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How to disconnect in an ever increasingly connected world

Disconnect in a connect world

There are so few places we can truly disconnect nowadays. A few years ago you couldn’t have any devices powered on a plane; now we find ourselves wifi conference calling in so we don’t miss the morning meeting despite careening through the sky at 35,000ft. Truthfully, it has become the new norm to always be available, wherever you are, even if that means answering your phone while on a trek in the jungles of Borneo.

You laugh, but consider your most recent vacation: how long did you go  without checking your email, phone, text messages, or social media feed?  How many days (hours?) did you last until you checked in with your team to make sure everything was going ok at the office? Our phone/iPad/laptop/computer makes that ‘ping’ noise and we instantly react to find out what is going on, afraid that we are missing something vital.

The Pros:

  1. You can finally work remotely from where ever you are.
    In an airport lounge, or at the hotel when you wake up at 5am still adjusting to jet lag, being able to work anywhere helps you keep up with project deadlines. It also helps you take advantage of the unique quiet you will have to work without your daily interruptions.
  2. You are never alone.
    You are able to Skype call home when on long trips away. The hardest part of travelling for work is leaving your family behind, and being about to connect with them helps with the loneliness of travel.
  3. The world has gotten smaller.
    You are now able to have someone in India design a program for your Client in China, while you work out of your office in Australia. The ability to share skills and knowledge fast and efficiently and across great distances has never been more common.

The Cons:

  1. Relying on constant input and approval.
    Whether you are checking to see how many likes your new Facebook profile picture received, or waiting for your boss to email you back about your project – the anxiety level waiting for validation can be the same. It can be exhausting to be constantly waiting for the ‘ping’ of approval.
  2. We are always looking at our devises and not the people around us.
    Even during meetings, we have our phones with us. Our screen lights up, followed by an automatic reach for our phones. And while your face is to your screen, you miss the looks on the faces of those around you who are feeling slighted.  Whether or not you actually have disengaged, those around you feel that you are clearly disinterested in what is being said, and who is saying it.  Though you may only be a few minutes texting out a response, you’ve inadvertently sent a very clear message to the rest of your team; whoever is on your phone is more important than them.
  3. Your attention is pulled in a million directions
    A UC Irvine study found that though a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes, it actually takes an average of 25 minutes to return to their original task. This time spent reacting to a ‘ping’ or answering the phone – those seemingly small interruptions – can really add up throughout the day.

The Solution

  1. Set limitations.
    The idea of setting limitations on tasks can seem daunting, but once you start you will find your day is more streamlined. For example, set blocks of time to check your email. Unless you are working in Customer Service with KPI’s around response rates, you have grace periods to get email people back. Check your email every hour and give yourself 15 minutes for replies. Devote the rest of the 45 minutes to solely focusing on one task. Having these self-imposed deadlines will streamline your day.
  2. Turn off notifications.
    Turn off your notifications on your phone. Most Apps have a notification feature when you sign-in, so you don’t have to worry about anything. Don’t let unimportant Facebook notifications take you away from your important work.
  3. Have a ‘rest’ day.
    Set time aside to unplug. Put your phone and laptop way where you cannot see them and give yourself time to relax, recuperate and disconnect. Even top Fortune 500 CEO’s advocate taking time away from the stresses of work. You will find that you function better when you do.


It is a delicate balance, and what works for one person may not work for you. Try a variety of different approaches and when you find the ones that work, stick with them. Once they are habits you will wonder how you got through the day without them.

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