Unplugging: Your Key to Disconnection as a 24/7 Businesswoman

unplugging

unplugging

You can see from the title that this is all about disconnect. Don’t take that the wrong way. I don’t mean disconnect between people — interpersonal connection makes the business world go round.

This here is specifically about a different kind of disconnect.

Disconnection: Turning your digital connection off. You know…unplugging.

(That means phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, emails, Tweets, Facebook, Trello, Slack, and anything digitally business-related.)

If this jars against every business particle of your being, don’t worry. Take a deep breath. It’s not so frightening.

Remember: Your solopreneur venture won’t go bust overnight if you take a time out and get a great night’s sleep.

It seems simple on paper, but we all know the lure of email and Trello; the power socket right next to your bedside table where you charge your phone; the promise of client interaction and the certainty of a future in business.

Is it possible to switch off and disconnect from the digital sphere for a while and not lose momentum? What harm can a quick email at midnight do?

Take my example. I’m blessed/cursed with a brain that never shuts off, particularly when I’m trying to go to sleep. (I suspect plenty of you have the same encumbrance.) Apparently the best time to come up with new blog ideas and social media campaign plans is when my head hits the pillow.

Because…“reasons”, as Twitter would say.

Typically, when these ideas would strike, I’d roll over, grab my phone and note them down in Wunderlist. During my hasty scribbling, I’d see my email ping.

“Maybe it’s a client. I should just check that out quick.”

I’d read the email and my overactive grey matter immediately constructed a response, so I’d reply there and then. While I was writing that, I’d start making a plan to resolve the issue. I’d think about who else I had to email to make it happen. I’d remember something else and fix that too.

You can see the trend here. I wasn’t losing hours on YouTube or scrolling through Pinterest — I was being productive. But I was still losing hours that my body and brain needed to disengage and heal.

Being a solopreneur can consume your life, pixel by pixel. All hours are working hours. It’s the downtime we struggle to fit in, not the hard grit.

My addiction to work nearly broke me. I was plagued by headaches at all hours of the day. Everything hurt and sometimes it would evolve into a full body shut down with violent nausea, photosensitivity, horrific pain and general incapacity. I’m predisposed to migraines anyway, but they were spiralling out of control.

My perma-headache also meant I never got any sleep, so I tossed and turned, checked my emails, suffered my headaches and wondered when the pain was going to end.

I’d read somewhere that blue light affects your circadian rhythms and had dismissed it as another bubble-wrap response to the human condition. It couldn’t have that much of an effect, surely?

Wrong.

Consider this: Disconnection isn’t a matter of personal habit. It’s a matter of health and wellbeing.

Eventually my 24/7 brain and crippling headaches brought me to my knees. Pain medication wasn’t taking the edge off and I didn’t want to get addicted.

At my wits end, I figured I’d try ditching my phone (and blue light) for just a little while. I wasn’t producing any worthwhile work in that condition so I wasn’t losing anything.

You might’ve guessed, but the cure was almost miraculous.

I still get headaches but they’re so infrequent that I forget them. I am falling asleep quickly when it used to take three hours. I am sleeping soundly and not waking through the night. I am powering through my work every day, all the way up to bedtime, but I have a golden rule:

Once I’m in bed, the phone turns off and I don’t touch it again until I rise the next day.

Everyone is different and electrical blue light will affect everyone to varying degrees. Some gadgets are designed to eliminate blue light, which is fantastic up to a point.

But that means you’ve still got your business brain on when you’re in bed, the one place in the world you need to relax entirely and recharge yourself (figuratively speaking).

Turn your phone off. And your computer. And your tablet. (I see you trying to squirrel it away.)

I’m not saying burn all your electricals, pack up, move to the forest and become an off-the-grid spoon whittler. We’re solopreneurs and every client is in some way digital now. We can’t work (for long) without social media and the internet.

However, we’re also human and we aren’t designed to function 24/7. Working for yourself is great, but you need to be able to enjoy it or you’ll lose motivation, determination, and heart.

Clients also deserve a little more credit. They understand the world is round and timezones don’t always sync up. If they really have a problem with you sleeping, maybe they aren’t a client worth keeping.

Your business truly won’t end if you don’t respond to emails immediately.

You also get the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes. When working on a blog, I’ll write a draft, abandon it for at least a few hours, and revisit it. Re-engaging with my work with a different mindset shows me where I can improve and what needs changing. This applies to any kind of work.

Getting sleep, even if only for a few hours, will condition you for the day ahead. You’ll be happier, healthier and more productive.

The better you feel, the better your work will be. The better your work is, the better you’ll feel.

The only missing component is getting some shut-eye, and if all it takes is switching your phone off for a few hours, it’s very much within reach.

P.S. Rest does not equal rust.

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Victoria Brock is a curly-haired hot sauce fanatic and the driving force behind Mad March Hare Copy, a freelance copywriting and blogging service aiming to offer copy as full of verve and flair as the name suggests. She has a penchant for business, marketing, interpersonal topics and home cooking with a dash of wine. She also hangs out on Twitter @vtoriab15 if you’d like to have a chin-wag.

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