Taking a break from technology

Editor’s Note: Quint Studer is the author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America.” He will speak in Elkins on March 5. The Inter-Mountain will publish a column by Studer each week leading up to his local appearance.

Need a break from technology? It is okay to take one. In fact, it may be good for you and others.

Recently, I put on my outgoing voice message that I was taking a technology break and provided contact information in case of emergency.

The people who called during the break weren’t perturbed about my absence; instead, they asked the same question: How did it go?

How does a person who seems to be connected a lot to email, text messaging, and social media go cold turkey?

Like any change, it was very difficult at first. I binged on the above items until the cutoff time came. I feel this was helpful those first 24 hours. Letting go of any habit is difficult. However, the need to be connected to your job, staff, etc. brings about other acknowledgments. So, what was the week like? It was good for several reasons. Some are obvious and some are not as evident.

Letting go is hard in almost all situations. Anyone who has ever dropped their child off on the first day of school knows what a mixed bag of emotions that is. You could be feeling bad if your child hangs on to you, cries, and begs you not to leave. Or maybe your child says, “You can go now,” and seems just fine. As parents, we want the latter; however, there can be a tug on the heartstrings when you’re thinking, They don’t they need me. Without realizing it, we can fall into the trap of creating a dependency on us that may not be the best for the child or the parent.

The same holds true in the workplace. In my decades of working for businesses, and then coaching businesses, at times there have been those managers/executives who appeared to want the company to be co-dependent on them. What if the top boss finds out the department does just fine without me? There is silent messaging for these worried executives. They could start taking credit for the work of others, push others to make them look good, or hold on to the control reins so tight people are very limited in what actions they can take. This causes bottlenecks, slow responses, and, even worse, can send the message to staff that they are not trusted.

Here are some advantages to this tech break:

1. You find out just how addicted you are to the connection. One often does not know the extent of a habit until they attempt to stop it.

2. The amount of time you are spending on your phone, iPad, computer, and social media becomes more evident. There are apps now to monitor use and send the user the actual time spent on one’s phone and on what sites. Has time ever slipped away from you when on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?

3. For me, after that first day, life seemed to be more relaxing. After 48 hours, it was almost euphoric not to feel so tied to the outside world.

So, a tech break is nice, but what’s the biggest win? It is with those who are left to run things in your absence.

1. The message you send is that, You are trusted and don’t need me.

2. It provides a window on such things like how well you have set up the organization to run. If things run great, that is the real win. If there are issues, it provides a mirror on what training is needed, the standard operating procedures that need to be in place, as well as the other operational needs.

3. It opens the opportunity to recognize people for moving things along in your absence.

There are many advantages of letting go: wins for you as the person letting go, as well as wins for those entrusted to make decisions and act while you’re away.


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