As a professional communicator, I’m plugged in constantly.
From morning until night, I’m emailing, texting, navigating apps, and sharing content on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram. I know I am not alone in today’s world. Technology allows me to do my job well and it brings me joy by connecting me to people, resources and ideas. At the same time, when I heard of Weber Shandwick’s PR support for the National Day of Unplugging, I jumped with both fear and excitement to make the commitment to unplug.
The idea of unplugging reminded me of a recent New York Times editorial by The Energy Project’s Tony Schwartz. Essentially, the editorial’s thesis was that relaxation will make you more productive. This idea builds on a growing body of research in response to our modern hectic lifestyle.
In many ways it’s not rocket science. I know that I’m better when I rest and yet the benefits of technology and the realities of our culture challenge us all to maintain balance. From my personal experience, despite my value for rest, downtime can often get lost in the process of each day.
So when contemplating my participation in the National Day of Unplugging, I thought about the consequences. If pausing really makes one more productive, wouldn’t I be more effective in my social impact practice for our global health, development and community engagement clients with a better downtime ritual? Can I make a greater difference by pausing during my busy days or taking days to unplug during the month? I think it will take more than a day of unplugging to know for sure, but here is what I did learn.
Time slowed down during my technology fast. While email, the Internet and mobile apps provide me with easy communication tools, entertainment and access to information and resources, I also waste a lot of time with technology. My day of unplugging seemed to last forever giving me time to exercise, be present for my friends and family, read and take care of projects that have long languished.
Was my fast easy? No. When I had questions or wanted to communicate or share my experience, I thought about picking up my phone and switching it on. But, I resisted the urge and, for one day, let go of my need for instant gratification. Wikipedia can wait for one day.
My conclusion: unplugging doesn’t just provide me with rest and energy to be more productive in my work, but unplugging allowed me the space to be present and productive in my life overall.
Now, I’m not about to become a Luddite – I love the ease that technology brings to my personal and professional life – but I do see the value of pause. As someone driven by making a difference, my recent experience leads me to think that practicing pause can amplify the impact that I have for our clients and in my community.