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Why you need to unplug

I hit a wall last week. A metaphorical wall, but, none the less — A WALL.

We push, we drive, we work, we connect, we give, we serve, we plan, we strategize, we burn out.

Yep, that’s what happened last week to me.  I know, such is the life of an entrepreneur, but it doesn’t have to be like that as often as I find myself and my clients experience.

I had just finished a big few weeks of travel, writing, teaching and client work. I created the demanding schedule. I loved every minute of it and it still took its toll on me.

Do you ever get to that point?

So, I made a date with the couch. I binge-watched NCIS, snuggled with my dog, and unplugged my brain.

Here’s what happened:

  1. I felt guilty, at first. It’s hard to stop working. I felt like I was failing myself.
  2. I was tempted to grab my iPad and multitask. I could unplug and work at the same time, right? Yeah, we really do think about it like that…don’t we, fellow entrepreneurs?
  3. I thought of all of the other more productive things I ‘should’ be doing. Organizing the junk drawer, going through files, that all seemed like a good thing to do. But it wasn’t unplugging.
  4. I got sleepy. When I finally stopped mentally searching for something to do, I got really sleepy. Why? Because my brain realized it could actually stop. When that happened, I was really ready to unplug.
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Why You Need to Unplug

  • You check your phone too damn often. Mobile users can’t leave their phone alone for six minutes and check it up to 150 times a day.  Seriously, we are a nation of addicts and when you add ‘business’ to the mix to justify the addiction, it becomes even more of a problem. Have you ever uttered, “Sorry, I have to check my phone, it could be work?” Unless you are a first responder or doctor, you probably don’t have a real need to check your devices so often.
  • You lose the ability to focus. Human Attention Span Shortens To 8 Seconds Due To Digital Technology — seriously! The inability to focus creates a cycle of overwork, rework, and lost time.  If we can harness the power of concentration and focus, we are more likely to do our best work the first time, requiring less rework.
  • You lose the ability to prioritize. Your brain was never intended to have constant stimuli. By being ‘on’ all the time, your brain doesn’t know what is important anymore. When you can’t prioritize, you can’t work on the most valuable and important task.  A common trait amongst successful people is the ability to prioritize and focus on first things first.
  • You can’t have intelligent conversations.  If you are always plugged in, online, working, searching, liking, following…you stop talking to real people.
  • We can’t be alone any longer. Our brains become addicted to constant stimuli. It’s not healthy, we become more hyper-reactive and puts us into a constant state of fight or flight. We start seeking stimuli anytime we are alone.
  • We lose the ability to be creative.  Downtime gives your brain a chance to recharge. Creativity thrives in an environment where the brain can meander through meaning and expression. Without taking time away from our work and technology, we lose the ability to think for ourselves. If we are always connected, our thoughts are more likely to be bits and pieces of everything we are ingesting online.

The Day After

Granted, 24 hours wasn’t a long time. It was long enough for me to press reset and that was invaluable.  Here are the benefits I noticed from just 24 hours:

  • I felt more alert
  • I was more focused
  • I was happier
  • I had more energy
  • I was more engaged with my clients
  • I was clear on the best next steps for my current projects

Did I solve the world’s greatest problems? No. But I did solve a few of mine. If you are constantly on, you lose a little bit of yourself and over time, a lot.  Regain a piece of yourself by unplugging.  It worked for me.

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Here are 13 ways to unplug:

  1. Turn off all technology at a set time of the night.
  2. Take one day off per week from all technology.
  3. Schedule technology breaks in the middle of the day.
  4. Leave your cell phone in your car or office for lunch meetings.
  5. Leave your cell phone off during client meetings and staff meetings.
  6. Stop multi-device tasking. If you are on a conference call, focus on that call. Turn off the other screens.
  7. Make your bedroom a technology free zone. No devices in your sacred space.
  8. Turn off technology during family time — kids need to disconnect, too.
  9. Schedule time in your calendar for specific activities — email, checking & posting to social media, watching videos, etc.
  10. Start meditating. If part of your challenge is the need for constant stimuli, then meditation can help you regain your focus on what’s most important.
  11. Grab a book…a real page turning book. Give your brain something else to do.
  12. Get a hobby (that doesn’t require technology). If you have other interests, you won’t be as attached to your devices.
  13. Spend more time with other people. If we are engaged in conversation with others in person, we can fill that need for connection without trolling Facebook.

Unplugging can be one of the best ways to recharge and regain focus, energy, connection to others and yourself. Don’t hit a wall just to prove a point. Take time away from all work, technology, and digital distractions so you can regain more of what is important to you.

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