An Unplugged Weekend: 7 Tips To Make It Happen

By Julie Rains on 10 April 2011 (Updated 19 April 2011) 0 comments

I’ll admit that I have a plugged-in problem. My weakness is working on the weekend in anticipation of a hectic schedule for the upcoming week. As the mom of two teenagers, I have weekdays with lots of interruptions and weeknights full of activities, so weekends offer hours to catch up on projects.

Still, I enjoy time unplugged occasionally and know it's impotant to keep grounded. Here are a few tricks I've learned to help me get away.

Define what unplugged means to you.

“Unplugged” means off-the-digital-grid to me. Your definition may be more restrictive (as in no electricity or indoor plumbing) or less (no tweeting or status updates but still tethered to your mobile device).

Whatever your thoughts on connectivity, decide what activities to stop, such as:

  • Checking email;
  • Social media networking;
  • Researching online;
  • Messaging;
  • Responding to telephone calls.

Decide how you’ll spend your un-tethered time.

Being unplugged, sadly, has become unnatural for me. So, I have to schedule something that takes me out of the digital loop. Most of my off-the-grid weekends revolve around outdoor adventures, hiking, canoeing, or trail riding in places with no or spotty cell phone coverage.

Stepping away from your smart phone may be easy for you, but I’m guessing that for most people, changing habits is hard. For your first unplugged weekend, develop a slate of activities so that you won’t revert to posting status updates or responding to email inquiries. Eventually, you’ll have a new mindset and stay more in touch with your family and friends than professional connections.

Set expectations for your availability.

Being available to handle just one problem is a mistake. Last year, I informed a client that I could not help with a project over an offline weekend (planned and anticipated months in advance), only to receive multiple emails asking for help, anyway. Even a short response sends the wrong signal.

You too may have discovered that replying too-quickly to digital queries can backfire. Customers, employees, and vendors come to expect immediate gratification; they do not plan appropriately, thinking that you will be available to help if necessary. An email or phone call unanswered within a few hours sends them into a panic. If you’ve consistently been “on” during the weekend, stop responding.

To show responsiveness without being chained to work, do not engage over the weekend, but give a prompt answer early in the week, preferably on Monday.

Decide what to do about loose ends.

Knowing when to tie up loose ends before the weekend and when to let go temporarily of pending projects has been a dilemma for me. In the past, I have debated about whether to prompt customers for the information needed to finish a project by Friday or set aside the assignment for the next week. My approach has been to avoid these situations by either 1) establishing standard turnaround times for weekdays, holidays, and weekends; or 2) alerting customers that they need to provide me with information before a designated time if they need a project delivered by a certain deadline.

You know your customers. Decide upfront how to handle unfinished business to keep their satisfaction.

Create plans to handle emergencies.

As a writer, I don’t deal with work-related emergencies but realize that many businesses will need protocols to address weekend crises.

Define potential scenarios that need immediate action, such as workplace accidents or facility break-ins. Then detail the steps that your employees need to take in order to react appropriately. This approach will likely involve contacting you for certain problems but having to be available during unplugged weekends should be rare.

Stop feeling anxious.

Being disconnected can cause anxiety for me, just as constant connection can be agitating.

Certainly, a pitfall of disengaging all of Saturday and Sunday is that Monday mornings may be unusually hectic. It seems easier to deal with problems – throughout the weekend – as they occur. There may be some weekends that monitoring ecommerce orders, checking emails for client responses, etc. is necessary. Knowing that everything is running smoothly while you're away is calming, especially during your busy season.

But having to work most weekends shouldn’t mean that you have to work every weekend. Pick your times carefully to avoid worrying about what types of chaos you may encounter on Monday.

Enjoy.

Having unplugged weekends can make you more productive during the week. The break from the physical, mental, and emotional effort of work can give you a fresh perspective on business problems. The distance from digital devices can free your mind from drudgery and open possibilities for developing and refining strategies that will set your business apart.

But you don’t have to be productive at all. Just relax and enjoy being unplugged.

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