The Benefits of Unplugging
One of my best purchases of 2018 was a friend’s first-generation iPad mini. It’s so old that halfway through football season, my NFL app quit working. The iPad couldn’t handle the latest update.
That was only a minor irritation, though. If I really wanted to know what was going on in a particular game, I could check my laptop.
Besides, checking football scores wasn’t the primary reason I bought it. I wanted a way to check email if I was at a doctor’s office or other place where one typically has plenty of time to read or catch up on minutiae.
Not only can I do that now, I can also take notes electronically instead of carrying around a bulky old notepad. So, score two for two.
An Object Lesson
What I didn’t realize when I bought it was how this device would offer an object lesson over Thanksgiving about my need to unplug regularly from email and the online world.
That isn’t easy to do when I have a constant slew of email and details to check on a series of ongoing book, blog, and article projects—sometimes so constant that I feel like my brain might shut down amid all the “stuff” I must look at.
Not wanting to burden my web maven down with additional work over the holiday, I decided to toss my iPad into the book bag containing leisure-style reading material.
On Black Friday, knowing in an hour I could toss a bunch of unwanted emails and reduce the list awaiting me after our week-long break, I thought about checking it. My brother had already given me the code to his wireless network.
Then, I stopped and shook my head, declaring, “If I do that, it’s not a vacation.”
Soon after, we piled in to his SUV for a trip to Long Island to visit his two sons and their families for a holiday weekend of socializing and lots of good food.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving we toured Yankee Candle’s headquarters. This impressive display of Christmas gear and other inventory makes a Super Walmart look like a small toy store.
Before the afternoon ended, we had stopped at a nearby historic village, where we picked up a new tree decoration for ourselves and a pair for our two daughters.
Not only was that enjoyable, I found myself more relaxed the more time passed without scanning messages.
In fact, the only time I looked at a computer for a week was when I used my brother’s desktop to print out our boarding passes for our return flight.
Taking a Break
For a second time, I thought about checking the iPad as we sat in the airport waiting to board our flight. Then, I reached the same decision I had on Black Friday: If I did, it would no longer be a vacation.
Now, it may not sound profound to simply ignore email for a week. But when I returned to around 450 messages, I found myself not as overwhelmed and irritated as I have been in the past by a post-vacation stack of email.
This more relaxed frame of mind has extended to the pile of work I’ve had to do since, with a schedule so packed only a long Christmas weekend brought a break in the action.
Maybe it’s because I am not so “plugged in” that I take myself too seriously. Whatever the reason, I hope I can maintain this outlook in the coming year.