Last weekend I had the pleasure of being involved in a Very Good Friend’s wedding.
It was a Friday wedding on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia. And despite my best intentions to be calm and organised, I had a frantic Thursday morning and early afternoon trying desperately to meet essential deadlines, before throwing various clothes etc into my suitcase and getting picked up by another friend for the drive down the coast so that we could stay with the bride-to-be the night before her nuptials.
The friend I drove there with laughed at me as she noticed me stowing my laptop bag into the car before we left.
“I’m not planning on using it,” I said defensively, “It just has to come along in case of emergencies.”
Being a solo-operator of a digital business, I don’t feel comfortable going away without my laptop.
Yes, there is a lot I can do on my smartphone, but if social media updates need rescheduling, or a website goes down, or requires urgent, major updates, it’s much easier on my laptop.
In fact, I haven’t been on a holiday (or even away for a weekend) without my laptop in over 6 years, including our honeymoon.
Thankfully these things rarely happen, but like a good scout, it’s necessary to Be Prepared.
So feeling as prepared as I could (with email auto reply on), I settled in to our drive down the coast, and soon relaxed into a good catch up conversation, and the sense of an enjoyable weekend ahead.
This calmer feeling soon dissipated, when I was advised upon arriving at the wedding venue (my home for the next 1.5 days), that there was No Reception.
While I LOVE digital, I also try hard to not be a slave to it, but I felt extreme anxiety at this unexpected situation of being completely disconnected.
I was soon advised that reception was but a short 10 minute drive up over the next hill, but this felt like an eternity compared to the instant connectedness I was used to having in my hand.
There was nothing else for it though. We drove over and up the neighbouring hill, said goodnight to our loved ones, and then travelled back into the abyss.
I was soon busied with wedding, dinner and flower preparations and conversation, and only activated my phone display (to see no notifications) a handful of times.
I went to bed that night with no knowledge of what my network had gotten up to that day. Completely unaware of whatever was trending, or whether a social media storm was occurring.
The next morning I woke, unable to check what I had done “On This Day” according to Facebook as I normally do.
Being an early riser, I quickly became bored of lying in bed and so when for a quick run (I couldn’t help but take a photo of my peaceful surroundings) and returned to our accommodation to find I was still the only one awake.
I made a coffee, sat on the verandah, and listened to the birds.
It was Freaking Amazing.
No distractions from the rest of the world, or my network, just me, the morning, the light, and the birds.
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I thought of the cacophony of birdsongs as the REAL Twitter.
I assigned different Twitterer types to the different birds:
- The consistent Twitter users who share a regular flow of updates.
- The obnoxious sales-focused Twitter users who repeatedly squawk their messages.
- The eloquent and melodic Twitter users who sporadically share their wit.
I sat. I listened. I looked. I thought.
And I loved it.
Now this may not seem like much, but it was a much needed reminder to myself that the World Wide Web does not end if I am not connected to it.
In fact, I have been aware of my productivity slipping over the past weeks, and yet, after 3 full days of No Laptop (I checked updates on my phone, but no emergencies) I have come back to my desk feeling refreshed, enthusiastic, energised, and have achieved more in the past 2 days then I feel like I did in the whole of last week.
I’ve said it before that I disagree with the statement that “if you love what you do, you never work a day”, because it can be hard.
It can be tiring.
And sometimes we just need a freaking break.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we can take a break, but I honestly believe that as hard as it can be, a break can make you more productive.
So, my advice for disconnecting:
- Plan your breaks, short or long. Having something to look forward to can be as refreshing as the break itself.
- Warn your clients, giving notice if required, or simply using your auto reply.
- Be Prepared. Take your laptop, phone, whatever you need, just in case. In hindsight, know beforehand if you’re going to be out of range…
- Identify times to check in (if you have to), or arrange a back up person to keep an eye on things for you, and only contact you in case of emergencies.
- Give in, relax, enjoy, and listen to the birds…
PLEASE share your own tips, or stories of disconnecting in the comments! We need to help each other…0