Make Space for What Matters: Unplug & Disconnect

unplug and disconnect

Where is your cell phone sitting right now? Is it next to you on your desk, over on the kitchen counter — or better yet, in your hand?

I can tell you that for me, that last option is where my cell phone has been far too often, for far too long.

A wake up call

I was recently at a business retreat (with a fantastic group of women), where we were asked to put our phones away while attending the morning session.

A simple request, right? Well, I have a confession to make: this was sincerely difficult. I have gotten into such a habit of looking at it: checking my email; scrolling through Facebook to see what’s going on; scanning Instagram for the latest. In just a few hours, I felt a weird sense of withdrawal that quickly opened my eyes.

The wake up call continued for the rest of the trip — from the restaurants I dined at to the airport I walked through to travel home. Everyone heads down, living life through their screens. To me, this is still a crazy phenomenon — and one that I’ve only recently realized I’ve succumbed to.

And it’s not just the airport or the restaurant. It’s in line at the grocery store. It’s in the few minutes before my yoga class begins. Sadly, sometimes it’s at the red light. We feel the need to fill each and every moment — and we’re lulled into a false sense of security and productivity when it’s filled with something on the screen.

Unplugging for a few hours at this retreat was exactly the experience I needed to issue a wake up call and inspire a realization that a detox is in order.

Unplug + disconnect

The fact that we are able to connect with people around the globe at the click of a button never ceases to amaze me. But instead of treating it as the tool it’s meant to be, we’ve exploited it to the point where it’s a burden we carry, and one that interrupts what life is all about: building relationships and experiencing moments that turn into stories.

Unplugging for me is about more than turning the cell phone off and hiding it in a drawer — unplugging and disconnecting means freeing myself from the need to be in touch. It means opening up the space to feel connected to what’s in front of me, instead of what’s on a screen.

With that space comes possibility: the possibility of new observations, of new growth, of new ideas. It’s a release from the connectedness of being plugged in; one where the connection is with ourselves and our immediate surroundings. This is the release I feel when in front of a blank canvas painting, out on a walk with Banks, or in the middle of an Adirondack lake in my guideboat. It’s a release I want to feel much more often, and it only requires one thing: the discipline to unplug and be okay with it.

Make yourself available

Anytime I’m anxious, uncomfortable, or feeling unproductive, my first instinct is to grab my phone. I’m guilty of it. I’ll venture to say you’re guilty of it. It’s time for me to start ignoring that first instinct — and I challenge you to do the same, as well.

As we approach especially busy times over the next few weeks filled with numerous gatherings of family and friends, I encourage you to unplug. Disconnect.

Disconnecting gives you space. Fill the space with observance; with gratitude; with thoughts that matter instead of aimless scrolling.

When you unplug and disconnect, you make yourself available for the people, the moments, and the experiences that are happening in the present — the ones that are easy to miss when your head is down and your mind is elsewhere. Build relationships and collect stories. Your work and your life will be better for it.

Will you join me in intentionally disconnecting?