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3 Ways to Avoid Getting ‘Zoomed Out’

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The global pandemic has changed the way we live our day-to-day lives.

With the combination of working from home, virtual learning and everything from “catching up” to “business calls” taking place on Zoom, the boundaries between the various parts of our lives have become blurred, and we’re still learning how to cope. While school, work, friends and family used to all have their separate space, they are now all muddled together, overlapping and fighting for priority. There’s no way around it: this screen-based New Normal is stressful, and studies show that too much screen time can be bad for our health. 

For everyone who’s found themselves thrust into embracing Zoom following the global lockdowns, here are three ways to avoid getting burned out on video calls this year:

1. Create “Zoom hours” and stick to them

The great thing about Zoom is that it’s very convenient and accessible. The bad thing is, well, also that it’s very convenient and accessible. As a result, many can’t help but join Zoom meetings at any time of the day from wherever they are … even if it encroaches upon their “downtime” or “me time.” 

You can combat this tendency by creating “Zoom hours,” like office hours.

As someone who’s been operating online for a few years now, I’m very mindful of only having Zoom on my laptop (and not my cell) and limiting my number of daily calls. But for many who have just recently stumbled upon this handy app, they’re still in the honeymoon stage of not wanting to miss out on any meetings.

My mom is a great example. Pre-Zoom, she would miss out on some of her get-togethers with friends because of traffic or work. Now, because she can join them with a single click, she finds herself stretched to her limit with multitasking at work, wearing a mask for safety measures and still attending Zoom meetups. She can’t bring herself to skip a call because it’s what so many of her friends are doing. 

Having set Zoom hours may mean you miss out on a few things, but it’s far more sustainable in the long run. You wouldn’t be heading to the office at 3 am for a meeting, would you? So don’t do it on your screen, either.

Related: 5 Games to Play on Your Next Virtual Happy Hour

2. Observe “Zoom breaks” 

You know how we all love to do coffee runs or take lunch breaks? 

People do them for a reason: to get a breather. But the accessibility of Zoom has paved the way for people not to need a break between meetings. 

Whereas in a traditional office you would need to walk a few steps to change conference rooms, “seamless” multi-meetings have become the norm. The phrase “I have to cut this short and run to my next meeting” is no longer literal. You need to click another link and find yourself in your next meeting, making all parties even more sedentary than before. 

This quick and easy pattern can lead to a number of health problems: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. You forget to eat. You may experience insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Eye strain and backaches take their toll. The detrimental effects of a Zoom-centric lifestyle are vast and varied, so make sure you’re scheduling time in between meetings for non-screen activities such as preparing a meal, taking a walk, doing yoga or reading a book.

Related: Running Out of Things to Say on Zoom? This Communication Expert Wants to Help.

3. Keep Zoom on a separate gadget

In Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution (and from numerous other sources), we learn how too much screen time causes a lot of stress. 

With Zoom being so accessible, it can be very easy for it to creep into your bedroom, your kitchen, your car … anywhere and everywhere your phone or tablet can go. If, like me, you keep it only on your computer, you’ll find yourself less likely to act on your FOMO (fear of missing out) and more likely to keep your boundaries in place. No last-minute chats in bed. No Zooming at the grocery store. No hitting Mute and disabling video while you take a potty break. Just deliberately scheduled meetings in one central location. 

Another bonus of keeping your Zoom in a separate space is that you won’t be distracted while spending with your partner and/or kids. One of the nicer things that has come out of quarantining and working from home is that we can spend more time together. When you’re not tempted to hop on a call while playing games or watching Disney+, you can maximize those special moments by making memories in person.

Related: How to Prove You’re Actively Listening While Video Conferencing With Your Team

If you follow these three guidelines, you’ll be able to avoid “Zoom out” in 2021. You’ll have a much more balanced schedule, better sleep, less disruption, and you’ll feel more in charge of your daily life as a whole. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about this New Normal and the need for extra screen time right now. What we can do, however, is ensure that we’re engaging with it in an organized and healthy way. And with so much uncertainty in the world right now, it’s more important than ever to create for ourselves a joyful and energized state of being… and not burn ourselves out on excess screen time.

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