Most of us are connected to our phones, tablets or computers from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. I recently went on an annual trip where I try to disconnect for a few days. It is harder to do than you think. When I do, I am reminded we all need to do so. It is so relaxing and provides a much needed break from work and the continuous need to stay on top of email and various forms of electronic media and information. When is the last time you disconnected?
We walk around with these small computers in our pockets that we use to communicate with others, take pictures, surf the Internet, and stream video and audio content. Of course, we also use them for work, whether through email, text or something more substantive. Most of us really are connected all day long whether because of a level of addiction or the need to be accessible at all times to customers and clients.
As an attorney, I definitely have clients who think I should be able to immediately respond to any email or text at almost any time of the day. I try to set reasonable expectations of my availability and general response times, but many people think because a message was sent it will be immediately viewed and responded to. I had one client who used to text me “????” if I didn’t respond or call him within a few minutes of his text. When I would get back to him he logically understood I have other clients, a family and things going on, but because he is an instant responder on email and text, his knee jerk reaction is that everyone else is too.
Use your phone to Google it and you will find numerous articles and studies about how bad it is for your brain and, generally, your well-being, to be connected, using technology so much and accessible at all hours. How bad has it become? Someone my wife previously worked with used to (and hopefully, for her and her husband’s sanity, doesn’t) keep her phone under her pillow and answer texts at all hours of the night. That is so bad on many levels.
Just like your body and brain need you to take vacation, they need you to disconnect from technology for at least short amounts of time. But it isn’t easy to disconnect – our phones help us fill downtime or dead space. The problem is that the downtime is time we used to spend thinking, coming up with ideas, and being creative. In the big picture, for most of us, technology is a creativity killer. For me it may mean the great legal argument or idea for one of my cases won’t come into my head out of the blue like they used to. For you it probably means something different, but there is something you have lost from not taking time to let your mind be unoccupied.
At the same time, I am a big fan of technology both in my professional and personal worlds. I continually am trying to balance its use better, with varying results depending on the day. But I really look forward to the few times a year I know I am going to shut it off and figuratively “tune in, turn on, drop out,” as Timothy Leary famously said in the 1960’s. Back then Leary was referring to the hippie counterculture of that day, but I think it applies the same to technology. And it can go either way – you can be turning onto technology and dropping out of other parts of your life, or you could be doing what I try to, which is to tune into and turn onto real life without technology for a short time. It is a great way to drop out and reconnect not only with the people around you, but yourself.
Try taking a short break from technology and see what positive effects it has for you. I know some of you are saying to yourselves “but when I turn it back on I will be so behind and have to catch up.” You have to do that anytime you go on vacation between getting ready to be out and then upon return, so that is a given anyway. Most of you who try it, will come back looking forward to the next time you can do so again.