Are you able to disconnect?

Here in Spain, today is Labor Day. At this particular moment, instead of being at my desk, I’m in our apartment in La Rioja, Spain’s wine country, recovering from having eaten too much yesterday at a home-style restaurant that keeps serving food until you’re ready to explode — and then they bring out dessert.

But forget about my bout of over-eating; the thing to focus on here is the fact that I’m in the process of completely disconnecting from work and having a bunch of laughs with friends.

Sometimes that disconnection is difficult for me. I love my job and often find myself thinking about it outside of work hours — in the shower, while falling asleep, while watching a movie, when I’m out for dinner. And when I’m not working, I am thinking about articles for Unclutterer, or thinking about how I could squeeze more out of each day.

Shep Hyken, in an article in Forbes, says that working outside working hours is normal, especially the higher up you go. However, he also believes that everyone has the right to disconnect from work and even quotes the cheesy line: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

With smartphones and constant connectivity, it’s often hard to leave work at work, or any other passion, for that matter. So what can we do to truly disconnect from the need to be productive?

The Huffington Post offers several ways of organizing disconnection time:

  • Make time off a priority
  • Delegate tasks
  • Meditate mindfully
  • Use your smartphone to remind you to disconnect more
  • Write about your stress in order to release it

And SmartChic goes even further with ten disconnection ideas:

  • Prepare your next day before leaving work
  • Set limits and stick to them
  • Derail work thoughts when you are outside of work with fun distractions
  • Relax with a hot shower when getting home from work
  • Exercise
  • Get hobbies that are not productivity-related
  • Have non-work friends
  • Spend time with (chosen) family
  • Do something creative
  • Turn off electronics

These are all really good ideas, but to be honest, I’m exhausted just reading about all the ways to disconnect.

Let me give you my foolproof way of disconnecting. I learned how to do it when I went through a health crisis decades ago and was forced to do nothing.


  1. Sit on the sofa or in a comfy chair
  2. Focus on a blank patch of the wall or the ceiling
  3. Let your mind wander with no judgement about any thoughts that may occur to you

And that’s it. No rules, no disconnection productivity tips, no processes to learn. Disconnecting is about disconnecting. Remember, as En Vogue sings, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.

4 Comments for “Are you able to disconnect?”

  1. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I am apparently the last one on earth who has no cell phone. I would probably find one useful, maybe even handy but I lack the slightest desire to have one. In the same way, I do not wear a watch. So I have no problem being disconnected from work (or “out of touch”). It isn’t as simple as it sounds, though.

    Now and then there are serious issues at work. That is, projects that are unfinished or ongoing unsolved problems, usually of an electronic (software) nature. When those things happen, I tend to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them. I can’t do much about them but it helps a little to think through some of them outside of work. Just not very much.

  2. posted by laura ann on

    Whether a land line or cell phone, shut the thing off let’s say 9pm to 10am or pm, etc. during dinner hour and news shows, or if other projects at home, let it go to voice mail. If retired, some shut down for twelve hrs. lots goes to voice mail. Email is done for communication more than phone.

  3. posted by Oak on

    Kenneth, you certainly are not the last person without a cell phone; I don’t have one, nor do at least half a dozen of my friends, and somehow we manage to survive and thrive in our disconnected states. Just like we did for decades before the cell phone was invented, of course.

    That Huff Post advice to “use your smartphone to remind you to disconnect more” is perfectly inane; seems like it’d be more to the point to just, I dunno, turn the blasted thing off, or shut it in a drawer. Ah, well, if people didn’t have smartphones to distract themselves from their lives, they’d just find something else to help them avoid reality.

  4. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I understand that in some places, cell phones (not necessarily smart phones) are more common than land lines. Either way, I don’t have one and for that matter, it is rare that anyone actually calls me at home anyway. But my wife is another story.

    Not having a cell phone does not mean you’re disconnected, however. If disconnected means out of touch, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. What has changed is simply the means of keeping in touch–or well informed. Newspapers are probably not read as thoroughly or as carefully as they once were, for instance. Such news as there is tends to be oriented towards trivialities. But perhaps things haven’t changed as much as we thing as far as what the news is.

    I think of old newsreels (this is getting off the subject) from the 1930s. There would be a segment about saber rattling in Europe, new hats in New York, something in Hollywood, events in China, new bathing suits in Atlantic City, some tidbit about business and floods on the Mississippi. About the only things that have changed are the names and the fact that we don’t wear hats like we used to. The Mississippi still floods, though.

    Overall, I’d say that those who write about the need to disconnect are those who need it the most.

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