Lessons Learned from My Disconnected Vacation

Reflections on my “Digital Cleanse”

Earlier this month, my wife Susan and I took a much-needed vacation. We went to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa which is one of our favorite places on earth. We wanted a place where we could rest, reconnect, and refill our love tanks so we decided to take this vacation without the kids.

As a prerequisite to this time away, I decided to completely unplug from e-mail, social media and my i-Devices. I wanted to experience a complete “digital detox” to see what it would be like.

During the first forty-eight hours, I found myself compulsively trying to check my e-mail, RSS feeds and Twitter accounts. I have a habit of doing this when I am waiting for anything — at the car wash, stopped at a red light, standing in line, or basically any time I have more than a minute of “unproductive time.” It was really hard to resist this habit, but I caught myself, didn’t check, and eventually stopped checking.

The Good

Almost immediately, I saw my attention span increase. About the third or fourth day, I experienced a relaxed calm.  My wife and I did a lot of talking, reading and playing Words With Friends. I didn’t feel the usual hurry-up and-finish pressure I experience in my everyday life. It was great.

The Bad

Then I got back to work.  It was painful. Processing my email and RSS feeds literally took me over a week to catch up.  I was too busy to do my Weekly Review, too busy to process my email to zero, too busy to process my physical inbox to zero. I cancelled my 1:1s with my staff. I was scheduled in back-to-back meetings and I literally remember I didn’t have time to go to the bathroom.

Basically, I was in crisis mode attempting to triage what David Allen call the “latest and loudest.” It was hell.


Reflecting back, it was great unplugging after I got over the initial withdrawals but it was not worth the literally two weeks of pain I endured once I got back to work.  The stress was overwhelming.

Next time, I think I’ll attempt some kind of middle ground. I would do some kind of minimalist checking in and processing in an attempt to find  the correct balance to enjoy the benefits of unplugging without the pain associated with reconnecting.

What are your thought and experiences with a digital cleanse?

About Michael Keithley

6 Responses to Lessons Learned from My Disconnected Vacation

  1. Curtis – Excellent advice! By capturing and processing the “stuff” is in your trusted system and therefor your brain wont stress about it. Maybe I will figure out some kind of plan or schedule for when to capture and process that wont inter fear with the zone out aspect of the vacation.


  2. curtis says:

    Michael- I’ve found it more manageable and relaxing to continue to GTD `work` while on vacation, but the trick is to just do `phase 1 & 2`- just capture and process. You have to leave the `organize, review, and do` for when you get back; other wise you will be working on vacation-that’s no good 🙂 It is a hard habit to develop, but does really help you jump start again after you return. Thanks for the great blog! CS

  3. Mary – coming home a day early just seems smart and easy to implement. Dropping my digital addiction will be a lot harder but I am definitely going to strive for balance. thanks!

  4. Karl – Your absolutely right I need to plan to be off radar by having nothing or very little scheduled when I return. It was totally my fault for not being realistic and allowing my schedule to become so packed upon return that I had no way to catch up.

  5. Mary says:

    I agree with Karl. I would take a look at ones habits and drop one digital addiction. I have also found extremely successful
    People come home a day early to process emails.

  6. Karl says:

    Not a GTD expert at all, so I am not sure how you ‘should’ handle this situation – but perhaps you might plan for being off radar? Plan for the week back to be a catch up, and not to have anything scheduled for it.

    You’re describing relaxing as ‘not worth the pain’ – that can’t be right.

%d bloggers like this: