In August 2019, I went on a CEO retreat called Disconnect | Reconnect that was held by Steve August in the Columbia River Gorge in Portland, Oregon. Along with other CEOs, I took two days to completely disconnect from digital distractions and spend time in nature to expand my perspective and vision for my two companies.
With this expanded perspective, I spent an intensive two days reconnecting to my business to work on its most pressing problems.
It was simply incredible.
Although I found great value in the whole process and highly recommend it, some of the most important insights came from the simple act of disconnecting 100% from anything digital. We had no phone, radio, TV, computer, or Wi-Fi. It was simply a time to unplug from the world.
What I learned from this experience is that we are incredibly distracted in today’s always-on culture, and there is great power—both personally and professionally—that comes when you turn everything off and choose to be in the moment with those around you.
I left that retreat with a commitment to make disconnection a weekly priority. I wanted to bring that clarity, peace, and focus I found in the Columbia River Gorge back to my life back in Dallas, Texas. I arrived home on a Friday afternoon and told my wife, Melanie, that from now on, I was going to put away my cell phone every night after 8 pm. No emails or social media. It would just be the two of us getting to spend some quality time together with zero distractions.
I would love to tell you this new ritual has continued uninterrupted since my return, but the truth is that I failed miserably at this new commitment. By Wednesday, I was back to my old habits: checking social media during commercial breaks, writing emails after Melanie went to bed, and sneaking fantasy football sleeper picks for my upcoming draft whenever possible.
My commitment was still there, but my actions weren’t changing. As a behavioral scientist, I study this problem all time. I know willpower isn’t enough, and yet, here I was falling into the “willpower trap.” I needed an intervention to help me out when my willpower fades.
So, I analyzed my situation and used myself as a guinea pig to create a scientific nudge that would get me back on track when I went against my new desired behavior. In this article, I’ll share how I used mindstates to create that nudge and help sustain my digital detox.