Digital Detox

We live in a world of connectivity. We are constantly in touch with our family and friends – online and all the time. We never really step away from our work and when we do, many of those hours are filled with texting, tweeting and scouring sites like Facebook and Pinterest to see what our friends are doing. All this connectivity can be exhausting.

On a recent Saturday, I took a few precious hours to go shopping with a friend. I was hoping to catch up on what was happening with her and maybe buy a few items for myself. I thought that a few hours of “me” time would be good for my well-being. Unfortunately, my well-being was not improved on that trip. I received so many texts and calls during that short period of time that I was embarrassed. And, when I wasn’t responding to texts, I was worried about a presentation that was due and I knew that others would want to see it over the weekend.

I felt badly not only because I didn’t have the experience I was seeking, but I did not get to spend quality time with my friend. I came back from that trip in a bad mood.

A few days later someone used the phrase “digital detox” at a meeting. My mind snapped to attention. What exactly was a digital detox and could I do it? The concept is simple enough – step away from technology for a period of time. “That is exactly what I need!” I whispered to a colleague who shrugged and replied, “Don’t we all?” I was determined to figure out a way to make this happen. My excitement, however, quickly evaporated when I realized that if I didn’t check in for a period of time, I would be inundated when I returned to the world of technology. My bad mood returned.

The idea of a digital detox swirled around my brain for a few days and then someone reminded me of Metcalfe’s Law. As defined by Wikipedia, Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). In other words, the more people that ‘join in’, the more value. What if I used the concept of Metcalfe’s Law in reverse and asked as many people as possible to “disconnect” and join me in a digital detox? My mood improved.

I started by asking my own team if they were willing to disconnect from email on the weekends. They all quickly agreed and we established some rules:

Rule #1: Disconnect from email between 6 p.m. on Friday through 6 a.m. on Monday (One of the team members thought 6 a.m. Monday – 6 p.m. Friday sounded better but we thought that approach would result in a career limiting move for each of us).

Rule #2: You can work off line if you want; however, try to focus on non-email activities as much as possible. We wanted to make sure that when we arrived Monday morning, that our inboxes were not overloaded, which currently happens even when we do work all weekend.

Rule #3: Try to become as efficient as possible during the week. Determine a way to reduce the number of meetings we attend as well as the number of emails we send. We knew we needed to stop some of the communication and not just try to jam more into the week.

Rule #4: Spread the word about the digital detox with as many team members as possible (Metcalfe’s Law) so they too can take advantage of the digital detox.

Even before the news was shared widely, I began to receive positive emails on the topic (how ironic). We began our digital detox weekends over Memorial Day and plan to carry this concept through to the end of summer. My hope is that we’ll continue this habit going forward. So far, I have enjoyed every minute of my digital detox and my mood? Very much improved.

Speak loudly, step boldly!

Image courtesy of JemimusMay 29th, 2014 4:50pm Beth Bierbower digital detox metcalfe’s law