Three Reasons Why You Should Turn Technology Off

Today’s awesome post is by a well respected leader and friend, Brian Cole. Thanks for the great insights, Brian!

I work in the world of technology, and one of the hardest things for me to figure out is if I should, when I should, and to what extent I should turn it all off.

For the last week I’ve been on vacation with my family, and there’s nothing like a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 4-month-old (not to mention my wife) to put pressure on me to stop the constant tapping and swiping of the old iPhone.

Over the last four years, I’ve made it a point to turn it all off for one week. I put the phone in airplane mode, turn off all notifications and really only keep it available for emergencies (which usually amount to finding the closest ice cream shop).

And every year I struggle with it.  When connectivity is available, man is it hard to resist!  Turning it all off is such a major departure from my “normal” day-to-day world, but by doing so, I’ve learned more about myself and how to engage the struggle of achieving balance between technology, work, and family.

1.  Turning it off establishes a new norm of communication expectations.

We live in a culture where immediate response is the norm and if that DOESN’T happen, I get bombarded by a number of other methods (usually with panicked, “Are you okay?” or “Are you ignoring me?” text messages). Before I turn it all off, I let those on my team know that I’m going to be out of touch, and if they need me for an emergency, they can call my wife’s phone. It’s amazing how much MORE of an emergency something has to be in order to go through her!

The result of this one week hiatus is that my teammates have re-written the rules of engagement on communicating with me; even after I’m back, an immediate response isn’t vital. They’re forced to act on the empowerment and influence they have, and through that they gain confidence and grow in their own leadership by default.

2.  Turning it off makes me and my team realize I’m not nearly as vital as I’d like to think I am.

How many of us are so excited when the boss is gone, and not because we want to goof off, but because we can actually get more done and make decisions faster?  I’ve sometimes wondered, “Do the guys on my team feel the same way about me?!”  When I get back from these vacations each year, it’s so refreshing to go through the long e-mail chains to find that 90% of the issues have been fully resolved without any input from me. Turning off technology helps me and my team gain a more balanced perspective of what teamwork is really about.

3.  As introverted as I am, I’m a social creature and need to turn technology off every once in a while.

My wife and I have often talked about our kids and how we don’t want them to grow up to be like so many young people that we see that interact via phone (without talking) while standing in the same room! I not only need to pull away for the sake of my own balance; I also need to be an example to my kids. And if I think it’s hard for me to balance technology and life, I can’t even imagine what my kids are going to have to contend with as technology advances. Interaction can be awkward at times, but that’s okay!  If all of our communication is calculated and typed out without any face-to-face interaction, how can we be well-rounded engaging people?  I need those awkward silences in conversation (without a “device” to turn to) that stretch me to interact.

So just try it for one day. Turn the phone off and live without it. Let people know it’s coming. Set yourself up for success, but don’t be surprised if you reach for your pocket every five minutes and go through withdrawal for a period of time. I think you’ll find like I did that the world will keep turning, you’ll be a more balanced person, and your team will function just fine (and probably grow) as a result.

Brian Cole is works as the production manager at GiANT Impact/Catalyst where he’s worked since 1999. When he’s not serving others or working with his dynamic team at work, Brian enjoys watching movies, running, reading, spending time with his wife and three children, and doing pretty much anything outside.

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