One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the lights. I love driving around enjoying the beauty of well-lit yards, trees, windows. From an energy perspective, not necessarily a good thing but so pretty.

One other thing I love about this time of year is how much easier it is to unplug from work e-mails and demands. In part because almost everyone else is also unplugged.

The topic of unplugging is ever-evolving as technology takes up a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives.

It is always interesting to watch the technology habits of young people. A Baylor University study done in 2014 found that college students spend an average of 8 to 10 hours a day on their cell phones. 60% admit to feeling addicted. For some helpful ideas, visit the link below.


Even though I don’t consider myself old I am old enough to remember life before having a cell phone. I remember that weekends and vacation time used to be time that you would not be expected to be available or to be checking e-mails.

I feel like we need to categorize 'un-plugging' in to two categories.

  • Unplugging from work and business demands; and
  • Unplugging from electronic connection in order to be fully present with the people we are physically with.

  • What makes it hard to unplug from work?

    Getting behind is often more stressful than staying on top of e-mails, etc. So true. Some corporate cultures expect and demand almost instant response time. (There are a few jobs where this is critical but not many.) Even the anticipation of having to check emails if you haven’t looked in a few days (or hours) can build up the anxiety level. What are some strategies here?

  • Decide ahead of time when and how often you will be checking emails. (Using at least the length of time that you are regularly unavailable because you are in meetings or training is an easy starting place if this is hard.)
  • Communicate with the relevant key people what your schedule will be and what they should do if they need to reach you more quickly.
  • If possible have a back-up plan for someone else to be reached in emergencies.
  • Practice actually respecting the schedule that you set for yourself (usually the hardest piece). People on your team will soon see if they can talk you back in to immediate responses and you will have trouble reinforcing this strategy.
  • Of course, building in some form of accountability here is helpful. Whether it is direct reports, family members or a self-reminder or your coach, of course!

  • What about unplugging simply to be fully present?

    You know that feeling when someone is sort-of listening but they are still doing something else too. We have all done that. Sometimes that’s ok. However, for healthy deep connection we need times when we fully give ourselves emotionally to the people we are with.

    Recent research on “multi-tasking” is quite compelling.

    “Humans are capable of doing two things at once, but our brains aren’t able to focus on more than one thing at a time. The prefrontal cortex controls focus, which is a finite resource. When we do two things at once we are dividing and watering down our focus. That’s why researchers now say multitasking fails on various levels. Not just for some, but for the vast majority of people. Studies from psychologist David Strayer found that 97.5 percent of people failed multitasking tests.”


    So, what message do we send to the people we are with when we are not unplugged? It isn’t always the same, there are casual times when we are all checking out FaceBook, etc. However, what about those times when there is opportunity to be fully focused on time together? Date night, meal times, family gatherings, etc.? We can most definitely be sending the message that we are not willing to be fully present. Not willing to give the people we are with our full attention.

    My temptation when people only offer me their partial selves is to withdraw. A better response is an open dialogue asking for a time when they can be fully present. Making my own commitment to them for when I will be.

    Communication, again. So critical. Instead of assuming that it’s okay to “multi-task” and not be fully present, let’s all work at being more conscious and overt about times when we put the technology aside and just enjoy who we are with!!!

    When do you need to unplug more regularly?

    Who do you need to ask to give you some un-plugged times?

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