Do you feel like the world is coming at you from all directions? Your phone is ringing, the Internet provides an endless stream of interruptions, the TV is flooded with advertising, not to mention the task list of stuff you never seem to get to.
For a while I felt the same way, until I discovered the power of disconnecting. Some people call it a “digital sabbatical,” some call it an Internet time-out. No matter the name, disconnecting means limiting or eliminating some or all of the following:
- Access to the Internet
- Computer use
- Cell phone use
- iPads, iPhones, iWhatevers
The purpose of this isn’t some kind of self-inflicted punishment. It’s a purposeful way to say “no” to interruptions and time-wasters that can be present on these devices and “yes” to more important things. Leo Babauta’s Focus eBook (there’s a completely free version which I highly recommend) was a great source of inspiration on this topic.
The best way to understand the power of the disconnect is to experience it for yourself, since the benefits will be different for everyone based on their level of connection addiction, family life, work life, etc. For me, it provides an incredible opportunity for focused work and spontaneous activity with my family, which is why I’ve recently tried to do it almost every weekend and often during large chunks of the week.
I’ve discovered that disconnecting has brought some financial benefits as well. I consider these unintended consequences, but in fact, they are a natural result of powering off the grid and powering on your focus.
- Less opportunity to buy things online. With only a limited time to work online, I no longer browse stores just to see the latest tech or what’s on sale this week.
- More hands-on time with physical things. I tend to clean when I’m bored or have free time, so it’s a natural habit for me to find things that need fixing when I’m off the grid. This “maintenance” habit spots a lot of problems early and prevents them from spiraling into huge issues. Last week, for example, I noticed a small leak under our bathroom sink while cleaning something I’d never get to if I was “busy” all the time.
- More time to look at the big picture. Without an opportunity to dive into the details, this self-imposed technology fast forces you to consider more global things–what a great time to think about your career, your retirement, future kids, or talk with your spouse about important money topics.
- Cooling off my addiction to tech gadgets. While I can’t buy things online, I also can’t follow the latest tech, like the most recent iThing or the latest camera or GPS unit. My need to stay constantly updated with these things has dropped dramatically.
- More time with family. That has a wide range of consequences–I tend to spend less out of guilt (a huge problem for many parents), I’m more aware of problems with my kids (or even my dog) earlier, and I come up with activities for all of us to do that cost a lot less!
- It’s easier to be frugal. Making the leap from disconnecting to frugality is not a far stretch, since both represent a strong break with the status quo and a certain level of self-control. If you can achieve one, you’ve got a head start on the other.
- I focus on learning. Learning about anything, but also about money–through books and other reading, through visualization and thinking through scenarios, and through observation.
Your results may vary, but that’s what disconnecting from the grid brings does for me. It’s an important tool for keeping a healthy amount of balance in my life and making sure I don’t spend the entire day in front of my computer.
Have you ever done this kind of sabbatical? What was your experience? Did you find yourself refreshed and more able to tackle problems? What was the effect on your finances?