What’s the price you pay for connectivity? Or “convenience” or “productivity”? That’s a question I ask myself all the time. It can’t be nothing, right? If we’re walking around, sitting around, standing around, driving around glancing at our phones… then we’re most certainly missing something else. We can choose to do it, and we can deny that there’s a sacrifice, but we can’t escape the reality of what we pay for it.
I started a company with my wife a little over 7 years ago. Yesterday, I was telling an old friend that running your own business is much like having a kid. It’s exhausting, rewarding, relentless, and the hard part takes way way longer than you expect. All to say, it’s a lot of work. One of the main reasons I started this whole experiment was that I found myself working in every waking moment—because there was work to do. Laptops, iPads, and persistently connected smartphones mean we can work surreptitiously all the live long day.
I’ve got this theory. The reason life goes by so quickly for so many is that we put off living—really being fully in the moment—until we get off work, until the weekend, until vacation, and until retirement. So the bulk of our life is willed away. I feel the similarly about too much time on email and social media. It corrodes my personal time that I need to restore, connect with my family, and to refuel with other stimulation and ideas.
For the past 6 months or so, our company has experienced a lot of growth. More clients, bigger projects, added staff, and higher stakes. With that growth comes an inclination to bend and break my rules. I’ve been contemplating getting a laptop again and even a data-enabled smartphone. I’ve had work trips and tons of proposals to prepare… and have found myself feeling like I’m playing catch up. Sometimes, I think about the amount of work I could get done if I just teched up.
But then I think back to the pre-Off Switch me: distracted, grumpy, jumpy, and generally depleted. Then I realize that whatever amount of productivity or growth I might make possible would be not worth it. The price I’d pay would be too steep.
To some extent, we all operate in the context of a framework within which we can orient to and make sense of our world. For some people, it is religion or technology or exercise or drugs. We often need these boundaries to stay on task or to feel sane. For me, my habitual limits are vegetarianism, no drugs, Mac usage, and The Off Switch. Placing these limitations on myself keep me honest and help me live a life that feels true and the fortitude of denial also gives me a sense of identity.
It’s silly, I know. But it’s me.