The "all of a sudden everywhere because of his new book" Gary Shteyngart had a superb essay in the NYTimes book review recently, "Only Disconnect." In it, he struggles, beautifully, to reconcile the competing desires to be engaged in the technological world and to be an unencumbered, thoughtful observer of it: "With each post, each tap of the screen, each drag and click, I am becoming a different person — solitary where I was once gregarious; a content provider where I at least once imagined myself an artist; nervous and constantly updated where I once knew the world through sleepy, half-shut eyes; detail-oriented and productive where I once saw life float by like a gorgeously made documentary film."
This dilemma is nothing new, of course. From the minute the first listserv went live, we've been trying to sort out how to balance our online lives with our "real" lives—work, families, and the occasional indulgence of watching Mad Men.
And if, like is increasingly the case, your work is online, it gets even trickier.
You have to be connected because that's how your business stays busy—and relevant. And connecting with people who are in your "tribe", is essential to learning, growing, evolving.
But I believe there has to be space for ideas to emerge (and enough space for both good and bad ideas to emerge because you have to have both to get anywhere good).
And I also believe there has to be some psychic breathing room so the good ideas can take root. An always-connected mind is like hard, clay soil: you can scatter seeds all day long, but they won't grow.
I'm still trying to figure out the balance. I've tried social media guru Gwen Bell's "only check email twice a day" system (though I turned it into a 3-times-a-day system, and that only worked for a while); I haven't been nearly brave enough to try a Digital Sabbatical, but maybe someday.
What have you tried?