#UNPLUGGED: How to Master The Double-Edged Sword of Constant Connectivity

“ One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary people. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary person. ” – Elbert Hubbard

By the ripe age of twenty, I was strapped in as the VP of a competitive veterinary marketing firm. At twenty-three, I had launched my own firm entirely: Simply Done Tech Solutions. By clueing in early to the necessity of digital adaptation, I was able to arm myself with the best technology, and instruct industry peers, firms, veterinary practices and friends how to do the same. Keeping a leg up in our world means having a finger on the pulse and an eye on the next step at the very same time. However, it’s this same constant connectivity that can take a hazardous toll on attention spans, peace of mind, and ultimately cause some nasty burnout along the way. So how do we leverage technology, but do so with intention? How can we maintain our status as technological savants at Simply Done Tech Solutions and maximize our efficiency, yet still remain cool, calm and collected? This month, I’m proud to present you with #UNPLUGGED:

I’ll give proven tips on how to instantly maximize your effectiveness, while making sure you stay master of your digital tools, rather than the other way around.

In 2015, we can get more done in twenty-four hours than we once would have ever thought possible. If your iPhone alarm clock rings at 5:30AM, you can pop on your automated coffee maker by 5:45AM, take the dogs out for a quick walk, and be finished replying to emails by the time you crack into work 8:00. At this rate, you might even be able to finish the never-ending stack of callbacks you’ve been working on by 2:30PM, and still have time to order Jimmy John’s off your iPad for a late yet impossibly convenient lunch.

There’s only one problem here. You might just be moving so fast, that you can hardly taste your lunch or even slow down by the time you get to dinner! The frenetic lifestyle brought on by instantaneous Internet access may put us ahead by leaps and bounds when it comes to doing our work, but it can also wind us up and throw us into a myriad maze of never-ending tasks. This leaves us at odds, somehow increasing our efficiency but somewhat dissatisfied and always striving to do even more. Many of us wind up multi-tasking to increase our efficiency still, responding to texts in-between emails and trying to catch up on an interesting Huffington Post article with the leftover minutes before our next appointment.

This is me 24/7.

This is me 24/7.

A recent study published by Stanford has compiled some intriguing data on the effects of multi-tasking. I encourage you to read the report in full, but the summary is this: when you commit to too many things at once, you suffer, and the work suffers. Although we’ve gotten accustomed to doing more, we can’t do it as well or give it our complete full attention. Imagine trying to watch ten television sets at the same time. Now how much dialogue and plot can you really remember at the end of thirty minutes?

Ok, so what do we do about all of this? How do we increase efficiency while still avoiding burnout and Internet-fatigue? Simple. Just unplug. As hinted by the title of this article, you can have the best of both worlds and I’ll teach you how. Designate some time each year to regroup and get away from it all. Yes, that includes Facebook and Twitter. You don’t have to deactivate entirely, but log-out and take a long and intentional break. Maybe even change your passwords to something that can’t be input with muscle memory. Prepare in advance, pay bills early and set up auto-responders for your important email accounts. When done correctly, you can unplug for as little as a week, but as much as a month, without losing any headway on your projects or work. In fact, you might even find that when you come back from your digital sabbatical, you’re feeling better than ever. For me personally, a bit of time to unplug from the world allows me to prioritize friends, family and myself. I find myself gaining a heightened sense of creativity and an eagerness to put my ideas into action when I get back to work.

Want some help getting started? Here are some tips that can help you kick things off when you’re ready to try your first official #UNPLUGGED session.

HOW TO #UNPLUG In 5 Simple Steps

1.  SCHEDULE Time Away

You don’t need to go far. Or you can go as far as you like. The point is, get out of the routine you’re in and find somewhere peaceful where you can achieve stillness and quiet. This could be a beach; it also could be a family or friends house. Find somewhere you’ve been meaning to spend time, and go!

2.  ALERT Important Contacts of Your Plan

Before you go, you’ll need to prepare. Inform your staff, your colleagues and friends of your plan to unplug. Make sure to prepare by wrapping up your current projects and sending a definitive message to those who should know.

3.  SET UP Your Auto-Responder via Email

Be thorough yet clear. Let people know you’ll be away and for how long. My away message looks a little something like this (It was inspired by Fast Company):

PLEASE NOTE: I will be taking a digital sabbatical from June 25 – July 9. 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, face timing, or uploading.

I include this same message in my email signature for 1-2 months before I leave. Just to give people ample amount of notice.

4.  ESTABLISH Emergency Contacts

I recommend letting family and a few select friends know how to contact you in case of an emergency. You may have a landline connected where you’re staying, or a cell-phone that is disconnected from Social Media accounts and kept on silent. Even if you’re only gone for a little while, it’s important that you can be contacted if something important comes up.

5.  UNPLUG and Smile!

It has begun, you’re officially #UNPLUGGED! Pay close attention to the sights, the sounds and the sensations around you. When you come back, you’ll be refreshed, recharged and ready to give 110% to exactly what matters most. I promise.

On my sabbatical.

This is me on my sabbatical.