In a digitally connected world, smart devices have blurred lines between work and play. For a small business owner with cell phones and laptops as constant companions, leaving an inbox unchecked sometimes feels akin to a sin. As hard as they may be to ignore, leaving these connected devices (and the endless chain of emails, notifications, and messages they enclose) out of sight and out of mind once-in-a-while can keep you sharp – personally, and professionally.
Here are six reasons why you and your business could benefit from daily unplugging.
- SLEEP : We learn at birth that sleep is a part of the daily routine. As cliché as it may seem to point out, many entrepreneurs don’t get enough of it or even make it a priority. You need sleep to perform at your best, so getting more of it reduces the risk of making silly mistakes that can have a lasting impact on your business (even grammatical and spelling errors in emails can damage your credibility). Your sleep needs to be uninterrupted and peaceful, something that can’t happen with your phone blinking and buzzing by your pillow.
- PRODUCTIVITY: A study by Jan Van Den Builk, a professor of communications science, says texting and emailing after lights out, even once or twice per week, dramatically increases daytime sleepiness. This means less productivity! As a small business owner, you just can’t afford low rates of productivity.
- CREATIVITY: Creativity is gold. While the Internet provides a wealth of inspiration, you need to take a break from the screen and observe the world around you to see how your product or service fits in real life. The best ideas come organically, so set aside the laptop for a few minutes (or hours or days) and come back to your task with a fresh outlook and attitude.
- PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: Some say entrepreneurship is a lonely road; but it doesn’t have to be. Your family and friends are your support system, and if you consistently show them respect they will be there for you when business is booming and when it’s not. Don’t always put work first. Set time aside for friends and family each day to show them you care and to keep your work-life balance in check. Keeping your phone and laptop stowed is a big gesture that keeps your focus where it should be (on the ones in the room with you, not on your competitor’s Twitter feed).
- COMMUNICATION – So much business communication is done via text, email, or shared digital dashboards (which is a key function of Intuit’s bookkeeping software),, but face-to-face and interpersonal communication skills are crucial for business owners to attract and retain customers, investment and other forms of support. If you sound great on paper, but can’t deliver face-to-face, you lose credibility as an individual and as a business owner. Instead of writing that email, pick up the phone and schedule a meeting. This can be much more effective and productive, and is good practice to keep you sharp for when it really counts.
- OVER-COMMUNICATION – Devices are notorious for giving people the feeling they SHOULD be doing something. From answering an email to crafting a tweet, anything to keep you feeling like you are one step ahead of the game. Important to remember, however, is that just because you can send a message, doesn’t mean you should. Pestering your customers, employees or peers with too many emails or notifications on social media is damaging. Your customers will stop paying attention to your content and your audience will shrink. Think, for example, of that one app on your phone that sends you notifications for every tiny update. You probably don’t appreciate it, and may have even deleted an app or two because of it. Avoid 24-hour attachment to your devices to avert over-communication. Set boundaries for your communications activities by shutting down at dinner-time and managing the amount of posts you schedule during business hours.
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