I’ve been working with a CEO of a startup for some months now, and in recent sessions, he’s been displaying signs of burnout. Having completed a round of funding, he took himself and his partner off to the Scottish highlands. He came back more relaxed, and delighted at what was a forced – if unintended – disconnect from his world. There was no signal where he was so he couldn’t check email. During the enforced seclusion from the world, he’d been able to be present with the women he loved, and to reconnect with what mattered to him.
Digital detox has become a hot topic with many touting the benefits. I include myself in that camp. I see the impact of digital overload all the time in people and teams I coach. Yet there are also voices (see the Guardian) making the case to be switched on and embrace the digital culture.
I stumbled upon a wonderful quote from Nikola Tesla on the benefits of disconnection. This quote gets at the nuance of why disconnecting matters to me.
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: Be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
Being alone – that is when ideas are born!
One of my favorite books of this year is Deep Work by Cal Newport. He is a professor at Georgetown University in the US, and a prolific publisher. He argues that as knowledge workers we need to develop our ability for deep work. To fail in this means to smooth the way for the robots to take our jobs. He really means all our jobs.
Many of us are are all roles that require time to think deeply. This is not a nostalgic notion. We need to create and nurture spaces where ideas are born. Seclusion – read disconnect for us digital natives – is a way of creating this space for the magic of metacognition.
With that thought, I am off to walk the dog without my mobile phone.
If you would like to receive my almost monthly newsletter with similar musings, subscribe here. I help leaders and teams get more effective. Drop me a line if you’d like to know more.