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The Courage to Disconnect

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

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A guest post from Leslie Forman

11pm, Monday night. I’m lying in bed after a long and stressful day, scanning through my phone one last time before I turn off the lights. An email from my boss pops up with a short but fundamental question: What’s the rationale for the way you’re organizing the website redesign?

My mind starts racing. I recall all the design books I’ve read, all the workshops I’ve attended. I stand up and sort through the box of books that I’ve yet to unpack — just moved in — until I find what I’m looking for: The Elements of User Experience, by Jesse James Garrett. I re-read the entire book, placing Post-its on the pages with the graphics that best explain my iterative approach.

night work - Brit HansonI didn’t sleep well that night.

And I felt horrible the next day, my brain foggy and spinning from all that coffee I drank to compensate.

Clearly I needed to change my approach.

Email is 24/7 — especially when you work with people in various time zones, all of whom have different response preferences. But most emails don’t require an immediate reply, especially not late at night.

So I changed my behavior. I started turning off my phone or putting it in airplane mode when I get home from work.

That gives me the mental space to truly relax. I’ll watch game shows in Spanish (a guilty pleasure!) or flip through fashion magazines (another guilty pleasure!) or read random poetry/fiction/picture books I find on the sidewalk (one of the many charms of San Francisco — lots of free stuff left out for any scavenger that might be interested!)

This shift has required courage.

It has required me to set new expectations with my team, acknowledging that my brain needs rest; it needs stimulation from sources other than my trusty Samsung Galaxy Mini; it needs space to stretch beyond all those scrolls and clicks and emojis. It requires faith that nothing terribly urgent will happen to my family or friends. It requires a step back from instant gratification. It primes my brain to wander.

This courage feels different from that force that compelled me to move across the world when I was 22, a newly-minted Latin American Studies major moving to China to teach English at a university. It feels different from that time I left China and moved to Chile to join a startup whose systems I hardly understood. It feels different from my more recent move back to my hometown, to study design and reconnect with this place after eight years overseas.

As I’ve moved around, I’ve always been hyper-connected, involved in global conversations and local events. I’m a total extrovert and feed off that energy. I thrive on variety. And adrenaline.

And yet, one of the best things I’ve done lately is disconnect from my phone. Airplane mode.

So when I wake up in the morning, I feel more rested.

When I’m ready to push that button, opening the floodgates into my obsessively-filtered-and-foldered inbox(es), I’m ready.

More alert, less reactive, more on.

What about you?

Leslie Forman - Marianne ElliottMeet Leslie.

Powered by entrepreneurial spirit, her background is diverse. She’s collaborated with global startups, taught business courses at the university level, written for multinational companies, and more — in Chile, China and California.

After eight years abroad, Leslie moved back to my hometown, San Francisco, where she joined Bridgecrest Medical to lead product design and brand communications. She’s passionate about supporting fellow global citizens, especially those looking to live and work abroad.

Connect with Leslie at or on Twitter.


30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action

30 Days of Courage is for people who want to step out of their comfort zone, through the small acts of daily bravery that add up to a courageous life. The next course kicks off on 20 April. I’d for you to join me. Registration is open — click HERE to find out more, or get signed up.



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