“This technology connects you with everyone you are not with, and disconnects you from everyone you are with. — J.J. Abrams”

Sorry J.J. Abrams I believe times have changed and technology connects us to a world without boundaries and that we must manage, learn and embrace technology so we can be more productive and have more time to connect with those we are with and those we are digitally connected with!

My Unplugged Vacation

Like me, I’m sure you’ve read lots of articles talking about the importance of unplugging and going on a vacation without digital, social or technology distractions.  They also point to how digital is ruining our human lives and we rely too heavily on technology, social media and our gadgets.  Well I for one am glad I wasn’t born in the early 1900’s without a TV or in the horse and buggy days and I love and embrace having technology and social in my life.

At the encouragement of my family and friends especially my wife, I decided to embrace the idea of unplugging partially because I wanted to see what all the rage was about and also the vacation we were going on was going to be camping in the woods, with very little cell phone coverage, therefore forcing me to be a bit unplugged.

My brother and sister-in-law joined my wife and I on a music camping vacation outside of Seattle Washington, at one of the most amazing music venues in the world know as “The Gorge” for a three day music event headlined by Dave Matthews band.

Gorge Seattle DMB BRIAN FANZOPreparing to go Unplugged

I knew that I since I work in social and digital, I would need to set some some automation and do some things in preparation for being unplugged.  Also because I made the mistake of only buying a 16 GB IPhone 5S, I needed to delete and prioritize the apps on my phone so I could have more room for pictures and videos since I wouldn’t be able to plug-in or have them uploaded to the cloud.

What I changed on my iPhone:

  • Removed food, travel and brand specific apps like DunkinDonuts and GreatClips since they would have no value while camping.
  • Turn off the notifications for email social networks phone calls and text messages, with the caveat that those people listed in my favorites would be able to text and call so that could communicate with those on the trip.
  • I removed a productivity apps which I had a lot of, including collaboration tools, list building and task management apps.
  • Although my 3 daughters were staying with grandparents I deleted the dropcam app, as I knew we would be facetiming and using my wifes app to check in on our kids.
  • Turned off iCloud, IFTTT recipes and other box storage apps that I had running as without signal they would just drain battery and be useless.

So with my iPhone now having 5GB’s worth of space I was prepared for an unplugged weekend using my phone primarily for the camera function and texting my friends here on the trip with me.   Now although I wasn’t on my social networks I still planned on using the new Instagram app HyperLapse, Vine and 360 camera apps to capture the amazing views on my vacation.

Unplugged wasn’t easy but this is what I learned

So if you read the title of this you might think that I believe the entire idea of being unplugged has no value, and that would be wrong, as I found plenty of value in the act of unplugging and it also helped me reevaluate how and what technology I was using.  There was also the fact that if my wife and friends felt I needed to unplug, then there were definitely some changes that I needed to make so that they didn’t feel my being plugged in was a bad thing.

What I didn’t miss being unplugged:

  • Scanning the public newsfeed of all of my social networks many times a day looking at cat videos or random rants.
  • Pop-Up notifications telling me about new discount coupons or trending topics.
  • Checking twitter every time someone mentioned me.
  • Scanning my content feeds to find new articles and information to share.
  • The twitter chats and hangouts that I normally participate in.

What I did miss while being unplugged:

  • Finding out that a friend had been in the hospital with his newborn baby
  • Seeing the pictures and updates on what my friends and family who don’t live near were doing and how they were enjoying weekend
  • Fantasy football draft that the date was changed and since I didn’t have email or service I wasn’t aware of this change and missed that.
  • Using my location based apps like foursquare, to know what food and events were going on in the area so I didn’t waste time buying bad food and missing winery tours!
  • My social listening alerts and hashtag tracking reports, as I ended up missing opportunities too not only meet new people but also wasn’t aware that a couple social friends were getting together at the event.

Refresh because unplugging is too late.

So after this unplugged vacation I took some notes and started to reconnect and download the apps that I missed while on vacation.  What I learned was there were definitely good and bad lessons from this unplugged vacation but the vacation itself would have been more enjoyable not only for myself but those traveling with me if I had managed my digital connections over time rather than having to cut the digital cord cold turkey!

All or nothing IMO is never the answer… You must test, tweak and adjust so that you can embrace change while prioritizing.

So I’m using a digital refresh much like I do a personal SWOT analysis every quarter, to tweak and prioritize what I need and want versus what I can change and do without.  What will this refresh look like:

  1. Log how many hours I spend using a device or social network and decide if that time is valuable or how I could better are spending my time.
  2. Review the applications I have on my phone, computer and other devices deleting those that I don’t use or could simply download if the time or situation came where I needed that function.
  3. Evaluate each notification for each app each email account even how And where these notifications were being displayed.
  4. Listen to my wife, family and friends not only because they said I needed to unplug but I also want to document what digital benefits I provided them that maybe they took for granted!
  5. Last but not least document times and situations when the best option is putting my digital connections into airplane mode as no distraction is worth missing moments with my daughters!

If that seems like too much work, try for one week looking at every notification you get and asking yourself… “Did I need to be interrupted by this or is it a notification I could do without?”

For me I realized that I was getting way too many social notifications that were simply distractions and not interruptions that would provide value for those I connect with online or myself.  I also added some new tools that will give me reports and notifications at the end of the day or in some cases the end of the week as these things I don’t need to take immediate action for or be interrupted by but were still things I want to monitor, know about and track.

So implement digital refresh times (setup calendar alerts or you’ll be too distracted or busy and forget) throughout the year so that when the vacation time does come you don’t have to unplug, rather utilize your digital and social tools to have the best vacation possible!