The word relationships against futuristic black and blue backgroundNot too long ago, most people lived a very different life filled with many different realities. We had our work reality, our home reality, our recreational reality, our church or religious affiliation reality, our vacation reality, and many others.

All of these realities represented different aspects of our life that were separate from each other. After all, many times your spouse and children didn’t know who you interfaced with at work or even what you did all day. And the people at work didn’t know what you did on vacation or much about your home life or social activities.

Having all these different realities was good because it gave us a chance to recharge and re-energize. We’d go from work to home to a community activity, from one reality to another, which allowed us to shift gears and put our focus on different things. By escaping work and focusing on the home reality, for example, we could come back to work the next day fresh, rejuvenated, and more creative because we had a chance to shift our brain into another zone.

Today things are much different. We have one big interconnected reality, and technology seems to be the problem. Our smart phones and tablets allow us to take our email, our work, our games, our photos, our music—basically our entire life—with us wherever we go. As a result, all our individual realities have blurred into one.

Now when we’re on vacation, we’re really not on vacation. We’re simply at work in another location with more free time. We’re checking our email and waiting for that important message to come in when reading a book or sitting by the pool. Our work problems are not far away, they are all only a quick text, email, or call away. We can even see each other on our phones now, making it easy to have a quick videoconference with others from just about anywhere. As a result, customers and colleagues who depend on us can, and often expect to get a quick response from us whenever they need to.

While being connected is good, too much of a good thing can backfire. Being constantly connected has made us not as effective at problem solving, not as good at innovation and creativity, and not so great with friends and family.

Is this technology’s fault? No! Don’t blame the technology; blame how we use it.

So what’s the solution? It’s simple really: you need to set specific guidelines around when to plug in and when to unplug. In other words, when you’re on vacation, instead of being plugged in all the time, develop the discipline to unplug on purpose. If you must stay connected to work, set a specific time to plug in, for example thirty minutes before breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, and then remember to unplug. While you are enjoying yourself unplugged, your subconscious mind will still be working on the problems and initiatives you have back at the office, and when you plug back into those work related things, your conscious mind will have a new perspective on the problem and/or opportunity.  By learning how to unplug and enjoy life’s different realities, you will increase your ability to innovate and solve problems, in other words help your business, your career, and let’s not forget about your family.

Likewise, when you’re with your friends, resist the urge to do a quick check of email during the activity or conversation. If you feel you must check your email or text messages, set a time to do it and then turn your device off. Stay connected with your golf or your card game or whatever you do with your friends to unwind.

It’s true that technology has given us the ability to stay constantly connected, constantly at work, but it’s not technology’s fault. Let’s instead look in the mirror and realize who’s really to blame here. It’s time to take control of our technology and our lives so that we can rediscover the wonderful treasures that are buried in those separate realities we once had. Remember, there’s a time to plug in and a time to unplug. Choose wisely.