In this day and age, disconnecting is an incredibly hard thing to do. We are a society that has become constantly connected to the technology age – when we are walking, when we are eating, when we are talking with others – we are in a constant need to remain connected. At times this can be a good thing (like when Michelle and I booked a hotel online as we were driving to New York this week) and at other times it’s not.
We need to disconnect from work in order to recharge our batteries. This is one of the things I admire about Europe the most – their ability and encouragement to completely disconnect when you are on vacation. But when you own the business, how can you completely disconnect? This is a struggle I’ve had over the last 10 1/2 years. The beauty of my business is that it can travel with me and I can do trips like our recent cruise or 5 weeks in the States and not need to take vacation time per se. However, it also means that in between visits with friends and family, I need to get work done as well.
However, there are times when the choice is not yours to disconnect. And it’s hard to face that reality and let it go. While on our cruise a few weeks ago, I had no choice but to throw in the towel and disconnect almost entirely. It made me want to vomit. No really, it did. It threw my entire body into a tizzy (there’s a word I haven’t used in a very long time) and it was incredibly hard to accept the harsh reality that I could not get work done while I was away.
Add that to my now defunct laptop that died before we left and you have a person feeling the ultimate in disorganization. Something I don’t do well with. I NEED my impeccably organized inbox on my laptop. The hope is that I will get it back. Problem was that of my 500,000+ files that needed to be restored! only about 1/3 were completed during the 36 hours before we left for the cruise. And at almost $1 per minute for snail slow unreliable internet, I’m not willing to break the bank restoring it on the ship. And so it will have to wait until we are stateside on the 13th (at which point the moment I set foot in my parents’ house I will restart the restoration – can you say addicted???).
I know that part of the reason I have trouble disconnecting is because this business is mine and if I don’t take care of it, it’s not going to take care of me. But there are moments of frustration when I wish I could just shut off the email for a solid 2 weeks and not worry about the repercussions.
I’ve met a few people (and I stress few) who have said that a few weeks a year, they completely disconnect. They put an out of office on their email that states they are away, will not be checking email and that your email will be deleted and if you need to reach them, you may do so after “xyz” date. I find this idea brave… and thrilling. And I want to do it. Because in reality, we all want to be able to do this. So what is holding us back?
I think as an American (I can’t vouch for Europeans) we have this mentality that we have to remain connected for job security. That people won’t understand that you are away trying to recharge and that the responsibility remains yours to get the job done no matter what, even if it means sacrificing your time off. But it’s important to take some time to smell the roses and let our brains recharge. In fact, I’m a believer that it make us better workers when we get some time off.
Regardless, these last weeks have been hard but at the same time, an important lesson on how much we let technology take over our lives these days and also how necessary it is to let that technology go every now and again. It can be scary but also refreshing. So every now and again, we should all take a day off of that technology and take some time to smell the roses. Sounds cliche I know, but sometimes I think we forget to look around us when we are so focused on that little screen that is in front of us. I know this experience has reminded me of that and while it’s been a struggle trying to get myself back online and functional again, I’m also glad to have had a little bit of time to disconnect.