In a world where mobile devices are part of daily living, where we search out mobile wifi hot spots in our regular movements and as a society we are ‘always’ available it can be extremely refreshing to ‘unplug’.
I just got back from a 7 day trip where I had no access to email or cell phones. It is actually harder to do than you realize. After a 14 hour car ride, which was followed by a 30 minute motorboat ride, I found myself on the boundary of Killarney Provincial Park. We still have to paddle for 30 minutes through a swamp and then a lake, a portage of 30 minutes, followed by another 30 minute paddle, followed by an hour long portage and THEN a final paddle of 45 minutes to reach our our destination.
During the course of this trek, I am reminded of this commercial: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7krD/chevrolet-silverado-getting-away
Arriving on an island in the middle of nowhere without electricity can be a little daunting at first. Of course that makes it ‘easy’ to not check your email accounts. Withdrawal sets in and life starts going back to the ‘good old days’.
After the first day or so thinking about projects and plans that you left behind, you can get in the swing of things and you get quite used to not having to look at a phone or laptop every few minutes to check email.
However, there are several things that you can do beforehand to prepare yourself before you go away and lessen the withdrawal stress. The first thing is to make sure that any deadlines that you have lurking out there get completed and that more projects don’t get sent your way right before you leave. Make sure you tell your colleagues that you truly won’t have access to email/phone for a while. Many might not believe you at first (I showed many a map to where I was going as proof). Delegate things that you can, or consider postponing other items until after you get back. Chances are that the world won’t stop, while you are gone for a week. I will admit that I spent a few late nights the week beforehand to make sure I got the things completed that absolutely had to be done before I left.
For me, it takes about a day or so to stop thinking of issues and projects that I am working on. After a few days I can then start to get in the flow of the vacation. The beauty here on the island is that I just ‘relax’ and hang out with my boys with no screens and no pressing need to rush off to a conference call. The ultimate irony is that oftentimes inspiration can hit at odd times. I had a few ‘Eureka’ moments while hiking and canoeing and have learned to keep a pen and paper around to jot down notes. It is amazing what the subconscious can work out when you aren’t actively thinking about it.
Reentry back to the plugged in world can be difficult, as you will have many piles of emails waiting, projects to work on and meetings to attend. However that unplugged time should leave you relaxed and ready to take on these challenges. I think that it also gives you a new perspective on work and life. I would highly encourage the ‘unplugged’ vacation. And for those who don’t think that they can go a full week – try it for a weekend.
I plan on trying to set aside a few hours every day to unplug. Who knows it may end up being my most productive time of the day.
As we pulled into the driveway after being away a week, my sons both said that they can’t wait until next year. And that is probably the best reward for the unplugged week.