Tag Archives: life

Disconnect from your phone! A New Year’s Resolution Every Asian Should Take to Heart

Happy New Year everyone!I hope you all had a restful holiday.

I for one am ready to get going in 2015 and have my resolution picked out. I know some people–especially at my age–think resolutions are lame and antiquated, but I beg to differ. Resolutions are a great way to get energized and motivate oneself for healthy life changes.

My resolution this year, as it has been every single year since college, is to be more awesome. And so far, I have never failed—except in 2005, the year of eternal darkness. 2005 was the year of the monkey, who is a great enemy to pigs, my animal spirit (I was born in 1984). Anyways, I don’t talk about 2005 anymore; I turned 21 that year…

In order to achieve greater awesomeness, I have specifically resolved to disconnect my work email from my smartphone. I know what you’re thinking, “OMG. O.M.F.G. How can a man who works at a non-profit afford a smartphone?” Relax y’alls. It’s a Windows Phone.

Now-a-days, everyone talks about how kids are always on their phones. What adults don’t realize is that we’re exactly the same way! But instead of using our phones to Snapchat, Tweet or play Candy Crush, we use them to work. As if I don’t get enough of work at work.

There’s been a lot of talk in America about a dangerous trend toward overworking, especially in regards to white-collar workers and exempt staff who don’t punch cards to track their hours. Many conversations I’ve had with my Asian peers anecdotally confirm this trend. “I just got scheduled to another meeting this evening.” “My boss keeps emailing me at 2 am.” “My inbox has over a thousand emails!”

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I too have felt the constant need to work from my phone. Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how or why, I believe it is a product of cultural norms and external expectations. Things like having to be the highest achieving student later translated into being the highest achieving worker. Others might say that Asians have a culture of obedience, which frankly, I don’t really buy. We Asians can be very vocal and opinionated when we want to be. Besides, everyone is working more! Not just Asians.

Motherjones.com provided an excellent summary on this topic. Here’s some pretty alarming data.

  • 60% of smartphone-using professionals kept in touch with work for a full 13.5 hours per day, and then spent another 5 hours juggling work email each weekend. That’s 72 hours a week of job-related contact.
  • 68% checked work email before 8 a.m., 50% checked it while in bed, and 38% “routinely” did so at the dinner table.
  • People who make more than $75,000 per year are more likely to fret that their phone makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about work.

Unfortunately, the result isn’t increased productivity—just the illusion of it. The reality is we’re inundated with more distractions and stress than ever. In my own work, I’m finding it harder to focus on tasks and projects when a new email is interrupting my workflow every minute. Most of them aren’t even important. Most of them are useless bulk cc’s from other people and annoying mailing lists.

I’m learning that a smartphone, while amazing, is also draining my energy. A smartphone has increased my volume of work, but not necessarily the quality. It has allowed me to extend my work day up to 24 hours, and even send  emoticons too, like 🙂 and :p. So not only did others see me working more, but they also thought I was happier doing it. That’s a recipe for burnout. Technology has made our work increasingly flexible and mobile; yet this same technology has also increased our overall workload. Because we’re now able to literally carry work in our pockets 24/7, we have also felt compelled to work 24/7.

I admit, I didn’t mind the constant connection at first. I love what I do and am grateful to have the opportunity. In fact, a good day work actually gives me energy. But overtime, I have come to realize that it’s not the only thing I love doing. Spending time with my friends and family, playing sports, camping…all of these activities give me energy too, as well as wonderful memories.

I fully admit that work, for some people, has evolved beyond the traditional 9-5. Some people are most productive at night, others in the mornings. And that’s great. I personally prefer the 10-6 schedule. But again, this doesn’t mean we have to work every single waking hour or minute just because the phone is in our pockets. There are more important things we can put in our pockets…like quarters, chewing gums, hands and puppies.

While I may have made a conscious decision to disconnect in my own life, all around me I have colleagues, peers and partners who haven’t. So there’s still that external expectation and pressure to immediately reply emails. This needs to move beyond an individual decision. As employers, we also need to recalibrate our standards and expectations in order to create a new norm for all of our staff.

The bottom line is: you should disconnect anytime you’re not at work.

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It’s been two weeks since I have disconnected my work email from the phone and it’s felt like walking on sunshine. I’ve danced with bartenders in pubs, enjoyed fireside chats by the ocean, and received a $50 Olive Garden gift card from my mom. Who knew disconnecting from work could bring so much happiness? To be fair, it was the just holidays and many folks were out, so only time will tell. But I’m feeling pretty confident that my work and personal life won’t fall into ruins because of being disconnected.

OR…

Maybe I’m wrong and shit will hit the fan tomorrow. If this happens, then I will quickly reconnect my work email to my phone, sincerely apologize to all I have hurt by my actions, and promise to make better life decisions moving forward.

How about everyone else out there? How do you achieve separation from work?

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With New Years, have too many people already hit their happiness peak?

Hello friends! Wow. We’re wrapping up another year. 2014 turned out to be pretty good for me, and I hope for you too. I published 49 blog posts (this is lucky #50!), hosted a launch party (thanks to everyone who came), and updated the name to “The Asian Slant“. I am totally looking forward to 2015 and all of the wonderful things that come with it—like another soon-to-be Seahawk’s Superbowl championship (Read What do minorities, youth and women all have in common with the Seahawks?)…and next Christmas!

Lately though, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. Perhaps it’s a mix of the New Year and the fact that, at 30, I’m getting settled into my professional career and am actively thinking about “the future.” Most people associate happiness with money. They chase after new tech toys, fancy cars and higher salaries; all the while taking on more debt. It’s like happiness is an Asian hot pot and everyone is rushing to get all of their fixings before the broth runs out.

Don’t get me wrong; I like all of these things too. Some nights, I wake up from a dead sleep pining for a car with bluetooth and a 3% cost of living adjustment. But honestly, I would rather buy a can of happiness from the discount shelf at Safeway than the organic, gluten-free and locally-sourced happiness from Whole Foods. I simply can’t afford luxury happiness.

Happiness has become big business. Around this same time each year I start seeing a lot of ads and articles on how to achieve happiness . Earn more money! Find a new job! Improve your health and fitness! Follow your passion! Smile more—especially Asians, who have mastered the art of smiling-on-the-inside and the happy-frown. But I’m not falling for all this marketing voodoo. I feel like that I have already achieved a reasonable, minimum level of happiness in my short life so far.

Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to maintain my happiness, in perpetuity. I want to make it last as long as possible. World Life Expectancy estimates that the average Asian American male in Washington State will live 84.52 years (compared to 79.65 for all Washingtonians). That means I potentially have 53.52 years of happiness left to worry about. Ugh! My attention span can barely last through The Hobbit movie; how am I possibly expected to continue maintaining optimal happiness for another 53 years? It’s soo daunting and exhausting. The pressure feels like having to get straight As all the damn time.

Here’s how I see things. I reason that happiness has to hit a peak at some point. Or as I like to call it, “The Happiness Peak.” After that peak is reached, happiness begins its gradual descent back down to Earth. It’s like tossing an apple into the air and watching it fall. Most Americans try to reach that peak as soon as they can; chasing after the new car, buying a bigger house, upgrading to the newest smartphone. While these may seem important, even necessary, a lot of research has found that this type of happiness is short-lived. These desires can never be truly satisfied; there will always be a bigger house and a newer phone.

I advocate for delaying the happiness peak as long as possible. Draw it out! Ideally, I wouldn’t hit my happiness peak until 55 or 60. Then I’ll retire and hopefully catch a second wind. A new iPhone isn’t going to bring me happiness over the next 53.52. It probably won’t even sustain my happiness through next year. I believe it’s better to make memories and experiences with friends and family instead. That’s the kind of happiness that grows with you.

I’ve been on the losing end of peaking too early—like my height. I hit 5’6” back in 8th grade and have been stagnant ever since. If only I could have drawn that out for a few more years. On the other hand, I’ve successfully managed to stretch out my youthfulness an extra decade. At 30, I have the face and complexion of an 18 year old. And when I wear my thick-rimmed hipster glasses, I look a solid 20. But alas, age is slowing catch up. My hair is starting to grey and I wake up with constant back pain. Height and youthfulness—it’s the Asian double-edged sword.

The truth is there are few things that can substantially increase my happiness at this point (Mockingjay Part 2 is one of them). Look, we need to quit trying to cram a lifetime of happiness into a short 30, 40 or even 50 year window. It’s absolutely crazy. It’s like the Asian kid who thinks they need to get a phd straight out of undergrad. Relax a bit.

There’s obviously a lot of content to unpack here. I hope to continue exploring happiness in greater depth throughout 2015. How does happiness differ for Asian Americans? How can we achieve it? Why are some people happier than others? What is the impact of money?

But for now, I’m going to go spend New Years Eve with my family and friends. I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful and prosperous new year! Thanks for your continued support and readership.

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What does happiness mean to you? I’d love to hear everyone’s own experience. Leave a comment below or Facebook me!