What Time Away Can Teach You: Three Things I Learned While I Was Unplugged
In the month of December I was married and we went on the honeymoon immediately after. I had a lot of anxiety around the business and what stepping away from everything could mean. I knew that the holidays are often a time when everyone shuts down from a business stand point but I was not scheduled to be back until the middle of January, which meant that a lot of people would be back to work and in the swing of things a few weeks before I was scheduled to be back. I had made the concrete decision that I was only going to check email periodically while I was away and, because we were traveling internationally, I also had to shut my phone off entirely, which meant no Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn in addition to no texts or phone calls.
This was the first time I had done anything like this in close to 7 years.
I had some vacations before but they were always connected vacations. The most I’d be without my phone was maybe a day or two. So now that I am back to blogging, social media, etc. and am officially plugged back in, I’ve had some time to think about the lessons I learned while I was unplugged and I’d like to share with all of you.
1. Distance is a very powerful learning tool: It’s often been said that if you have a problem that seems impossible to solve, sometimes you need to just step away from it for a while and do something else. While I was away – and not constantly looking at the programs that we’ve created or sales letters I had written – I was in a much better place to evaluate things. I could really take the time to think about the offerings I was creating for clients and I realized that there were some questions that I hadn’t asked. I even had a few new ideas for projects this year. If I was at my email every day and constantly looking at my work I may have never made any of those discoveries because I needed time to let my thoughts and ideas roll around in my head and develop. So if there is anything that seems to be frustrating you in your current business, take some time to step away and think; you may be surprised at what you find.
2. Very few things are actually urgent: I’ll be honest, the first time I opened my email after having left it for several days, I was expecting it to be completely unmanageable. I was expecting that my auto-responder would be met with requests and concerns and that there’d be new emails asking me tons of questions that needed to be answered ASAP. I was worried that I was losing business by not being accessible, but what I learned was that there were almost no emails that required an answer right away. Most people were totally fine with the auto-responder, wished me well and said, “Let’s touch base when you get back.” I came to realize that we have become so inundated with email and correspondence that very few people are sitting and waiting at their computer or by their phone for responses. I had certainly read The 4-hour Workweek, but I had never experienced what happens when you’re not consistently plugged into your email. My biggest discovery was that most people are okay to wait for responses and, if something is truly urgent, they’ll let you know. So the next time you feel yourself getting serious anxiety over your growing inbox, take a quick second to ask how many of those emails really matter. You’ll find it’s a much smaller number than you think.
3. You produce better stuff if you take your time consuming better stuff: During the trip I sat down and read books that I was interested in and we went and saw sights and places that got my mind racing and kept me developing new ideas. I was able to truly take all of this information in and process it because I had the time to do so. I took the time to read relevant articles and, rather than immediately running to put them into practice, I sat and thought on those articles and books. I thought about what they meant for me and for my business and I imagined the process of implementing them. This lead to me having more ideas for things to try and do when I returned to work. All too often we shovel information in like we’re on a 15 minute lunch break and have to run back to the office. If we do this, we get the least amount of value from that information. By taking the time to consume to information I had at my fingertips, I ended up walking away with more great ideas for when I came back.
And now: here I am. Back to the real world.
But, what I have learned has really helped me see that there are much more ways to be effective with one’s time then being chained to the email chain.
The power of unplugging can make us much more aware of the world around us and awaken us to an understanding of our potential.
Have you unplugged recently?
What have you learned?