Why We Need To Fully Unplug From Our Business…
Remember what summer vacation felt like when you were eight years old? It’s time to play! Swimming, playing tennis, hanging out with friends, riding bikes, exploring the woods, building forts, curling up with your favorite books to read for hours on end, Barbies, and bubble baths. Whatever felt fun … that’s what you got to do.
Long days of endless possibilities stretched out before you.
I am willing to bet, you were not tied to your cell phone, feeling compelled to check in with anyone (for some of us, cell phones were yet to be invented!). You became fully absorbed with whatever activity you were engaging in at the time. As adults, many of us have lost that ability.
You know the feeling: It’s finally the end of the day, and you put your laptop to sleep, the glow of the screen finally disappearing so you can get a few precious hours of sleep yourself. You feel unplugged.
But it’s fleeting—you’ve forgotten to turn off your smartphone alerts, or thoughts of the last crisis that popped up in Slack start floating through your head as you attempt to drift off.
We need to do more than “unplug.” We need to fully unplug, and the only way to do so is to find our individual ways to completely disconnect from the draining force of our business.
The benefits go beyond a simple break from work. When you completely unplug, you’re more likely to engage in creative activities, which will translate directly into better results back at the office. A San Francisco State University study revealed how people who are more engaged in creative activities are more likely to have a boost in job performance than those who do not have a creative outlet. “We found that in general, the more you engage in creative activities, the better you’ll do at work,” wrote researcher Kevin Eschleman.
Completely disconnecting from the draining force of our business will translate directly into better results back at the office.
Need proof of the benefits of fully unplugging? Look at Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce. As Nathan Pettijohn shares in Forbes, Salesforce’s stock grew 34% in 2018 while the stock market was undergoing one of its worst years of the decade. “Why? Because after a two-week vacation where Benioff completely unplugged, he realized he was too busy and named a co-CEO, so the two could ‘divide and conquer,’” writes Pettijohn. “As a result, he has time to do the things he cares about.”
Fully unplugging also allows us to enter the “default” or daydreaming mode necessary to mitigate stress, as the authors of Burnout explain. “We are built to oscillate between work and rest,” they write, “When we allow for this oscillation, the quality of our work improves, along with our health.” They bring up the example of life coach Martha Beck, who orders her team to stop working, turn off their computers, and go play or rest when they are struggling. “Where so many others would ‘dig in,’ set up a command central and not stop until a solution was found, she asks her team to take a break.”
Burnout also illustrates the benefits of active rest, comparing it to a muscle that gets stronger when it’s rested, worked, and rested. “When you work your muscles—especially your biggest muscles—you strengthen not just the muscles you’re using but also your lungs and liver and brain,” write Nagoski and Nagoski. “Exercising one part of you strengthens all of you most efficiently. The same goes for cognitive, emotional, and social effort.”
Working one gear while resting the others is active rest, they explain, providing their own examples. While writing Burnout, Emily Nagoski’s brain needed the “active rest” of working on a novel task at the same time. That was a better kind of active rest for her than doing laundry or watching YouTube. Amelia Nagoski, meanwhile, worked full-time as a music professor and a children’s choir conductor while writing Burnout. “Most women are at least this productive—they rest certain gears while they work others, and this ‘active rest’ makes us better at all the things we do,” Nagoski and Nagoski write.
Burnout and the Law of Diminishing Returns
How productive are we in a 50 to 70+ hour workweek? Despite what many small business owners think, more hours don’t necessarily mean more profit. In fact, it can mean less profit, thanks to the law of diminishing returns. We’ve all experienced this while enjoying an extra-large piece of birthday cake. The first bite or two make us swoon with delight as we taste the fluffy cake, the sweet icing, and the crunchy sprinkles on top. But by the time we put our fork down, we can barely taste the treat. We may even need to push the plate away as we start to feel a little queasy.
More hours don’t necessarily mean more profit. In fact, it can mean less profit.
The same is true in business, as Celestine Chua writes in the Personal Excellence blog. After optimizing a piece of work, you get diminishing gains from working on it further, she writes. Spend more time and you get negative returns—where over-tweaking decreases rather than improves the quality of the output.
How to Fully Unplug for Constructive Rest
- Make your communication boundaries clear with your team
- Establish a set time of the day to sign off
- Turn off app notifications on your phone
- Set your email, Slack, etc to vacation mode
- Power down your computer at the end of each day
- Assign a “go to” person for questions when you are away from the business
- Empower your team to handle issues should they arise
- Clearly establish team responsibilities
- Delegate what you can have someone else handle
- Explore various interests
- Have an accountability partner
- Establish what matters most to you and set your intentions
- Read The 4 Week Vacation™ book to learn more