With most schools on the east coast off the week of President’s day, and a good portion of schools shut down for all or part of the same week in the rest of the country—the proverbial winter break for students and teachers—my mind starting wandering back to the heady days of youth, back to when we enjoyed summer break, winter break, and (naturally) spring break, plus the usual holidays and the occasional teacher “in-service” day (whatever that was, to me it was just another day off from school).  As students, we didn’t know then how good we had it!

Recently, I read an online article where some parents and educators were arguing to do away with the winter break, especially given its closeness to the traditional December holiday break and late-March and April spring breaks, and the fact that the public school year can sometimes almost reach into July for many due to numerous storm day cancellations.

While I’ll leave the debate for or against winter break up to those who know better, I did get to thinking about vacations and breaks in general. Student or adult, worker or retiree, we all need breaks—breaks from work, breaks from the stresses of everyday life, etc.

I blogged about this last spring, so without further ado, here is that blog again . . . enjoy!

Disconnect Rx

(Originally posted on April 24, 2013)

We all need to disconnect at times from the day-to-day challenges of our business and personal lives, whether it’s for a planned vacation, an impromptu walk on a local nature trail or beach, watching your favorite sports team on the flat screen (Go Dodgers!), or simply checking out for a proverbial “mental health day” to do nothing in particular.

Disconnecting helps us recharge mentally, physically, and spiritually.

When is the last time you took a true break from work, or from the grind of everyday life? When is the last time you checked your personal and professional commitments at the door and simply enjoyed the here and now, with no distractions from cell phones, text messages, emails, or the Internet?

I’m not suggesting blowing off work, a school assignment, or your Aunt Millie’s 75th birthday bash just to stay home and play video games or go beach combing. What I am suggesting is building down time into your regular routine, whether daily or weekly. We all need it . . . especially when we feel we can’t take the time because we’re just “so busy.”

My experience has been that many people stay connected all the time because it makes them feel busy, and they equate being busy with being productive or profitable. Well, being busy isn’t the same as being productive or efficient. Often, it’s quite the opposite. Too much of anything is bad, and too much connectivity can leave you frazzled , burned out, and ineffective.

What does not being able to disconnect say about you?

An incessant need to stay connected could mean you are addicted to technology such as the Internet, your mobile device, tablet, PC, Facebook, etc. (it happens, it’s been documented, and it’s real), but it could also mean you have a controlling personality that doesn’t trust others to do the job right at work or even on the home front.

If this is you, think about the message you send to staff, friends, your children, your spouse, and even your customers if you can’t put the technology down for a day or two and let those around you either fly or falter on their own.

Are you really the only one who can do the job? Really? Is there no one you can delegate to so you can disengage, even for a short while?

Failing to delegate early on in a managerial or entrepreneurial career might be a necessity (there isn’t anyone else to delegate to), but long-term inability to delegate is a whole other issue, especially when you have support staff and/or family and friends more than willing and able to step in so you can take a break.

Successful people feel comfortable disconnecting. They learn to delegate early on in their personal lives and their professional lives, trusting that others can (and will) carry on when they are away.

What does not being able to disconnect say about your attitude toward your staff, your family, your friends?

If you don’t think others can take over for you when you’re not around, one of two things is going on:

  • You have an over-inflated sense of how indispensable you are, or
  • You truly have no key staff (or friends or family members) on which you can rely.

The good news, of course, is that either scenario is correctible. And let’s get real: NO ONE is that indispensable. Even the President gets some down time (some more than others!).

Unless you are the only person in the whole world who can do a certain thing, or lives depend on you, what’s the worst that can happen if you disconnect from your phone or email for a day or two (or more)?

I guarantee you the sun will still come up, the world will keep on spinning, and all of “businessdom” will not come to a screeching halt. Might you miss a business opportunity, a chance to network, or some pithy comment from one of your Facebook buds? Sure. But if it’s worthwhile, the opportunity (or one like it) will still be there when you reconnect, and there will be other chances to engage friends and family either in-person or virtually.

Very few things in life actually are “act now or never” sorts of propositions. We like to think they are (it gets the adrenaline flowing) but the reality is, for the majority of us business and homebody types, most things can wait. Of course, if you’re the world’s foremost heart or brain surgeon, you’re playing by a whole different set of rules . . . but even then, you’d have a support team in place—even then you could get away. There is such a thing as contacting you in case of emergency (a real emergency), after all.

So disconnect. Take the time to take some time. Your workers, friends, and family will thank you. YOU will thank you . . . and you just might come to realize that by disconnecting from one thing (technology), you get to connect with other things (nature, family, the here and now).

Disconnect a little bit each day if you can, or pick a day out of the week that’s your down day, and don’t feel guilty. You might just be surprised what you discover about yourself and the world around you.  Hyper-connectivity might make you busier, but it doesn’t make you more effective in business or in life.

How do you disconnect? Share what’s worked or not worked for you here.