He admits that it’s easier if you have a team of associates to rely on but maintains that it’s possible regardless. “If you’re a solo veterinarian, be open to allowing a colleague from another local practice care for your patients in your absence with an understanding that the patient will remain with your practice after the break,” he says. “Then, you can return the favor. Letting go is the hardest part, but veterinarians must accept that there are others who can do what they do.”
Unplugging isn’t one-size-fits all, but if you want to follow in Garcia’s footsteps, he has some advice to ease you in. “Begin by spending a day without your phone,” Garcia suggests. “Then, try a day without social media or stop answering emails after 5 p.m.”
Hide your apps!
We are creatures of habit. “I can’t count how many times I’ve caught myself pulling out my phone to check Facebook or my email during an unplugged moment while in the Starbucks drive-thru or waiting in line at the grocery store without thinking,” Garcia admits. “To combat this, I move my most-used apps to another screen during unplugged moments so I’m able to catch myself before I start scrolling.”
Less intense than a full-blown digital sabbatical, these “unplugged moments” can range from a few hours to an entire weekend. “You can cut out as much or as little during this time as you want,” Garcia says, “but I usually go without my phone, email and social media.”
Garcia lists telltale signs that he’s in need of an unplugged moment: “If I become easily agitated and get upset when my phone dings because it’s another email to get back to, or if I’ve been working nonstop for several days (including in my bed at night) and can’t focus, I know it’s time for a reset. Over time, I’ve tried to become proactive about it and schedule unplugged moments right before particularly hectic periods.”
Tips for a better (and safer) sabbatical
When you’re ready for a longer stretch of going unplugged, like the two-week digital sabbatical Garcia takes every summer, don’t simply disappear without a trace. While speaking at a CVC session in Virginia Beach, Garcia met a veterinarian who had already taken a digital sabbatical with heartbreaking results. “She said that when she plugged back in and checked Facebook, she saw a message from a client who was seeking emergency medical services. The client waited for the veterinarian to respond and did not seek help elsewhere. The pet died as a result and the veterinarian is now weighed down with guilt,” Garcia says.
Though he admits that the pet owner was wrong to contact the veterinarian via social media and should have sought outside assistance, Garcia has developed the following tips for smooth, safe sabbaticals:
Notify important work contacts. “A month or two before your scheduled time away, start notifying important contacts of your plans,” Garcia says. At work, this means adding a paragraph to the bottom of every email. He offers the following example:
PLEASE NOTE: I will be taking a digital sabbatical from June 13-21. I will be completely unplugged from the world. During this time I will not be able to generate any activity through phone, email or any social network, including but not limited to glancing, checking, syncing, Wi-Fi connecting, pinning, sharing, Googling, commenting, liking, loving, tagging, favoriting, plus-oneing, tweeting, vining, messaging, texting, Facetiming or uploading.
Pick emergency contacts. The next step is to establish emergency contacts. “Let some family and friends know how to contact you in case of an emergency,” Garcia recommends. “This could be on a landline or on a cell phone that is disconnected from the internet and kept silent.”
Set up your email to automatically respond. Right before you leave, set up an automatic email response with the name and number of a clinic to contact in case of emergency. You can do this on Facebook and on your voicemail as well. Again, he offers an example:
Dear Colleagues, Clients and Friends:
I am taking a digital sabbatical from June 13-27. During this time I will not be able to generate any activity through phone, email or any social network, including but not limited to glancing, checking, syncing, Wi-Fi connecting, pinning, sharing, Foogling, commenting, liking, loving, tagging, favoriting, plus-oneing, tweeting, vining, messaging, texting, Facetiming or uploading.
Why do I take a digital sabbatical? Learn more at simplydonetechsolutions.com/unplugged.
If you require assistance before I return, please contact my colleague Dr. John Jones at (417) 555-1212 or email@example.com. If this is an emergency, please call Nextdoor Animal Hospital at (417) 555-2323.
I look forward to replying to all of your emails, phone calls, text messages and social conversations when I get back. Thank you all for your understanding!
Now what? According to Garcia, “Now you unplug and smile.”