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Save Your Sanity: Have a Communications Blackout Day

Save Your Sanity: Have a Communications Blackout Day
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    Technology is great, but there can be too much of a good thing. E-mail results in faster communication, but it also leaves overflowing inboxes, spam attacks and the need for lengthy messages. RSS, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and instant messaging programs can also be great, if the 24/7 uninterrupted stream of information doesn’t drive you crazy first.

    My suggestion is that for one day each month, have a communications blackout. Unplug your internet and let e-mails pile up for one day. The cost of being unconnected for twenty-four hours is small compared to the quiet it can bring to an already noisy life. One day a week would be even better, but the Firefox withdrawal symptoms might kill you first.

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    Why Unplug?

    You probably like being connected. You feel the Amish and Luddites don’t know what they’re missing. If you enjoy feeling plugged in, why go to all the effort to cut the cords for just one day?

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    I think there are a number of benefits for going offline, but the biggest one is to get perspective. If your Crackberry is sewn to your hip, you might not regularly experience what it’s like to be without interruptions for an entire day. Unless you experience the benefits of an occasional unplug, you won’t know the costs that continuous contact has.

    Here are some benefits I’ve found to doing a regular communications blackout:

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    1. Freed Mental Processing Power – If you’re one of those people that answer e-mails and phone calls as soon as you get them (no matter what you’re doing) the first big boost you’ll probably notice is increased room to think. Tim Ferriss in the 4-Hour Workweek points to a study that showed participants mental ability was slowed more from a Blackberry than marijuana use.
    2. Extra Time in the Day – If you’re constantly connected, you probably don’t notice the slow drip, drip, drip of time wasted each day. When I started batching my routine web usage to once per day I saved over an hour of time even though I answered the exact same volume of e-mails.
    3. Peaceful Solitude – Can you read a book when dozens of people around you are deep in a conversation? Why do you think you can focus on your physical surroundings when dozens of messages are pouncing at you throughout the day. Unplugging can give a dose of mental relaxation that’s easy to miss in a digital life.

    How to Set up a Communications Blackout Day

    Going offline for one day isn’t difficult, but if you’re worried the lack of contact could hurt you, here are some of my suggestions for setting up and following through with your day in the real world:

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    1. Unplug Your Cables. Disconnect your television cable and internet modem so you won’t feel the temptation to fill a few minutes of boredom with random noise. Keeping your computer unplugged is the next step, but staying disconnected is still a good start.
    2. Stop Carrying the Cell Phone. Being completely disconnected and turning off the phone services too might be the next level. But if you can’t take such a drastic step, at least place your cell phone in one location. By effectively converting your cell to a landline, you remove the need to constantly answer texts and calls if you’re busy.
    3. Plan a Hike. Do something outside or with nature for the day. If you’re planning on taking a temporary step backwards in technology, you might as well go for the full experience. Find some outside adventure you’ve always wanted to take on but haven’t had the time to try yet.
    4. Talk to Real People. Meet face-to-face. Have actual conversations instead of broken messages of text without proper punctuation.
    5. Empty Your Inbox First. Before you go offline, empty all your inboxes. This way the longest a message has to stew is only twenty-four hours.
    6. Read Books. You know, the ones made out of paper? I love getting my daily dose of bloggage from the world wide web, but there’s benefits to using more basic technology. Go to your public library to save the costs of a bookstore.
    7. Spend Time Thinking. Do you not have enough time to think? Carve out a bit of your day to write down your thoughts and go through those deeper issues that get missed when multitasking.
    8. Turn Off the Television. While television doesn’t give you instant access to your friends and coworkers, it belongs in the same category of other networking tools. Television takes the constant networking idea one step further, except instead of communicating to your friends, television connects you with celebrities, strangers and imaginary people who can’t even respond back to you.
    9. Do Real Work. Spend a few hours making headway on those big projects that get tossed aside normally. I unplugged for over a week last month and doing so helped me finish writing my book.
    10. Entertain Yourself. The constant stream of information can weaken your ability to entertain yourself. I’m sure you can remember building forts and playing make-believe as a kid. While I don’t suggest you start stacking up the couch cushions into a castle, being unconnected can help you recapture the art of entertaining yourself.

    Tech is Good

    I’d like to finish by saying that technology and interconnectedness is a good thing. There are side-effects that you should recognize and occasional unplugging is smart. But as a whole technology can enrich life, provided you maintain the sanity to use it.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

    How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Right Now 15 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Learning for a Sharper Brain 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick 18 Tips for Killer Presentations 7 Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

    What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

    When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

    Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

    It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

    While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

    Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

    What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

    How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

    It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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    People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

    “A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

    In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

    Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

    As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

    When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

    It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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    What are Interpersonal Skills?

    Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

    In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

    From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

    For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

    Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

    How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

    There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

    There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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    Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

    I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

    Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

    “That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

    Don’t overlook introspection.

    While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

    Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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    When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

    Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

    “Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

    The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

    The Bottom Line

    You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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