help build impactful training solutions that focus on the needs of all populations. She helps clients determine specifically when to incorporate gaming versus using hands-on, traditional approaches.

When she is not working, Sheri enjoys having adventures with her dog Olivia, attending barre classes, and learning new three-letter words that begin with the letter Q.
Sheri Weppel
3 comments on “Finding Work-Life Balance in a Digitally Connected World
  1. Mary Ann Masarech says:

    This is definitely a “be the change you want to see in the world” issue. How many times does one person at the table take out their phone… and then everyone follows? It’s a trigger. People mirror their colleague’s behavior. Leaders go first in modeling the way. Thanks, Sheri. I look forward to future meetings with you.

    • Sheri Weppel says:

      Oh absolutely. My husband and I have strict phone rules when we are on holiday and I love when one of us grabs for the phone to do something like make dinner reservations and the other then sees that as an excuse to check email. If only our desire to pay attention to what is in front of us was as much of a trigger as our technology is. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  2. Jocelyn says:

    “Tummy Time” is a great analogy! This is great reminder Sheri, especially during the festive holiday season!

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