How often do you disconnect from your work?

I’m not talking about simple rules around your working hours or no nights and weekends. Those are great and healthy, but I’m talking about truly disconnecting here. The “I’m not available for several days” type of disconnecting.

No phone, no email, no social media, no connection.

I took several trips this summer where I was disconnected from work. One was a 3+ family Europe trip and the others were 3-5 day experiences where I was offline in nature. This was intentional to align with my family’s word for the year – challenge. I wanted to challenge myself to see how much adventure I could squeeze in, which required disconnecting from work.

Here’s a recap of what I learned –

1. Fear of being Unavailable

There was initial fear of being unavailable, probably the same fear you sense when you consider it. For example:

  • Will the business be okay while I’m gone?
  • Will clients and projects move forward?
  • Will money still come in?

I had taken a week or two off in previous years, but this summer I really checkout out and tested these questions. Every business has unique needs and circumstances, but the fear is the same. It’s all in our heads.

What actually happened while I was gone?

  • The business was just fine. In fact, I think it’s healthier and more battle tested from my time away.
  • Clients and projects still moved forward. This just requires clear communication and expectations.
  • Money still hit the bank. Deal flow was a little lower than normal with me away from sales, but that’s perfectly fine. There’s always time for new deals.

I also understand if you’re a one-person show and your time away from work actually stops all business activity. In that case, the fear is more intense but I’d still encourage you to consider how you could get ahead of things and create space to disconnect. That said, I would argue that disconnecting is a possibility for everyone.

The fear is real. I get it. But again, it’s all in our heads.

2. Easier with Practice / Reps

Disconnecting from work gets easier with practice. I remember the first time I did it a few years ago. I was so scared of the questions above and my inability to be available. It was a 3-day retreat and I committed to being offline. I told my team members I’d be offline and not to bother me unless it was a true emergency, at which point they could text me.

During the retreat I didn’t check my email once, nor did I receive any emergency text messages. When I came back everything was gravy and I remember feeling that bolt of confidence. So I tried it again and the same thing happened.

Now it’s part of my practice. I disconnect regularly and encourage my team members to do the same. I have a general process for disconnecting, which includes:

  • Proper planning and preparation
  • Setting clear priorities and expectations with my team
  • Communicating with clients that I will be offline until a certain date

With this in place, things still get done and work goes on without me. Clients understand that I need this time away, and if they don’t, they aren’t a good fit to work with me or my team.

Put the reps in and it will become a healthy routine.

3. Time Away from Computers

Computers are powerful devices with lots of utility. I get that. However, they are also toxic to the human soul. We were not designed to be on these things, let alone be on them for 8+ hours/day. Furthermore, we were not designed to have mini computers in our pockets all day long. In many ways our phones are making us dumber and causing all kinds of new stress our ancestors never experienced.

My time away from computers was awesome. It gave my mind a break and liberated my soul. I felt more presence with my family and friends. I felt more alive being outdoors and exploring. I felt like the kid who grew up with nature as my playground.

The consequence is that now it’s harder for me to come back to computer life. I often struggle the first week I’m back “in the office.” My phone and computer feel like foreign objects that demand my attention. My inbox feels like a space that I don’t want to be in. My text messages are backed up from friends and family.

However, I’m getting better at balancing the transition back. Computers do serve their purpose and allow me to create income for my family. They also enable me to share content like this. I can be grateful for computers after having enough space away from them. That’s the key – recognizing when I need a break from them, which my nervous system will usually inform me of.

Some quick tips I’ve learned here:

  • If you can choose time away from computers, do it. Any trip or vacation will be more meaningful with your phone and computers gone. A single text message or email can dominate your attention and take you right out of your experience.
  • Tell your family, friends, team members and clients you’ll be offline. That way you won’t have a flood of text messages or emails to come back to. Let them know ahead of time so their expectations are set.
  • Use your phone for things that enhance the experience. This includes picture taking, navigation, restaurant hunting, etc. Then put it away instead of opening up social media and your other apps. This keeps you in control of using the device, instead of the other way around where it controls your attention and distracts you.

When I travel to beautiful places I like to share pictures on Instagram. This reflects my inner creator and explorer. It’s also how I want to be seen in the world – as someone who seeks adventure and shares his findings. I want to inspire other people to get outdoors and travel, so I use my phone as a device to support that. Then I put it away and stay immersed in the experience.

Time away from my phone and computers is a huge element of staying immersed in the experience.

Benefits of Disconnecting

Disconnecting from work has a lot of benefits and they’re unique for everyone. After a few years of disconnecting here’s how I’d summarize the key benefits from my experience.

1) I feel less stress

This is easily the top benefit. When I disconnect it allows the stress from work and competing priorities to fade away. We all have stress and some of us have a lot of it. A quick 3-5 day disconnect from work, preferably in nature, is arguably the greatest stress killer available. Way better than any medication or prescription that promises to reduce stress.

2) I feel more creative

Nature and new experiences have taught me so many lessons over the years. They supercharge my creativity with new ideas and solutions. I always come back with a fresh perspective after having time away from work.

3) I feel grateful for my work

Work has been a big part of my life for the last 20 years. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’m wired to serve, create and solve problems. Taking true time away from work allows me to come back more grateful for it. I have more appreciation for my team, my clients and all the things my business helps co-create in the world. Just like any relationship, sometimes I just need space from my work.

There are plenty of other benefits, but these three stand out every time I disconnect. I also think they represent value for like minded entrepreneurs who want to justify time disconnected. If those benefits don’t speak to you, I’m not sure what will 🙂

I’ll leave you with a question –

When’s the last time you truly disconnected from your work?

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Ali Jafarian

Ali is a creator and coach who's passionate about guiding people to their truth. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people realize their most authentic life. He's a family man, entrepreneur, conscious technologist, explorer, podcast host and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.