This summer brought me an opportunity to experience the power of unplugging life’s digital information fire hose. I wasn’t trying to study the effects of unplugging like a group of neuroscientists recently did. Rather, I was helping my son and the other Boy Scouts in his troop earn some merit badges and enjoy a week of camping.
We didn’t camp extremely far from civilization, but we didn’t bring a television, DVD player, radio, iPod or video game. I had my cellphone, but the cell signal was weak and the phone had to stay off to ensure that I had enough battery power left in case an emergency arose.
Three significant things happened during this electronic-free week:
- We completed tasks
- We communicated
- We had fun!
Without the electronic distractions, my son had the time to complete a rank advancement, the environmental science merit badge and the archery merit badge. I also had the time to help him with the work and encourage him through the tough parts.
We walked almost everywhere during that week. Walking is a great time to chat with people and get to know them better. My son and I had time to talk about matters great and small, he got to know his fellow scouts better and I got to know the adult leaders better.
Finally, we all had a lot of fun! There was plenty of time to enjoy the summer weather, do some fishing, canoeing, or just watch the sun set.
When we returned, I was actually reluctant to turn everything back on. It took me a day to fire up the email and many days to open up Google Reader to see what had queued up in my RSS feeds. Eventually, I was back up to speed with my digital life, but I had a new appreciation of the power of turning the digital distractions off.
The next time you have an important task to finish, try turning off the distractions. Shut down your email client, instant message client, web browser and cell phone for a few hours. Then, focus on the task at hand. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish!