You’ve probably read and heard that “unplugging” for a few hours a day may be the key to maintaining your sanity and achieving success. The experts recommend everyone try it and say the benefits are big. But one CEO says powering down and disconnecting isn’t always an option.
She doesn’t disagree that unplugging can do wonders — but she says doing it every day, for a few hours at a time, isn’t realistic for everyone.
“I think there is a lot of discussion involving one extreme or the other, but it’s really all about balance and figuring out what works for you,” says Jess Levin Conroy, the founder and chief executive of Carats & Cake, an online wedding resource that features curated content and information about vendors.
“Realistically there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether we should unplug, and depending on what you do for a living and what your priorities are, there is going to be a unique blend of unplugging and plugging in that works and this will most likely be a constant state of flux.”
For instance, unplugging and entrepreneurship might be mutually exclusive, she says, especially in the early years. “When you are building something you really believe in, unplugging doesn’t cross your mind because it doesn’t feel like work and you can’t really turn off. You are also always conscious of your investors — including those who have allocated money and those who have spent time and emotion supporting you — and taking a break in some ways seems almost disrespectful of their investment.”
We asked the startup founder whether she unplugs. Her response: “The truth? No, not really.”
When she first started Carats & Cake, she says she never unplugged. “I was constantly on and that was the right balance (or rather imbalance) for me in the beginning — and I worked that way for the first few years.
“While you are building a company, there are constant ups and downs and there is always something you can be thinking about. So even if I was taking a break from emails I would be researching or reading articles. I almost felt guilty not doing something for the company that moved the ball forward every moment of every day and truthfully, in some ways I still do.”
In the beginning, Levin Conroy says she thought unplugging would mean something would fall through the cracks. “But then one of our advisors pulled me aside and explained the importance of perspective and explained to me that if you’re constantly in the weeds, you can’t see the bigger picture.”
“I have learned that if I am able to spend a few hours a weekend refreshing, some of the best ideas come to me, because I am able to get a little perspective. So recently I have had the luxury — mostly because of the team we have built — to exercise my version of unplugging from time to time. I try to do this on Saturdays for a few hours. I spend that time outside.”
Her personal definition of unplugging, she says, is not looking at social media or responding to emails (unless there is something urgent). It doesn’t mean putting the phone or laptop away completely. “This works for me right now. Some weekends I unplug more than others. It just depends on that particular moment and the state of imbalance I am in.”
She says she thinks it’s easy for people to hear about the “importance of unplugging” and think that’s what they should be doing, “when realistically only you can figure out what works for you,” she explains. “So if you need to unplug, whatever unplugging means to you, then do so on your own terms.”