The other day, whilst on a train to Glasgow getting frustrated because their free wi-fi wasn't working and I needed to check my email, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, etc. I slumped back in my seat feeling tetchy and half heartedly picked up a copy of LOOK magazine I'd bought before we left. Flicking through without paying much attention I happened upon an interesting article about Kathryn Parsons, CEO of Tech Firm Decoded who had deleted her email account stating that doing so had made her much better at her job.
Intrigued I looked over at Dan and asked him if he would ever consider doing such a thing. With a puzzled and slightly distressed look on his face he stated that 'it just wouldn't work' and 'no sorry, no way!'
Now in Dan's defence he is CEO of his own company (his story here) and the field he works in would be considerably trickier without the advantages of email. In fact in his early career he did indeed work as a recruiter without email (yep he's that old!). Posting and faxing CV's and waiting days for anything to happen. So faced with going back to this situation I can see his point.
However we did agree that it would have some benefits, such as those highlighted in the article. It would cut out the oodles and oodles of rubbish that comes into your inbox everyday. It would make you reach out to people in person either by walking to their desk or picking up the phone. You would prioritise what really needs doing over the many distractions that can come your way on a daily basis.
For myself as a blogger, being without email and online access would pretty much render me helpless. Yet I can see its benefits. It gets spoken about a lot but we could all do with a break from this online world that we now find ourselves in. In fact sitting back on that train without wi-fi for four and a half hours on a Friday afternoon actually did me no harm! I read a book, got inspired by various articles such as this in the bundle of magazines that I had with me, chatted to Dan, snoozed and listened to some music that I had downloaded months ago but hadn't taken the time to enjoy properly.
My online world hadn't collapsed when we disembarked the train and I felt more relaxed and ready to embrace the weekends activities. So in fact it did me a great deal of good.
I was also drawn to the comments at the bottom of the article given by Vikki Bates who was in favour of the whole email deletion idea. Vikki is part of the team at Unplugged Weekend who, upon a little research, I learned offer unplugged retreats, festivals and workshops for those wishing to "Break free from their devices and go on a Digital Detox."
To me this sounds like a great idea. I never used to be that into online and social media but since starting this blog it kind of takes over a large part of my life. I love it, don't get me wrong, it really makes me tick, however every now and then it feels a little overwhelming and I find my focus dwindling as I get overloaded and bombarded with ideas, emails and information. It's fantastic to have access to so much more these days but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. Sometimes you need to switch off and focus on what is really important.
It appears that is exactly what Unplugged Weekend offer to do. You surrender your online world and technology and focus on connecting with people, yourself and your surroundings, learning better stress management techniques amongst many other useful things. I haven't given it a go yet, but I'm very tempted.
So next time your phone dies and you don't have immediate access to your charger or when you find yourself reaching for your iPad late at night or first thing in the morning take a moment to think about what is really important. Try to connect with more than just what that little shiny screen has to offer. There's a whole world out there! Technology and the internet are a fantastic part but so are we, us humans and our planet, so lets take the time to enjoy everything in equal measure and switch off when we need a break!