Not a bad office, eh?
Greetings from some random farmhouse outside Yangshou, China.
You could probably consider Yangshou itself the outskirts of the middle of nowhere, the place where my buddy Nick and I are currently hanging out? Truly, the middle of freaking nowhere.
The last week has been a complete whirlwind. Meetings in Shenzhen, scoping out every product imaginable at the Canton Fair, and now hiking, biking, and floating in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
In our time out here in Yangshou, Nick and I have done a lot of talking and one of the topics that’s repeatedly brought up is the idea of disconnect.
As sad as it may be, this is really the first time since I created my Facebook account in 2004, that I’ve been without any form of social media for an extended period of time. It wasn’t until today that I actually logged into a VPN and got access to Facebook.
This combined with completely removing ourselves from the online world the last few days, has made disconnect a pretty hot topic.
In a world where connectivity is everywhere it’s becoming increasingly hard to get away from it all and truly be on your own. There’s always the rogue iPhone to check, or if you’re me, you’re laptop is never more than a few feet away.
Because of this, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself that you’re disconnected, even when you’re not.
The Three Phases of Disconnect
There are three different levels of disconnect that you can achieve, and each has very distinct characteristics, as well as pros and cons.
Level One: Total Disconnect
In my opinion, total disconnect isn’t a feasible, or responsible option for most people in this age. Whether you’re a blogger, entrepreneur, or simply a corporate business-person it’s nearly impossible to be totally disconnected.
It’s a nice thought, but if you spend a week or even just a few days with complete disregard for every aspect of your online life, you’re neglecting a lot of responsibilities that you’ve brought on yourself.
For instance, say I take off to Yangshou for 4 days with no computer or way of accessing my email. You decide to buy Location Rebel and for some reason the forwarding to the registration page doesn’t work quite right. If you’ve just paid me $300, don’t have access to your purchase, and don’t hear from me for 4 days, you’ll probably be pretty pissed.
As a business owner, that’s the last thing I could want.
What if I get a phone call from the BBC and they want to run an article featuring me tomorrow, and I have no way to access the request. I’d be missing out on a huge potential source of exposure.
Is it the end of the world if any of these things happen? Of course not. But is there any need to be totally disconnected? These days, for a burgeoning entrepreneur? I don’t think so.
Level 2: Psuedo-Disconnect
I’m willing to bet at some point you’ve experienced this one. You know, it’s the vacation where you’re hanging out on the beach or chairlift, and still have your Blackberry glued to your ear. You may be outside the office, but you definitely aren’t disconnected.
At this point you’re hurting both your business and your personal life. You aren’t fully engaged in the business, and you’re neglecting your personal responsibility to enjoy life and the people that are important in your life.
Just because you feel like you’re disconnected, if you’re constantly doing business and not focused on leisure at times, you’re going to end up being even more burnt out after your vacation than you were before you left.
Phase 3: Balanced Disconnect
For most people, this is the holy grail. If you can find the perfect balance of disconnecting and being responsible, you’re in business.
What does this look like?
For me personally, on the days where I’m going to “disconnect”, I give myself no more than an hour in the morning to answer emails, and deal with any other business matters that need to be addressed for the day. I then spend the majority of the day fully engaged in what I’m doing and the people I’m with. From there perhaps another hour before or after dinner to make sure nothing has blown up.
It’s balanced. It gives me the piece of mind of knowing that the things that need to be taken care of are addressed, but still allows me to truly disconnect and not think about business during my time of fun.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts. I have a feeling some of you will disagree with some aspects of this post, and I’d love to hear your perspective. Is it ever possible or necessary to achieve total disconnect? How do you work to achieve balanced disconnect?
Note: I’ll have a video posted about this in the next few days. Unfortunately the internet connection in the middle of nowhere leaves a lot to be desired…