Time is money, as the saying goes. But what happens when technology makes time elusive?
I’m teaching a beginners acting course for the brilliant City Academy at the moment. My students are adults from various parts of the globe, and their careers range from singer/songwriters to investment bankers, and everything in between. Last night, I was doing some exercises with them about relaxation and stress and how we can portray the right levels of tension for the characters we play. I also talked about ‘triggers’ that affected how tense and relaxed they felt. What was interesting was that, out of 21 people, everyone had last felt relaxed about a week ago and last felt extremely tense that very day. Despite being from very different walks of life, the triggers that took them from being relaxed to extremely tense had one particular thing in common – they involved receiving a work call or email. This could occur in work or outside of working hours.
It is proven that for the healthiest sleep hygiene, you need two hours before bed without eating or drinking and one hour before bed without using technology.
This is definitely something I relate to. As I’m self-employed, I’m often answering to five to ten people at any one time. I’ve realised, in recent months, that it is very rare that I can switch off completely. Recently, I have had a spate of calls off colleagues and employers calling me between 8:30pm and 10.30pm on Friday nights. The last time I felt relaxed was last month in the Sahara desert (despite spending 90 minutes on a trotting camel, which I incidentally do not recommend!) because I had no phone or internet reception for two days. I spent the evening watching ‘Sahara TV’ (in other words, the stars in the sky; I could see all of them as it was totally dark and clear, and there were also lots of shooting stars). Blissful. As soon as my plane touched down in Stansted, there was a rush of voicemails and emails (this after just two weekdays off) and very much a sense from people of ‘now that you’re back in the UK can you do xy and z instantly, please.’ I did as much as I could on the trains from the airport to my teaching job (I still had people calling and emailing me from 9.30pm – 11pm when I was on my way home from a long day of travelling and then teaching) and then it was straight back into rehearsals the next morning. So, on that day, as on many days recently, my only down time was when I was asleep. I knew I shouldn’t, as there physically wasn’t time or space to do everything everyone wanted me to do, but I felt guilty.
It is proven that for the healthiest sleep hygiene, you need two hours before bed without eating or drinking and one hour before bed without using technology or watching television. I have an awful habit of checking emails late at night, and as soon as I wake up I’m on my phone. I have decided this is going to stop now. I am also going to operate office hours with my phone. Which means after 6pm, and on days off, no answering of work calls unless it’s my agent.
I’ve realised, in recent months, that it is very rare that I can switch off completely.
Conversely the triggers that made students feel relaxed were nature, yoga, my class (proud teacher alert!), music, lying on the sofa, lying in bed, seeing friends and family. Lovely. I shall be attempting to do some of these things this weekend. And I think you should, too.
Now that the final Macbeth performance is over, I am preparing for an onslaught of chasing. But often people don’t understand that, though that particular show is now over, I have to go straight back to teaching my class, then onto my temp job 11 hours after teaching. Then it’s the weekend and I would quite like to actually have and enjoy a weekend. Which means switching off. Right off.