As I write this, I’m flying. I connected to Wi-Fi as soon as I could, on my laptop and my phone. It’s 5:45am and I’m signed on to IM, just in case someone needs to get in touch with me. Good grief – I am not that important and things can wait, but the allure of staying on top of things, of being available immediately, is very hard for me to resist.

On my phone the news is playing. I have a list of tasks open. My goal: mark several off the list during a three-hour and change flight to Phoenix. I know that having an up-to-date task list helps me relax and not focus on work. Structure and organization, for me, yield space for creativity and flexibility. One of my tasks reminded me to write this blog. I exhaled as I read it, thinking, what on earth can I write about? What’s current? How about the importance of prioritizing downtime and intentional disconnection since that’s why I’m in the air?

Today I am heading to Phoenix from where I will drive with my husband and two friends to hike down and then camp for two nights in the Grand Canyon. I am craving the experience – the dusty trail and exquisite colors, the taste of food and water when I’m really hungry. For me, there is electric intimidation associated with something new – I’ve never camped in the Canyon. We will be carrying all our supplies, from tents and sleeping bags to water and all our food. I trained for several months so that I was ready to carry a 35 lb. pack. While training I often thought about business – what is the equivalent of learning to carry a heavy pack? How can I communicate the importance of personal development plans that can seem daunting at first, but over time, add to our skill set and make us stronger? Business musings helped me get through the long hikes and the long hikes helped me at work as I thought about how nice it was to be in a comfortable chair working on strategy instead of trudging up a steep hill, bent over from the weight of my loaded backpack.

I’m taking this trip to spend some time not working my task list or going from meeting to meeting – things I enjoy but know I need to leave behind to be balanced and fresh.

When I was a teenager, I flew to Europe as an exchange student. I remember bringing the book, Peter the Great, with me and for the 8-9 hour flight, I read. There was no movie option, no Wi-Fi. I don’t remember the last time I read for more than a few minutes. Now I “read” via Audible. Unless I am asleep, I am listening or watching a screen for most of the day. I wonder what impact – good, bad or otherwise – this is having on my neural synapses, my eyes and ears.

What I’ve noticed is, when I’m in nature and not in contact with a device, I experience a gentle calmness that feels good: it’s a light energy of which I need more. I notice little things like a spider’s web in my peripheral vision or the feeling of rain on my skin. I hear my breath.

So, as I fly and work my task list, and listen to the news and write this blog, I am making a pledge to myself to be more aware of the amount of time I’m connected vs. dis- HA! I see the conflict – adding ‘Disconnect’ to my list of things to do instead of just disconnecting. Perhaps there’s more of an art to disconnecting without over-planning the experience. I added that note to my task: think about how not to overthink being intentional about disconnecting and added a color code to it that indicates that task is a part of my personal development plan – sigh.

– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO