Standard advice tells you if you want to get better at something, you have to practice it, as often as possible. And for the most part, this advice holds true whether you’re trying to become a better basketball player or are mastering the art of crocheting.
However, as any fitness buff will tell you, sometimes rest is just as important. Though it seems counterintuitive, one of the best ways to improve your skills as a social media manager is to take some time away from social media altogether—a digital sabbatical.
What Is a Digital Sabbatical?
A digital sabbatical, sometimes called a digital detox, is a period of time where you abstain from using social media, and sometimes the internet altogether, for a set period. In many cases, practitioners use this time to reconnect with nature in some way; for example, they might go fishing or hunting, hike in the woods, or swim. This isn’t strictly necessary, but may help you connect with the part of your life that isn’t dictated by technology.
There are several benefits to this approach, especially if you treat this time like a vacation:
- Deconditioned responses. As a social media manager and loyal tech consumer, you’ve likely developed a pattern of behavior when it comes to your phone and other devices. For example, you might pull out your phone and open Twitter every time you’re alone with your thoughts for more than a minute, or you might instinctively check for notifications anytime you see anyone else checking their phone. In a matter of days, you’ll notice these autonomic responses going away, which can lead you to a more deliberate form of work.
- Social interaction quality. Social media may be good for your career and your business, but it may have a negative impact on your relationships. Going without social media for several days, you may notice yourself looking into people’s eyes more often, and having more meaningful conversations. This is simultaneously more fulfilling and better for your long-term health.
- Memory enhancement. It’s fantastic to be able to run a Google search or look someone up on Facebook every time we can’t remember something, like an address or the name of an actor. However, our constant tendency to fact check is making our memory objectively worse. There’s no scientific research that suggests this memory decline can be overcome in a period of days, but your sabbatical may allow you to develop a better relationship with your phone’s ability to look up information, ultimately staving off your memory reduction.
- Better sleep. Social media managers feel like they’re on call constantly, and often check their phones late into the night for any new notifications or news relevant to their industries. All this screen-staring and stress tends to culminate in hours of lost sleep every week. After a few days of going without your phone, your sleep patterns will become more natural, and you’ll develop healthier habits around bedtime.
- Rut destruction. We all have a tendency to fall into ruts during our careers. As social media managers, we tend to post the same types of content, around the same time of day, and respond to our followers in the same ways. It’s convenient, and hard to avoid, but a digital detox can break you of those bad habits, setting the stage for new tactics and strategies to breathe new life into your brand.
- A new perspective. Perhaps most importantly, your time away from technology will give you a new perspective on social media, and technology’s role in your personal and professional life. What you do with that perspective is up to you; you might reassess the notifications you leave turned on, allocate more time for your friends and family, or come to your job with more innovative ways to engage with people online.
How to Get Started
Thankfully, it’s not hard to take a digital holiday, provided you can have your social media responsibilities covered by another member of your team. Make sure to document any daily tasks or responsibilities you need to have done, then disconnect entirely. You may want to keep a phone nearby for emergency purposes only, but during your time apart—whether it’s a day or a couple of weeks—avoid using any kind of internet-connected technology. After your first sabbatical, it will probably make intuitive sense, and you can repeat the strategy indefinitely to earn the benefits again.