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Unplug. It’s good for the soul… and for business

-- Posted by Jason Alexander, Managing Partner

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If I see another person answering a text while in mid-conversation, I’m seriously going to…

Okay, let’s start over with a more constructive approach. Statistically speaking, more than half of you are reading this on some sort of mobile device, so I don’t have to tell you about how the world has gone mobile. The mobile revolution is on. In fact, it’s evolved to the point of, dare I say, uncontrollable addiction. Our hyper-dependency on devices like smart phones, tablets, smart watches, and Google glass has created a foggy layer of attention deficit disorder over all of the things we see, touch, hear, and feel in our personal and professional lives. I say it’s time to start scheduling some “unplug” time.  

 

Why?

 

Well, above all else, it’s good for the soul. Not to get all esoteric on you, but denying yourself the time to take a breath, collect your thoughts, reflect on what’s important to you, listen to your children, or just take a nap doesn’t do you—or those around you—any good. Having a programmed mental default position of responding to all texts, emails, Facebook messages, Tweets, Snapchats, Tumblr comments, and LinkedIn inMails within 30 seconds doesn’t allow for relaxation and a little lowering of the blood pressure. So, unplug a little. You’ll feel better.

 

Now let me replace my homeschooled, amateur therapist hat with my entrepreneurial capitalist hat. Forgetting to unplug is just bad for business. We all want, or unrelentingly need, to stay connected in order to keep a competitive edge. Who is my next client? When is the next order coming? How is the project going? Did that engineer accept our offer?  These are all important questions, but don’t forget to ask yourself which answers you really need to know the second they arrive.

 

Obsessively responding to emails and monitoring social feeds causes you to be perpetually reactionary. And when you’re in a constant reactive state, it makes it very difficult to be proactive and, more importantly, strategic. Great leaders, inspiring innovators, and industry disruptors don’t find themselves on center-stage because of their awesomely punctual response rate to Tweets and emails. They’re usually the ones better known for having the discipline to shut out the noise and think. 

So, (especially for those of you fresh off your third or fourth email check since starting this article) how do you do it?

 

To be honest, I struggle with it myself. If there were a MIADD (mobility inflicted attention deficit disorder) group therapy session, I’d be right there with you. With that said, there some are ground rules you can set for yourself. While they’ll be slightly different for everyone, these are the ones that I find really help:

 

1. Define “me” time. For me, it’s at the gym or going for a run. Tell your loved ones and co-workers where you’re going and shut the phone down for an hour or two. (If you’re like me and use your phone for music, put it on airplane mode.)

 

2. Practice abstinence. This of course refers to your need to violently reach for your phone every time it dings like you’re a game show contestant reaching for the buzzer. Let it ding but finish your conversation, thought, or email before checking it.

 

3. STOP checking your phone at times when you shouldn’t. At the dinner table with your family. In the middle of a business meeting. On a date. You may as well wear a sign that says “I’m desperately searching for something more interesting than you.” 

 

And finally, a public service announcement and a personal request: not while you’re driving. Please.

If you’re already skilled in the art of unplugging, I think you’ll agree that it allows you to achieve greater depth in the things you’re interested in. Conversations become less superficial, ideas more cultivated and pure, relationships (both business and personal) more genuine. If you’re trying to kill it in Candy Crush, go for it, but do it out of desire and not habit. You’ll enjoy that top score just a little bit more. Now go. Someone must have responded to your last Tweet by now.