I was fortunate enough to spend the last week on vacation. As part of my vacation, I tried something I haven’t managed to do ever since I became involved in IT more than 15 years ago: I disconnected for an entire week – 7 entire days without internet, e-mail, text messaging, and telephone.
The experience wasn’t the respite that I had hoped for – rather, it was a bit discombobulating. I mentally prepared myself for being away from e-mail. I dutifully crafted and applied my vacation notices. And when I returned, because of my vacation notices, nothing in my e-mail cried out for immediate attention or action. My e-mail rules had pre-sorted many of the messages and I was able to – after a few hours – wade through the messages I needed to read and send the needed responses. The time of year also helped, in that many people were also on vacation or just getting back into their workflows from the holiday slowdowns, so my e-mail volume was down a bit. Not having telephone was a similar experience, as I just waded through the voicemail upon my return, knowing that callers were informed that I would be unreachable for the week.
In fact, I employed attention management tools and techniques to manage my in-boxes. Craig Roth recently explained attention management in his blog:
However, what discombobulated me was not being able to see my feeds – news, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Without internet access, I didn’t have my finger on pulse of my world and what I consider important. For a week, I didn’t know what was happening.
So, a week disconnected turned out not to be about respite from overload and a mountain of messages awaiting my return. Rather, it was loss the of the pulse or heartbeat of what is important to me. As Craig would put it (I think), it was about the loss of keeping in touch with the things that warrant my attention.
Would I do it again? Maybe, but I think that keeping your finger on the pulse is important to your sense of well-being – even when you are on vacation.