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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Finding Your Sanitizer
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All of us who work in the music industry have one thing in common; we don’t have an “off” button. As a result of cell phones, PDAs, laptops and an ever growing amount of social networking sites sometimes it seems like we’re working all the time, and that’s probably because for many of us we are. This is why today I’d like to focus on ways of “sanitizing” our workdays and overall lives. By “sanitizing” I don’t mean breaking out the anti-bacterial soap, but rather finding ways to stay sane in an industry that routinely drives us mad.

Find a time to get away from everything

I know, some people might not be able to handle this at first, but if you spend your entire day at your desk, or on the phone, you’re killing yourself and, in a fact that should be even more worrisome, you’re not really on you’re A-game because you’re not giving yourself any time to recharge. Some folks feel a good night’s rest is enough to recharge (and some don’t even give themselves that), but we also need to find ways to bring our energy levels back up during the day. Coffee is not the answer. If you work in an office take lunch away from your desk. Meet a client. Visit someone you email with who works nearby. By doing this you’ll grow that relationship and keep yourself saner by getting away from that glowing screen.

For me, my “sanitizers” are the gym and the dojo. I work out every day for 90 minutes at lunchtime. While working out I obviously don’t check my email and I turn my cell phone off and leave it in my locker. It’s an hour and a half away from everything and it gives me time to clear my mind. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that some of my best ideas end up coming to me near the end of my workouts, once I’ve stopped focusing on all the work-related things I have going on and just let my mind be free. I can’t tell you how many fantastic story concepts have popped into my head once I stopped trying so hard to generate them.

Close your Outlook

Perhaps I should have titled this one “Close your Outlook… or at least mute your computer.” Some folks may think they can’t to do this. If you’re one of those people take a deep breath and ask yourself “what difference will it make if I answer that email a half hour, or an hour, from now instead of right now?” If the answer is “none at all” you don’t need to keep your inbox open all the time. This will prevent you from getting involved in the pointless e-mail conversations (many of which involve issues or questions that can be resolved in a single two minute phone call) that take up large chunks of our days.

Whenever I get back from the gym I have a couple dozen new messages waiting for me, some of which are issues that have already resolved themselves. None of them have ever had the fate of the free world hinging on an instantaneous reply. Also, by closing Outlook and not hearing its new mail “ding” it’s a lot easier to focus on getting specific tasks done. I learned this during an outage where I was without my internet connection for a number of hours. I completed multiple articles in a relatively short amount of time because “new mail” wasn’t an option.

In the same vein as this, put your damned Blackberry down once in a while. You really don’t need one, you’ve just been programmed by your bosses to make you think you need one (so they can keep a tight leash on you) and the phone manufacturers managed to make their product look nice enough to make you want one.

Change your Facebook and MySpace alerts

You don’t have to get an email every time you get a new message, event invite, or friend request. You can set your mail alerts to never send you anything, that way you can check your social networking sites when you want to without feeling any sort of obligation to instantly respond to anything.

Walk away from your computer

If all you’re doing is IMing people and surfing the web, walk away from your computer for a while. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to reset your brain. Perhaps there’s really no work to be done, so why bother handcuffing yourself to your desk?

In the end, I feel one of the biggest potential reasons the music industry is in such dire straights right now (pun intended) is that so few of us are stopping to “sanitize.” We are 24/7 busybodies even when there’s no reason to be busy and by not thinking clearly we have ended up in some truly terrible times. Sure, the prevailing thought is if an industry is failing we need to work harder, but it might a better idea to take some steps to relax and work smarter. I’ve shared some of my secrets. Is there anything in particular you do to “sanitize” your daily life?
posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:38 AM  
  • At 9:43 AM, Blogger Thirtyseven said…

    Self-diagnosis is key. Learn to recognize your own patterns and break loops as soon as possible.

    Probably the single most liberating piece of human technology I own is a simple pen and pad combo. Always having a small running notepad on my physical person means I don't lose ideas, and more importantly, don't have to be anywhere near either of my Demon Boxes in order to record and organize my ideas.

    As for turning my business mind off, I have yet to find a working method. I suspect "making money" will go a long way towards letting my brain relax.

  • At 4:25 PM, Blogger Stamford Talk said…

    That's why the gym is so good! You have to take a break from other people... I think playing sports can be a great getaway, too, not from people but from technology.

  • At 4:42 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    A pen and a pad, or as I like to call it my PDA version 1.0. I always have them on me, as well.

    And ST, I definitely agree, it's about getting away from work people and seeing some folks who have no interest in your deadlines.

  • At 3:48 PM, Blogger bp said…

    Great blog. Exercising (with the cell phone turned or in a locker) definitely energizes me and gets my mind off everything. That time at the gym also put things in perspective and gives me more lasting energy than a cup of coffee.

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