Every Entrepreneur Needs a "Digital Sabbath"

Out of balance?

Recently, I interviewed entrepreneur and author, Nir Eyal for my Ruthless Compassion podcast. He talked about how technology is an absolute necessity but that like anything else we find helpful and enjoyable, we can find ourselves out of balance when using it.

We don’t even realize how many hours a day we spend, hooked up to our technology. Whether it’s looking at our phones, working on the computer or listening to music or podcasts, we’re almost never tech-free. I’m constantly seeing couples out on a date, both of whom are spending most of their time looking at their phones.

For entrepreneurs it’s especially difficult, because technology is the medium to grow and maintain our businesses. I know that I’m using so much more technology to run my Ruthless Compassion Institute than I ever would have imagined in the past.

However, when we get too caught up in technology we can lose sight of the human factor. We can get sucked down the rabbit hole of work and forget that we have friends, a family, and loved ones who care about us and who need our time and energy. When we’re out of balance with our technology, our personal relationships can suffer.

The "Digital Sabbath"

I interviewed journalist David Sax a while back for my podcast on the joys of analogue. He proposed a solution to our problem with technology, suggesting that we take a “digital Sabbath;” one day a week that we can spend reconnecting with our family and our friends. We can pull our eyes away from the seductive glow of our screens and focus instead on the faces of our loved ones.

Every year in mid-February, we enjoy Family Day in Ontario and ideally, it’s a day dedicated to spending time with the people we care about. Unfortunately, I know of many people who’ll be spending the day at their keyboards, catching up on work.

It’s especially hard for working parents who are entrepreneurs. For them, every day is a potential work day. I’ve certainly discovered that since I started working from home, I don’t have any set days off. I could work most days of the week; even when I’m on vacation.

Entrepreneurs and work-life balance

And unfortunately, when people know that I’m an entrepreneur, they don’t tend to respect the typical nine-to-five schedule that so many working people observe. I get texts, emails and phone calls at all times of the day and night and often on the weekends. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this.

I’m certainly not complaining because like most entrepreneurs, I love what I do and it doesn’t really feel like work, most of the time. In fact, I’m partly to blame, because I choose to respond to many of those calls and texts and emails, even when they come in at 11:30 at night.

For an entrepreneur with a young family it can be especially difficult to balance work-life and family life. How do you know if the next 11:30 pm text will turn out to be your big break? Still, if you never turn away from your technology, your family might start turning away from you. In my podcast, Nir Eyal described how he experienced a crisis in his marriage brought on by being overly distracted by his work.

He was able to avert the crisis by choosing to carve out more family time and turn off his technology, one day every week. I think that he’s on to something.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that even with the best of intentions, not to mention looming deadlines, I’ve needed to take at least one day off work each week.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it’s because my intuition knows something that my head hasn’t yet caught on to. Either way, I’ve been taking my “digital Sabbath” to rest, recharge, and reconnect with loved ones. I highly recommend it.

Family Day vs. Business as Usual

If you live in Ontario, you might want to think about how you spent your Family Day this year. Did you take time to be with your loved ones, or was it “business as usual?” Was your spouse outside tobogganing with the kids while you were indoors, staring at a screen? Maybe it’s time to take David Sax’s suggestion of a digital Sabbath more seriously.

It’s great to be ambitious and to work at becoming more successful, but at what expense? For Nir Eyal, it was almost at the expense of losing his family. For many of us entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get sucked into our technology and keep on working until the consequences start piling up.

Observing the Sabbath?

Many religious people have observed the Sabbath for thousands of years, but as people have become more secular, the idea of one day of rest has fallen to the wayside. Whether or not you’re religious, you can still observe the Sabbath. You can have a digital Sabbath.

Whatever you did this year on Family Day, consider the option of making one day a week your own Family Day moving forward. Unplug your technology and connect with the people you love. Your business will most likely benefit from your relaxed and refreshed mind, and the return-on-investment in terms of a happy, connected family will be priceless.

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