66% of people read email seven days a week and expect to receive a response the same day.*
Ouch. I admit it, I’m one of them too, but I’m better than I used to be.
When I left the corporate world, I was so addicted to checking email that I was on my Hotmail account every hour. Usually, there was nothing new except junk mail for Cialis or a Rolex watch. But I kept checking regularly for two weeks. At that point I channeled my addiction into Mafia Wars from Zynga. Unplugging isn’t easy, and for me I was the only person I knew who was going cold turkey from an intense job.
The National Day of Unplugging offers a chance to unplug from email as part of a nationwide community of people. To participate, unplug sundown Friday March 23 to sundown Saturday March 24. The event runs sundown to sundown because it is inspired by the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown. When it comes to unplugging from work, sundown Friday is a perfect time to start.
The Sabbath is a day of rest. And rest means no work. In the ancient world, most people lived an agrarian existence, and work was physical labor in the fields or tending domestic animals. But for many people today, work is mental labor. And mental labor can and does follow us anywhere. It may only take ten minutes to check and respond to email, but the mental impact can last an hour or longer.
The National Day of Unplugging is the perfect chance to give the mind a rest. I find it much easier to try something new when I know a lot of other people are doing the same thing.
I see two related ways to unplug. The first is to unplug from everything to allow a time to contemplate life, reflect, and connect with people without the distractions of technology. While I support the general goals, I think unplugging completely may be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I use technology to connect with people. My parents live 3,000 miles away, and I regularly email or communicate on Facebook with my friends.
In my opinion, the more important issue is the separation between work and everything else. Hence, my invitation: Join me as I unplug from work Friday night to Saturday night. For me, that means no checking Google Analytics for blog traffic, no checking email and no answering comments until Sunday. That won’t be easy, because checking every day is a habit. But I will set my out of office message, so people used to hearing back from me will know that I am unavailable until Sunday.
Whether you unplug or not, please send me a sentence or two about your experience. I’ll compile them and write a post early next week. And don’t worry about me – if I go into withdrawal, I still have Castleville. In fact, come visit my kingdom and I’ll visit yours.