Near the start of a recent peer advisory board meeting, the CEO to my right was noticeably jittery. I asked him if everything was OK, and he explained that he had decided to leave his cell phone in the car for the morning. He believed it would be a good idea to get away from it for several hours to devote his full attention to the meeting, but he was definitely showing some physical signs of withdrawal.
At a different board meeting later that same week, the subject of constant connection came up, and we discussed the benefits and drawbacks of this technological “blessing”. It occurred to me that anyone leading a business ought to experiment with periodic disconnection. Here’s why and how.
First the why. A common shortcoming of small businesses is that employees are so busy operating the business and reacting to daily challenges that they really struggle to initiate and complete any project. By project I mean those coordinated efforts that require some degree of planning; that result in fixing an existing system; that take advantage of a clear opportunity; or that point the direction and actually move the business forward. No time for these, and yet they are what will ultimately determine the survival of the business.
Now the how. Establish a regular electronic communication blackout. For example, once a week for two hours, routinely forbid the use of any email, text, Twitter, or other instant communications. Before you explain that this would be impractical or even impossible for your employees, try it yourself. Set aside two hours each week where you are in communication blackout mode for the purpose of thinking, planning, creating, resolving, or concluding.
After you try it, let me know what impact it has on your own productivity, and whether you’ve decided to impose the blackout on any employees.