I just got back from a really great and refreshing trip to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam a few weeks back, and I once again realized how valuable this time away can be. I’ve found that disconnecting from the day-to-day can really help my creativity, my productivity, and even my sleep.
A while ago I noticed that on long flights (particularly ones without internet), I become particularly creative and pensive. For a long time, I’ve even had a “Flight Notes” notebook in Evernote just for recording the thoughts/ideas that inevitably sprout up during flights. When cut off from everything else, it seems our brains are free to roam where we normally don’t let them stray.
This got me wondering if this ‘flight effect’ could be reproduced elsewhere. Though I still have a lot of progress to make on this front, I tried to stay mostly disconnected during my trip. I found that it definitely helped me clear my head, and be able to think about things differently, particularly when work problems would invariably pop into my head.
I’m going to try occasional “disconnects”, even if just for a few hours, now and a gain, to give my brain a rest and let my mind wander, much like it does on flights. The wandering brain is an increasingly rare thing in todays world of media, internet, and advertising distractions. Someone is vying for our attention 24-hours a day. I think disconnecting can help help us get some of ourselves back.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the treadmill of being productive and always being ‘busy’ and getting ‘stuff’ done. How could disconnecting possibly help us be more productive?
For me, returning from a disconnect is incredibly refreshing. My passion for work projects is re-invigorated, and I generally find myself waking earlier, and getting into the office earlier. This helps me be really productive before the chatter and distractions of the day roll around.
Clearing the mind seems to really help you focus on what’s important and get it done.
Ah sleep. Everyone sort of knows they aren’t getting enough, but nobody is sure how to get enough sleep and still get all the stuff done that we want to. When disconnecting on vacation, I noticed that I wasn’t staying up late on my devices (iPhone, iPad, Kindle, computer). This trend stayed with me (for a little while…) when I returned.
I realized I didn’t need to stay up the extra hour to read a few “important” articles, or even catch up on email. It’s rather relaxing to get in bed and go to sleep. That sounds simple, but I feel like many of us today do something more along the lines of: get in bed, get out your phone (just to set the alarm clock), check twitter, Facebook, news feeds, then check email just to be sure you’re caught up in the morning. By the time you’re to the sleeping part, you’ve shot your eyes and body with lots of blue light, disrupting your circadian rhythms, and re-waking you up. Now you finally try to go to sleep, but find it more difficult, so out comes the device again.
Disconnecting can help us realize this cycle and try to break out of it. We don’t need to always be connected, and those last few articles of the day can wait. Get in bed and let your mind relax in the blue-light-free darkness that it so enjoys.
I’ve been doing this (more or less) since I got back, and I’ve been going to sleep earlier, waking up earlier, and all around just feeling like I’ve gotten a better night’s sleep. It really is pretty simple, but not at all easy.
Just Disconnect Sometimes
So it seems for me there’s a simple (but not easy) way to improve my creativity, productivity, and sleep in one fell swoop: disconnect.