A quest to tame technology-driven interruptions and distractions in my daily life.

Archive for August, 2013

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and five year old pushed off for a good-old-fashioned, week-long, family road trip vacation. True to form, I didn’t check work email and generally checked out. Here are the top five things I learned on my summer vacation.


5. A road atlas gets you there quicker. There being on vacation—not in the destination sense but in the sense of the journey. With a web browser or smartphone app, we tend to get caught up on the quickest route to the destination and where we are right now, but with a paper map or atlas, it’s much more a matter or trusting the journey and letting go.

4. It’s hard to get away. Even though I delegated projects and gave others full authority to run the business while I was out, I only had 1 weekday where I didn’t get a work call or got text requests from my team. They knew I was off of email, but perhaps the temptation to just check with me on this or that was too great. Next time, I’m picking a place with absolutely no cell reception.

3. There’s no rush except the one we create. I generally spend my days in a hurry. I try to take it easy at home, but once I leave for the day, its all go go go. But when you’re putting across the country with a five year old, there’s only so fast you can go. Bathroom breaks, silly stops, wrong turns… it was an excellent reminder to enjoy the ride and to not pack so much in.

2. Be where you are. Similar to #3, without things to do and places to be, I re-learned how to just be wherever I was: IHOP. On a farm road in the panhandle. Wandering around Denver. Another IHOP. Certainly, not being online or at my computer helped me remember what it’s like to not be expected somewhere… and that’s part of the point of a vacation. Which leads me to…

1. You can’t get perspective if you’re 2 feet from a screen. And I need that kind of perspective a lot more than once a year. Although I realize a vacation is a commonly heralded ritual, it’d been a few years since we took one. I had forgotten a lot about myself and the world. And what I hadn’t forgotten, I’d exaggerated or willfully ignored. In other words, I haven’t been myself. I’ve been living to work. Even limited, the screens come between the me I see and the me I am at rest.

All in all, I got really relaxed and remembered what’s what. Next time I won’t wait so long.


Less is more

I am not is a state of Zen. Nor am I in a place of optimal productivity. But I’ve found a modicum of balance—and as a business owner with a wife and young kid… that seems like a big deal to me. When I started on this quest just under three years ago, technology wasn’t working for me. I was worn down and distracted and unable to escape the beeping and buzzing that defined my waking hours.

Cut to present day. I’m still far from what I would consider a model business owner. Or husband. Or dad. Or technology user. But I’m a lot closer to all of those things, and I feel pretty certain that The Off Switch has helped. A lot. And things are much better—and not just in a less distracted way. Marriage, fatherhood, business… all going very well.

Business has been perhaps the biggest surprise. Going in, I kinda thought that it would be the thing that might suffer by me shutting down at 6 and de-teching big parts of my day. It may well be a coincidence, but our best three years have coincided with my three years of The Off Switch. Hmmm.

So this brings me to my latest technology contemplation. We’re restricting things at the office, and I’m about to find myself in a smaller space, perhaps sharing with one more person. It’s a cozy little spot and when I think about working in there, I don’t imagine a desk at all. Instead, I envision a chair and a laptop. Maybe a shelf. That’s it.

Right now, my computing solution consists of an old iPhone with voice and text only, an iPad mini for meetings and leisure, and a Mac Mini at a standing desk in an office I share. The phone and tablet are serving my needs just fine, but the whole desk/computer situation feel… unnecessary. What I like about it is that it is just a workstation that stays at the office and serves a function with no ability to work on it elsewhere. What I don’t like about it is a) the desk is a place to accumulate paper and dirty coffee cups, b) the computer is a little pokey, and c) the whole posture of hunching over a keyboard and mouse feel feels really wrong.


As usual, whether anybody is reading this or not, I’m using this blog to sort out my options. On one hand, I can just ditch the desk and put the Mac Mini on a shallow shelf or wall-mount set up and position it so I can sit however I please. That’s very inexpensive and there’s no temptation to try to take the computer home or out and about.

Which brings me to the other hand. I’ve been wondering about having my workspace be just a chair or two and a laptop with a side table or something to put a coffee on. Something like a little chatting nook. Of course, I would have to invest in a laptop (a refurb MacBook Air would run me $750) but that not a huge deal. The more troubling aspect of that plan is the ability to take the laptop away from the office—something I willfully gave up three years ago.

I can’t deny that being able to get a little work done on off hours would be really handy. The iPad can accomplish some basic tasks but has its limits—which I mostly enjoy. But to really get down and dirty on some tasks, I need a full computer. What I’m contemplating is: when it comes to the balance of tech… is less more?

What do you think?