If this photo doesn't look a little absurd to you...you may have a problem.

Recently I read this article in Fast Company, about a man who gave up the internet - and all its collateral activities - for 25 days (with a few unavoidable exceptions).

I read that and I couldn't escape the thought: "I have to try this.”

Fortunately, I had a family vacation to San Francisco and Vancouver last week - it was the perfect time to go "off the grid."

My flight out was on Tuesday; I did some light email maintenance on the plane, and also on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday morning, I shut off my phone and I tucked it away in my luggage. My goal was to be unplugged for 96 hours.

See, I used to alternate: one vacation online, one vacation offline. Generally speaking.

But I couldn't remember the last time I went offline completely without at least checking my email on my phone a little here and there.

After packing away my phone on Thursday, it was a little nerve-racking at first - just on a visceral level. It's not that I felt I needed to check my phone - it was weird just not having it on me. That's when I realized that so many of us treat our phones like pacifiers. An interesting feeling, to say the least.

But once I got over that "Dude, where's my phone?" feeling, I felt SO free. I felt relieved.

I didn't feel that I had to respond to every email volley thrown my way, like I usually do. I wasn't on other people's schedules; I didn't have to think about what they wanted me to think about. I was now completely on my own time.

I used a pad and paper to take notes on ideas that came to me. In a way, that turned out to be more efficient than emailing myself or others because in hand-writing everything, I was basically forcing myself to record only the ideas I really felt were meaningful.

By the time Saturday rolled around, I was like a new man! So light and free!

I debated going back on the grid when we returned home Sunday night, but I waited it out a bit more and went back on Monday morning.

I think that final Sunday night was important because it separated the feeling of being home from the need to be "plugged in." It helped me hold onto that restful vacation feeling when I did turn everything on again.

And yeah, I did have around 200 emails waiting for me on Monday, but nothing was critical. We can all bang out even 200 hundred emails in an hour or two without harm.

Because the bottom line is that so much of our minute-to-minute communication can actually be dealt with at our own pace. Just because you get an email in "real time" doesn't mean you have to respond that way.

Not only that, but when you take some more time to let your thoughts develop a bit, they become so much more lucid. When you finally do reply to an email, it's a much better reply!

Try unplugging yourself - at the very least do it once, to recharge your batteries.

You don't have to do it cold turkey. Maybe a half-day here, a half-day there. If you like it, try a day or two. If you do, I think there's a big chance you'll want to unplug completely on your next vacation, like I did.

(If you can’t do this for even a day, something’s really wrong.)

Besides, it's not just for you. It's for your family and friends; the best present you can give them is to be present.

Keep your house your house, and your office your office, so to speak.

You really shouldn't be taking your phone out on any date nights with your spouse, anyway. And here's another promise: If you tell your kid that they should make sure they have their phone with them because you're not taking yours, they look at you with the most amazed, grateful eyes!

ONE FINAL NOTE: If you're gonna spend an extended period of time off the grid, make sure you let your close friends, family and coworkers beforehand. Send them an email letting them know you won't be able to respond to them for a few days. Out-of-office replies are nice, but in some cases, that's a too-late notice for them. (And don't post this on Facebook because you don't want to make that announcement to potential burglars!)

PS - For some more perspective, here's a guy who left the internet for a year

PPS - Here's a camp where adults disconnect from the internet, in addition to other staples of modern life. 

1 comment

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