We Unplugged for a Weekend + This is What Happened

Around these parts, we like to say that Community Management is a “lifestyle job”.  By that, we mean that while it is inherently modern, creative, and often perceived as glamorous, it roams beyond the confines of a traditional 9 to 5.  Your work never stops. You spend a lot of your time between work and home in a silo, staring at a screen. If you aren’t careful to build boundaries, you’ll quickly fall victim to burnout.  

Luckily, we’ve got a team for that.

Community Team has formed in the past year partly due to our growth as an organization, but also due to a need to take time out of our silent, screen-y weeks to intentionally connect with one another. We share inspiration, ask good questions, laugh, send gifs, and lift each other up when we need it. This has proved incredibly valuable.

This year, we set team goals to better ourselves as both Community Managers and humans:

To continue to strive to better our metrics reporting and delivery.
To each attend a conference and share knowledge gained with the team.
To each unplug one weekend a quarter for a bit more balance and insight.

The benefit of unplugging is to bring a little zen back into the lives of our CMs, who tend to be tied to their communities (and thus, their devices) on nights and weekends. We paired off and agreed to cover one another over one weekend per quarter. The “unplugger” can choose to simply disconnect from work or take the plunge into a full technology dump: no phone, no tv, no laptop. After the unplug, we put our reflections in writing and share with the team, which brings us to this blog post. Our most recent unpluggers, Laura Garvin, Alison Sellers and Moe Rice, share their insights below: 

Were you looking forward to this unplug or dreading it?

AS: I was 100% looking forward to unplugging. My weekend to get away couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, either. Lately, I have been working quite a bit on the weekend for events, so I was a bit desperate for a little break from social media. To make a weekend sans phone and computer even greater, I also happened to be staying in the most quaint and relaxing tiny house on a farm near Nashville for a family wedding. My plan was to rest and get out in nature as much as I could.

When’s the last time you unplugged from technology?

MR: Towers (my husband) and I had a tradition going for a while of “No Screen Thursdays.” After work, we’d forgo phones and television for games, dinner, and conversation. That has fallen to the wayside, but taking this time has reminded me that it needs to happen again. We also do our best to not look at our phones in the 30-60 minutes before bed. Sometimes we fail, but it has become a habit of sorts. I’ve found that having a good book and a lengthy dental routine will help bolster that practice.

Did it make you calmer or more anxious to unplug?

LG: Calmer. I will say, I felt nervous right before I unplugged, but turns out the world does keep spinning just fine without me. So that’s great. It was the most freeing. I had permission to just be. I didn’t have to keep up with all the virtual conversations going on outside of the ones I was physically present with. I wasn’t wondering or worrying or comparing to what others were doing that weekend, or what I “should” be doing. I had permission to be fully present and enjoy where I was and who I was with. It felt really healthy. The only “anxiety” I experienced was the anticipation of turning my phone back ON and having to catch up on everything. But at the same time, I did feel recharged, rested and ready to take on the week!

How was your creativity heightened or lessened this weekend?

MR: It’s taken me quite some time (about four years, to be exact) to figure out how to best ride my weekly workflow to lessen the need to work on the weekend, but I think I’ve got it now. It is rare that I am SUPER screeny on Saturdays and Sundays, and I think I can attribute that to investing in my creative hobbies: painting and gardening. It’s really difficult to screen when you have 300 holes to dig for bulbs. Know what I’m saying? Work begins to get cornered into work, and then the rest of life into the weekends. That’s where my creativity thrives, and I always come back in feeling at least some mild sense of accomplishment. On this weekend specifically, I painted my ceiling yellow and made a great big salad for a dinner party. Creativity FTW.

What did you do this weekend when you would normally be working?

LG: I read a whole lot more – like in actual books rather than just scrolling on a screen. I had time to create, just for the fun of it. I was able to be fully present with the people around me. And I spent a lot of time outside. Really, I did whatever I wanted to do, without the guilt of what I “should” be doing.

What did you learn about yourself from unplugging this weekend?

AS: I remember driving home on Sunday, thinking, “I’m excited for work tomorrow.” I felt a real reset during my unplug that caused be to be more prepared for whatever Monday would throw at me. Unplugging every weekend would be a dream, but alas, community never sleeps.

LG: Sadly, I don’t think I realized how much I am partially engaged in the present – “multitasking” with conversations going on in person and on my phone. And I was surprised to see how much I reach for my phone out of habit!

MR: At the risk of sounding braggadocious, I learned that I’ve somehow, miraculously, already incorporated this practice into my life in small doses. I was very anxious the day before, anticipating feelings of jonesing and extreme FOMO, but when the day came, it just felt normal. I may even go as far to say that it was anticlimactic in that sense … but I really don’t think that’s a bad thing. It just means that I’ve already hit screen bottom and I’ve put the boundaries in place on the weekends to keep me sane during the week. It ALL comes down to boundaries, doesn’t it?

Why do you think it’s important to unplug every once and awhile?

AS: I think it’s important for sanity’s sake. We weren’t created as human beings to be hyper-connected to each other all the time, and technology and social media has been proven to heighten anxiety. My absolutely favorite thing about unplugging is that it causes me to be more present with the humans in my life, which in turn, leads to more intentionality.

LG: It’s easy to get consumed in all the noise of our culture. We’re overstimulated all the time and it seems that the hustle never stops. I think it’s helpful to take a step back every now and then to reset. I think it’s important to practice being present. I think it’s important to rest. Not only to avoid burnout, but also I think stepping back creates healthy headspace that replenishes creativity and passion.


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