The Importance of Downtime

If you didn’t notice, my site has been quiet for the last week. That’s because, for the last nine days, I was on vacation in Cape Breton on Canada’s east coast (yes, the picture below is me a few days ago).

Dave Fleet relaxing, looking out at the sunsetWhile I was away, I unplugged completely – no Internet; no BlackBerry; not even a phone signal for most of the trip. In the past I’ve stayed in the loop while I’ve been away, but not this time.

It felt great. This surprised me a little – I expected to get a little twitchy after a while – but it never happened, and I feel all the better for having disconnected.

What did I miss?

From what I can tell, a few things happened while I was away:

My thoughts on this were perfectly summed-up by Matt Singley:

“I wonder what non-geeks are talking about today? Not Friendfeed.”

It’s easy to get caught-up in the daily excitement over developments in social media. I do it all the time. It’s easy to feel like the minutiae within this world are all that’s important. That’s part of the reason I needed to disconnect for a while. There’s much more going on in the world outside the social media field and it’s easy to miss out on that if you aren’t careful.

I’ve been extremely busy over the last year or so and will continue to be that way. To keep this pace up, I’m going to make a concerted effort to balance work and social media (which overlap somewhat for me) with other activities. That will mean more running (which has been non-existent recently), more time with friends (ditto) and more downtime… and slightly less blogging (you may have already noticed that change) and online time.

How about you – how do you keep things manageable? How do you unplug?

  • Guy Skipworth

    Congratulations on disconnecting on your vacation.

    I too was in Nova Scotia and the only thing we had in our cottage was a rotary phone. No TV, no computer. I did check Twitter from time to time on bb and after reading your note, wish I hadn’t.

    Every year I think about rrefraining from reading the Globe, but still working on that goal.

  • Your Ad Age Power 150 status slipped…

  • For anyone in business of any kind, whether social media related or not, it is so important to separate yourself every now and then. I find that it’s something I struggle with all the time, partly due to my slightly obsessive personality 😉 But life is too short and life is multi-faceted – family, friends, work, interests unrelated to worklife. I think the difficulty lies with those of us that see their work as a key part of who they are…if you are passionate about what you do or if you are a business owner and especially if you work at home, it’s really hard to compartmentalize and shut it off completely. Don’t know the answer…maybe I should take up meditation or something, but good for you for being able to disconnect for a while. Must have done wonders to de-clutter your brain!

  • I accidentally broke my desk while disassembling it during renovations, and it’s been the greatest single thing I could have done to introduce some balance into my life.

    I can still work from my laptop when there is actual work to be done, but generally I treat it more as a jukebox and video player now, if I use it at all. I can keep in touch via email and twitter on my iPhone, but it’s also easier to put things off until 9am, unless urgent.

    Added benefit? My eyes are generally less tired by the end of the day.

    It might be a personality defect, but I find I get uncomfortable without some degree of connectedness. Staying right at that minimum level, however, is intensely relaxing.

  • I just unplugged a few weeks ago too and it was wonderful. I think being able to go somewhere without cell service really lets you go full in to the disconnect. I left my cell in the car for a week. Didn’t even turn it on until we were heading back. It got me thinking though, as to why we don’t do this more often. In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter if FriendFeed got bought or if Twitter was down. A break from the hype gives us a chance to step back and realize this.

  • Dave, I’m so proud of you. I’m going to forward this to our friend Martin Waxman, who could take some pointers.

  • Came over to see your thoughts about being unplugged, saw you quoted me. Thanks. 🙂

    I’m heading out of town in a couple of days for a much needed vacation as well. I’ve been debating semi-unplugged vs. fully unplugged, and although I long for the latter I think I’ll probably end up with the former. Even that will be nice though, after being wired 24/7 for so long.

    Glad you had a great break!

  • Such is life Dave. I don’t know if I’ll be truly ready to unplug for quite sometime.

    Just don’t think I’ve achieved enough to be able to do it comfortably.

  • Don’t leeeeaaavvvveee me, Dave Fleet!

    But srsly, I’ve been better at simmering down my online intenseness lately because I’m rarely home. Evenings with friends and weekends with family helps me be old school Rayanne sometimes : )

  • Dave, great post. While my profile isn’t anywhere near where others in the PR/Marketing space are, I can honestly say it’s because I strive to maintain balance and have since I started participating in social networks–I’m involved without letting them take over.

    My husband and I seem to take vacations that deny us access to our gadgets, either because of hefty charges to use the cell (Europe) or no access (remote areas of Utah, etc.). It’s lovely to unplug!

  • Wonderful reminder of the importance of appreciating what is right in front of you, right in that moment. I am horrible at completely disconnecting but promise to get better. I wonder if your experience will become more prevalent for others in the next few months … as people feel the need to dial it back a bit.OK, I’m going to pick up my fictional book and read that for awhile:) Thanks.

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  • Now this is one of your best posts yet, Dave: particularly the part about more running. For me, it is more surfing. Seriously, all your posts are a great read. Enjoy the real world, mate. @prlab

  • Well done, Dave. Just got back from 2 weeks in rural Ireland and although I got itchy from time to time, I kept the gadgets off. Got some amazing photos of mountains and cliffs (and my kids playing with their new cousin).
    All we do to expend energy, even if we love it, empties our cup and I think total relaxation and reconnection with out other loves is the only way to refill the cup.

  • Hi Dave,
    This is my first time visiting your site. Definitely going to subscribe!
    I had a similar experience a little while ago, I went for a getaway in the BC interior and purposely left my laptop at home, but accidentally forgot my phone. After the first couple hours of wanting to check updated tweets and blog stats I was actually able to enjoy being unplugged for a period of time.
    You’re absolutely right, we get so caught up in the daily SEO news (“Matt Cutts said what? I have to write a blog post!”) and sometimes we lose perspective. Great post!

  • Well done sir, couldn’t agree more. I’m about to trek off to Scandi for 11 days with a complete unplug and am really looking forward to it. Life can pass by us all pretty quick if we don’t peek up from the pixels.

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