“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer
During a recent family vacation, Emily, my younger daughter, invited two friends to our vacation home in Florida. We picked up Abby and Jordan from the Orlando airport and then headed northeast for the 75-minute drive.
After a few minutes of catching up, the girls suddenly went quiet. Not a word was spoken. Instead each one was focused on their smartphones texting, Tweeting and Snapchatting.
Noticing the disconnection, I ordered the smartphones put away. Emily, Jordan and Abby complied, but I could tell they weren’t sure what to do next.
This incident isn’t unlike others I see. The next time you are in a restaurant or waiting in line at the grocery store, watch how plugged-in some people are with their devices while being disconnected with the people around them.
Maybe it’s just becoming aware when you get too plugged in and then having a plan to stop. If you need a few pointers with how to unplug and start connecting, consider these ideas:
Triage your technology
It may be impossible to unplug everything at once. Take an inventory of what is vying for your attention and prioritize the true need and usefulness of each item. When online or at your computer, consider not opening your email’s inbox so your attention can be placed on the task at hand.
It’s all about timing
Find a time when you can enjoy all of the things you love being connected to without ignoring the needs of others, or even your own personal needs. Sometimes when you try to abstain completely from a habit or activity, the results are short-lived.
Instead, carve out time each day when you plug in to what interests you and enjoy it without feelings of guilt interfering. For me, that’s first thing in the morning.
Take a technological Sabbath.
There is a growing trend to declare one day of the week as technology-free. On this day, many are unplugging from what holds their attention the most. Televisions, computers and personal devices are turned off.
While the intent here is well-meaning; it may not be practical for everybody. There are many jobs that require employees to use the Internet or other technologies on a daily basis to perform their responsibilities.
If you are in this position, consider taking a half Sabbath when you return home for the evening or over the course of the weekend.
Think outside of the box
We can be creatures of habit. Many have created habits around how we use technology. For some, technology is the primary activity that occupies most of their time. If you find yourself in this situation, begin to think of other activities you can do which do not require being plugged in to anything; other than just life itself.
Acknowledge the difficulty
Change can be difficult. It’s important to recognize in the beginning it will be hard to do things differently. There is comfort in the familiar and in how you have always done things.
The inclination to glance down when you hear a text message arrive, regardless if you are in middle of a conversation with someone else, can be hard to resist.
Acknowledge in the beginning it will not be easy. Rather than measuring your progress on a negative scale, what you’re not doing; measure your success more positively by realizing what you are doing.
Begin by making slight adjustments with your ability to unplug. Soon, your level of real-life connection will become more powerful. As your connection to life beyond technology continues to grow, stop and allow yourself to realize how much fun you are having and the personal fulfillment you are gaining.
About Alex Blackwell