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Unplug. And Live to Tell About It.

Moments ago, I experienced an intense flashback. Well, it was as intense a flashback as a guy who spends most of his time in Class-A office space can get. Anyway, let me explain. Ever the believer in personal and professional development, I attended an intensive, four-day leadership workshop several months ago in Wilmington, NC. For me, the most difficult aspect of the program was the requirement that I turn off my cell phone for four days. I've written about my addiction to my phone before and this was the equivalent of giving it up cold turkey. The flashback came when I thought about writing an Out-of-Office Message for an upcoming family vacation. It brought to mind the pangs of fear I felt in August when I learned I couldn't call, email, tweet, or otherwise communicate with the office for four days. Four days! That's almost a whole work week! ("I can't disconnect again. People might need me!"). Then, I caught myself. You see, the hardest part of unplugging was simply turning off the phone. Once that's done and I began living in the moment, everything turned out okay. Not only was it okay, but suddenly I saw things I'd been missing. Relationships were richer. Food filled with flavor. Experiences became somehow deeper. Everything just seemed better. But, perhaps the biggest surprise was that the world kept spinning even when I wasn't linked to it by iPhone. In fact, everyone at the office did better without my interruptions. They were able to accomplish more without me checking in and adding my two cents. So, there's a huge benefit to unplugging:

  • You truly get to experience your experiences and everyone else will be okay.

What does this mean? Simply this: By scrapping the phone and truly investing yourself in whatever you're doing (whether it's a meeting, phone call, vacation, trip, family outing, dinner, or anything else), the experience becomes richer. At the same time, as long as you appropriately prepare for your absence, life at the office will go on just fine without you plugged into it. Making this kind of investment in the moment has tremendous impact on relationships. As a whole, we're not used to being fully present with each other. At cocktail parties, people look over our shoulders. In meetings, people check their phones. At dinner, people think about all they have to do tomorrow. My experience unplugging my phone has served as a lesson for being more fully present in whatever I'm doing. It's been a struggle, but one that has reaped unbelievable rewards. What about you? How have your efforts to unplug worked out? - @JebBrooks