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.

Conclusions

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?