Digital detoxes get a lot of hype, whether they last a weekend or 25 days (I see you, Baratunde Thurston) or a whole six months. They are also, allegedly, very good for rebooting the engine of your creativity and inspiration for your business.
But was any of it true?
The pay off was too promising to not try it out for myself. So for ten days over the holidays this year, I gave it a shot. At the airport, leaving on a planned trip to Europe with my family, I deleted all social media apps from my phone. For those ten days I checked email once a day, and not immediately upon waking up, and replied to messages only when absolutely urgent. (Note: I sensed that urgency exactly twice in ten days.) I unplugged from any sort of television. I didn't announce I was detoxing; I just quietly went quiet.
I can sum up what happened next in a single word.
Relief to not be "on." Relief to see all the time that opened up in front of me. (The time! Where had those hours been?) Relief to focus on doing one thing and one thing only. Best of all, relief to truly focus on the people I encountered, moment by moment, without distraction.
It was a game-changer, personally.
But did it help my business?
Most definitely. The coming months will reveal exactly how it helped, and how much, but as a result of the detox I'm heading into the year with renewed focus and fresh ideas for my business. Here are four lightbulb moments that are guiding my way forward.
The thing about having all those extra hours in the day, without the distractions of social media, is that it gives us time to stop and think. That time is the gift of the pause. Without the pressure of constant engagement, and by pausing before a response to some stimulus, our engagements can be more thoughtful and less kneejerk-reactive.
Takeaway: It's one thing to intentionally hesitate during a live conversation, in order to see things more clearly and respond more usefully. It's another thing to pause because you have the luxury of time to pause, when you turn off the constant "pings" and "pokes" of social media distractions. Between actual time checking updates, and the time it takes to refocus my attention after an update, I'd estimate I've gained between two and three hours a day since deleting those platforms from my phone.
Read. Read. Read.
It's true that I've always been a big reader but all those extra hours were precious invitations to explore "non-essential" categories of books, that is, the topics that I'm drawn to (historical fiction! Ayurveda!) but are usually set aside in lieu of topics that are more directly relevant to my work, like productivity and leadership. Reading from the "non-essential" categories felt like cross-pollination in terms of creativity.
Takeaway: Though we're well aware of the theories that encourage us to segment our work lives according to our most productive hours, days, and weeks, it wasn't until I read Acharya Shunyi's Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, a subject that interests me deeply at the personal level, that I aligned my work priority categories with certain times of the day that coincide with the dosha cycle -- strategic planning and writing commitments earlier in the day when pitta is strong, and meetings or calls after 2 pm when vata is at its peak. It's a philosophy that may not make sense for everyone, but my own productivity has soared.
Track the Unexpected
It's one thing to consistently track your CRM. It's another thing to track sources that yield unexpected insights, such as journals you've kept or emails you've flagged to come back to "at some point." As I reviewed these sources for myself during the detox, my memory was jolted by notes I'd made and emails I'd saved -- I was tagging compelling ideas that weren't ripe at the time, but several of them have grown into newly viable opportunities.
Takeaway: Once our startup had enough traction and client testimonies, I wrote in an otherwise nondescript journal entry early last year, I'd set a goal to establish two "tribes" or focus groups in order to home in on demographics that I thought were particularly viable. I've since returned to that idea in order to execute, and we are now in the process of getting those focus groups (one for Millennial wine consumers, the other for women) off the ground.
The world continues to turn without any of us posting comments or snapshots or liking things 27 times a day. Go figure. Recognizing this re-energized my "why," that is, my motivation to generate services and content that are relevant, useful, and needed -- not because my ideas are the best, but because our team's work can truly help other businesses, which ultimately benefits everyday consumers.
Takeaway: Although end consumers are the intended beneficiaries of our work, we are a B2B organization. My weekly blog posts, however, have tended to be more persuasive in scope rather than practical, and they haven't always spoken to other businesses' needs for information that they can put directly into practice. Though the posts have been popular in the past, I've shifted the editorial focus back to the more humble root of the company's why: to deliver relevant, useful, and needed services to other businesses.