By Adam Witty, founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks

As a business owner myself, I know that being online and in touch is key to success. It keeps you connected with clients and potential clients, informs you of cutting-edge trends in your business and allows you to stay competitive within your industry. It can also keep you up at night, distract you from making objective analysis and prevent you from enjoying family, friends and pastimes.

According to a 2018 survey, about 31% of entrepreneurs work at least 10 hours a day, and 24% work at least every other weekend. What's more, few take vacations more than once or twice a year. That is why I periodically need to unplug and go offline -- and my business is better for it. Unplugging has made me calmer, more creative and, ultimately, more productive. 

But don't think it was easy. As a Type-A entrepreneur who believed that my company was dependent on my constant presence, allowing myself to be inaccessible was an adjustment. Being available anytime, anywhere was my M.O. Teaching myself to go offline was an effort, but one that was ultimately worth it. Here are four tips on how to unplug.

Start small: Leave your phone in the locker room.

iPhone separation anxiety is real. When deprived of their iPhones, participants in a University of Missouri study experienced "significant physical changes -- elevated heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety -- alongside poorer cognitive performance."

I'm not suggesting going days, a day, or even an afternoon without your phone. Start small. How about an hour at the gym? You go to the gym because exercising reduces stress and helps you think and brainstorm more effectively. Turn your phone off or leave it in the locker room. Allow yourself this time to recharge and revitalize.

Choose a trustworthy second-in-command.

You'll feel much better about checking out every once in a while if you know your company is in the hands of somebody who is both reliable and trustworthy. You're not looking for a successor -- they don't need to have your skill set or knowledge base. You're looking for a competent "companysitter."

This is a role for which you'll need to groom and teach somebody. Give them an overview of the day-to-day operations, explain what decisions they can and cannot make and alert your employees that in your absence all questions and concerns should be directed to this person.

Decide what your tipping point is.

I used to say that you need to have a regular schedule of in-office and out-of-office hours and expect clients, colleagues and employees to respect that. Unfortunately, that's not realistic. Things happen, and you might need to be made aware of it. But you don't always need to respond.

Decide what your individual tipping point is -- what hours you're not available, what issues can wait until tomorrow, what's urgent and what isn't -- and share that with your colleagues. Show that same respect to them. Don't send messages after hours unless something needs immediate attention. As an effective, respectful boss, you should have an idea as to the individual tipping points of your employees (write them down if you need to).

Take a walk.

I've read the studies that say that you should work in 90-minute intervals -- that your brain works in cycles involving 90-minute periods of high-frequency activity and by pushing beyond those 90 minutes you become less productive and, possibly, unhealthy. I truly believe in the science. But I also know my entrepreneurial nature. If I'm in the middle of a project on top of a deadline, time disappears.

My compromise with this natural cycle is that when I'm at a comfortable point, I will walk out of the office without my phone and take a walk to clear my head. Ironically, every time I do this, I come back into the office with fresh ideas and a new perspective wondering why I hadn't taken that walk earlier -- perhaps after 90 minutes!

As has been said, technology is a good servant but a bad master. You are not a better entrepreneur, a better employer, a better negotiator or a better anything by being at the beck and call of your cell phone. Unplug, unwind and unravel, at least for a little while. You and your business will be better for it.

Adam Witty is the Founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks, one of the largest business book publishers in the world.

Published on: May 29, 2019
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