ABC News and Harris Interactive recently reported that the average number of e-mails that a typical user receives each day is fifty (50). Fifty. Fifty?! I get fifty messages each day before breakfast and I suspect that you’re probably nodding along here as well. The story continues to lament that “…only six percent of respondents (of their 2,000 person sample) could ‘handle’ more than fifty (50) e-mails each day.” I don’t have any additional psychological testing data to support their claim of six-percent as fact or fiction, however, what it does tell us is that an overwhelming majority of folks feel paralyzed when they’ve reached this threshold.
Let’s assume that the fifty e-mails mentioned here are work-related messages, i.e. vital to one’s employment and necessary to be effective in the job s/he was hired to do. What, then, do we make of the additional personal e-mails that one receives each day? (I get half dozen from Groupon and Living Social each morning alone…and then there’s LinkedIn.) What about text messages? You’ve heard of those. Instant messaging? Are you a social networker or a flat-out Facebook addict? Tweet much? How about quaint, old-fashioned phone calls and voice messages? (I hear that some phone calls are even placed and received by mobile phones these days!) Add it all up and you’re looking squarely at electronic information overload if not managed correctly. And now the predictable, nostalgic, old-guy lament: how did we function before all of this electronic noise? It’s often hard to even quantify how many electronic requests are made for your time and attention each and every day, but this we know: our brains are pretty impressive super computers, but they, too, reach a critical mass and need time to recharge.
And there it is – the action item, the call to duty, of this blog post: Find time – make time – to intentionally disconnect this summer. Physically unplug the laptop, the smart phone and the kindle. Turn down the noise, even if just for a little while, and take real time to decompress. Fill the space between your ears with the noises of your own choosing, of your own making. There will be an initial withdrawal period accompanying your electronic cold turkey commitment, perhaps even a sense of digital remorse. But the minutes will become hours and, if you’re lucky, the hours will morph into a few days of electronic abstinence. Enjoy it. Without question, your digital life will be waiting for you when you return.
Wishing you both success and perspective this summer!