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Opinion: Can 'digital detoxing' help tech companies to grow?

The number of emails, Skype calls, Basecamp updates, Facebook notifications can be never-ending and more importantly – very time consuming.

Elaine Heney

PEOPLE ARE SPENDING more time than ever connected to their digital devices. In the United States, the average person now spends 7.4 hours every day looking at TV, laptop, mobile phone and tablet screens. An app called ‘Moment’ recently launched, and it’s designed to help you track (and hopefully reduce) the time you spend staring glassy-eyed at your phone.

Technology can become an unhealthy distraction. But it’s also causing problems for people who are working in the technology industry, who by definition spend long hours at their laptop and mobile devices.

I am one example. While running my app company in Tipperary I found I was spending a huge amount of time online. I was regularly working on laptops, tablets and multiple mobile devices. Like many who work with technology, my life was becoming a constant barrage of incessant, time-consuming digital chatter. The number of emails, Skype calls, Basecamp updates, Facebook notifications and social media updates was never-ending and more importantly – very time consuming.

The incessant electronic ‘pings’ were mainly related to small daily tasks and conversations, but I found that it was becoming more difficult to detach myself from the constant inflow of messages and emails. Spending time without technology, and concentrating on planning the future for my business in six, 12 or 24 months’ time was becoming more rare. In short, I was spending most of my time working in my business instead of working on my business.

Digital Detoxing

This concept of disconnecting yourself from technology for a period of time, known as ‘digital detoxing’, has started to gain traction throughout the US and further afield.

According to the Huffington Post, “Turning off your phone, stowing your laptop and swearing off work emails during a trip can lead to increased concentration, better posture and lower stress once you’re back at the desk.”

Health professionals are promoting tech-free vacations as part of a healthy lifestyle. Digital detoxing can have tangible benefits including reducing stress, improving concentration, creativity, sleep quality, focus, health, mental clarity and acuity.

So, it’s no wonder that successful business people like Arianna Huffington, Piers Morgan and Facebook Executive Nicola Mendelsohn are all enthusiastic followers. Many coffee shops in San Francisco, and elsewhere in the US, have even turned off their wi-fi to reclaim their spaces for face-to-face conversations.

Workaway Camps

Many new tech companies being founded globally, with near daily updates of new start-ups being admitted into incubators and new venture funds being announced. In tandem with this, over the last few years bootstrapped entrepreneurs from all over the world have quit their jobs to start online businesses in books, apps and education. From both of these business groups a new phenomenon has evolved – the ‘workaway’ camp.

These global meetups, which can run from between a few days to a month in locations such as Gran Canara, Barcelona, Turkey, Morocco and Bali, offer tech founders and entrepreneurs the opportunity for networking and growing their business – while often also escaping from the winter in northern Europe and the US for a short period of time. Most business owners will agree that networking with successful entrepreneurs, founders and business owners from multiple countries can reap major business benefits. These camps offer a place to find like-minded people.

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In order to grow my own business network, I travelled one of these camps, and discovered the major benefits of networking with inspiring and successful entrepreneurs. Getting international perspectives, creating meaningful relationships and swapping stories of business strategies and successes are very powerful ways to grow a business.

Detox & Grow Your Business

During my stay, I discovered something interesting: the greatest business insights and breakthroughs occurred when people disconnected from their digital devices and connected more deeply with the people nearby.

Even when people are miles away from home they will still, by habit, work on their laptop and constantly check emails and social media on their mobiles. But (usually nearer the end of the camps) when people were more relaxed, they tended to turn off their laptops and devices and spent more time talking to other people – sharing war stories, advice and getting help from others. It was only when people disconnected from technology that the real value of these networking events was truly realised.

Elaine Heney has set up Ireland’s first ‘digital detox’ business accelerator; a weekend is for Irish and international tech founders and entrepreneurs who need to turn off the technology and focus on growing and expanding their businesses. The Digital Detox Work Weekend will be held in Ireland in February 2015. For more information please visit: www.digitaldetoxworkweekends.com. You can follow Elaine on Twitter @choclabapps

About the author:

Elaine Heney

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