⚠ We would appreciate if you would disable your ad blocker when visiting our site! ⚠

Disconnectedness: Why going unplugged makes good sense

Order a reprint of this story
Close (X)


To reprint an article or any part of an article from Hospitality Upgrade please email geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. Fee is $250 per reprint. One-time reprint. Fee may be waived under certain circumstances.


October 01, 2013
Larry Hall

All of us have heard it: we live in a connected world, we have a 24-hour news cycle, company email flows 24/7/365, and friends, and now strangers, seem to know our every move, sometimes against our wishes. Technology in so many forms has invaded our lives and we cannot turn back. How many times have we woken up in the middle of the night only to check our email or read a news article? How many times have we stepped away from a dinner with friends only to reach for our phone as soon as we get up? Or, how many times have we, as meeting attendees, assumed the smartphone prayer position and checked our email while holding our phones under the table thinking that no one would notice. Yes, of course we have become more productive, more efficient, and more communicative along the way – all substantial benefits and I certainly do not suggest we become Luddites.

However, many of us may fail to realize remaining in a constant state of connection may actually negatively impact our effectiveness. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but I strongly advocate putting oneself in an unplugged or unconnected state on a regular basis to improve one’s effectiveness.  My argument for this position will take two paths. First, what happens to the brain in an unconnected state, and second, my recent experience summiting Kilimanjaro where the terrain forced me to unplug against my wishes.

Our brains process an extraordinary amount of information throughout the day. In fact, over time and in response to changing forms of stimulus, our brains have actually learned to process information differently. For example, today’s Gen Y-ers have an uncanny ability to multi-task at an effective rate far greater than those of us in the early Gen X category. Yet, for all of us, our brains need downtime away from the barrage of stimulus, which includes email, text messages and meetings. When we give our brains time to rest, our brains process, solidify and move information into long-term memory. If we fail to give our brains this downtime, the opposite occurs and we deprive ourselves of certain, clear benefits.  Our brain performs this function while we sleep, take a long walk on the beach or climb a mountain well outside of cell phone range. 

I have read a number of books and articles and attended lectures on the value of sleep and the brain. In fact, one of the world’s foremost authorities on sleep and the brain, Dr. James Maas, serves on the faculty at Cornell University, and I have sat in his audience on numerous occasions. I listened to all evidence and I studied the topic, but I never actually practiced pro-active downtime until I summited Kilimanjaro with 11 very close friends in March of 2013.
On the morning of March 13, 2013, 12 of us and 43 porters and guides stood at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro ready to start a seven day trek to the summit of a 19,341-foot mountain. We heard we could receive a cell phone signal for nearly all seven days, so many of us came armed with cell phones and tablets ready to communicate with the rest of the world every step of the way. But, guess what, no signal, except sporadically during the early days of the trek. Once we realized our phones and tablets did nothing more than add weight to our packs, we shut it all and lived like the old days: we talked, we discussed, we debated and we challenged each other with useless pieces of trivia – and we loved it! We didn’t check our email, we didn’t use Google to validate the accuracy of someone’s point and at night we sat around the table in the mess tent, sipped tea, and enjoyed one another’s company. And, we’re better human beings for having done so.  Personally, my head cleared, I didn’t worry about the affairs of my company (having a great team helped here), and I exercised my brain, all without my technology playing a supporting role.

Following the Kilimanjaro experience it finally occurred to me that our brains do need downtime and quiet time, away from all the technology, and actually doing so allowed me to relax, recharge my brain and think more clearly. Today, I practice pro-active downtime on a near daily basis and I have noticed a difference in my ability to think more creatively and broadly. I believe I have become a more effective executive when I give my brain time to rest on a daily basis, other than during my regular nighttime sleep. I know, without a doubt, during my next vacation, I fully intend to “power down” and let my brain recharge.
Give it try!  It may surprise you.

Click here to view this article in the digital edition of Hospitality Upgrade .

©2013 Hospitality Upgrade
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent.
For permission requests, call 678.802.5302 or email info@hospitalityupgrade.com.

Related Articles
want to read more articles like this?

want to read more articles like this?

Sign up to receive our twice-a-month Watercooler and Siegel Sez Newsletters and never miss another article or news story.