How do you unplug?

Why do we feel like we have to be “on” all the time? OK, sometimes you genuinely have too much work to do in 40ish hours a week. That was the case for me at one of my previous associations. Small organizations ALWAYS have WAY more hats than heads, and I was so invested in our awesome mission that I kept adding and adding and adding until it burned me out. Sometimes you’re working with people in vastly different time zones. I’ve taken conference calls at times that are pretty wacky from a US East Coast perspective to accommodate clients across the country…or the world. Sometimes, it’s part of your known job requirements – you’re an obstetrician delivering babies or a network geek running downtimes, and odd hours are part of the package you accepted when you chose that profession.

But what about the rest of us? The woman taking a call during an intimate dinner for two at Citronelle? The guy sending text messages during Radio Golf? The roomful of bloggers tweeting madly throughout Blog Potomac but not actually talking to each other?

As Shashi Bellamkonda pointed out at Blog Potomac last week, virtual connecting can be addictive. It feels like you’re making friends and genuinely interacting with people, and, if we’re all honest with ourselves, there’s a certain degree of ego involved, too: “I’m so important that my organization will crumble if I’m unavailable for 10 minutes” and/or “I’m so interesting that that socnets will skreech to a halt without a constant stream of my pithy observations.”

The thing about being “on” all the time is that it can seriously interfere both with our actual face-to-face relationships (and our ability to form and nuture them) and with our ability to really *think* about stuff. We’re not multitasking mavens – we’re just distracted…all the time.

So, as I tweeted during Shashi’s presentation:

  • Do you unplug?
  • How do you know where/when is appropriate to be plugged in/unplugged?
  • How and when?

One person – @lalamax – responded: Take a real lunch – no phone, no computer.

My general unplugging guidelines include:

  • Unplug when face to face with someone – no taking calls of more than a “can I call you back?” duration or tweeting or texting under the table at dinner.
  • Unplug on vacation – the only reason I want to turn on my computer is to make a restaurant reservation or find out when Rebirth‘s gig at the Maple Leaf starts.
  • Unplug on weekends – if at all possible, I want to get out & play and spend face time with people I love.
  • Unplug late/early – I still like to start the day with a cup of coffee and the actual, physical Washington Post and end the day with a good book or an even better spouse.

What about you?

One thought on “How do you unplug?”

  • I have to spend at least some time reading (non-work reading, since my job involves reading too) every single day, or I become cranky.

    I also insisted on unplugging during my week off in March–no one at work believed I'd really do it, but I didn't check work email once! It was glorious. Coming back was a pain, of course, but it was worth it to have a whole week to destress and decompress.

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