I just returned from a full weeks vacation "off-grid", by which I mean that I neither checked voicemail or email, took any work related calls, etc. I was reachable, but made it pretty clear that this was for emergencies only. No nightly checks of my email, no popping upstairs for a quick conference call, no calling into the office "just to check in". Having zero willpower when it comes to this sort of thing I aided my quest to be off-line by leaving the laptop at home and turning off the data feed to my cell phone (I couldn’t imagine resisting the temptation of taking a peek at the hundreds of emails that were piling up if I saw them sitting in my phone cue). Without these interruptions I let my mind run where it wanted to, quickly forgot about the 50 "urgent" things waiting for me upon my return and focused on relaxing and having fun with my family.
I don’t know why I don’t do this more often – it had been about 18 months since I spent any amount of time off-grid. And while before the vacation I probably would have told you that I really didn’t need to go to this extreme and that the time I had taken off earlier this year (but where I checked in daily, took probably 2 hours of calls per day and had one full day of meetings in the middle of my trip) was sufficient. With hindsight I realize that I was deluding myself. I needed the time away to clear my head and I was stupid to run so long without doing so.
I look around me at colleagues and friends and see very few that truly take time away to recharge. It’s a shame that we live in a society where "connectedness" is prized above all and I think every so often (but certainly more than 1x per year) people should buck the system and just go dark. Maybe for a week, maybe just for a long weekend, maybe the 3rd Saturday of every month. Give it a try – you won’t regret it!