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How Unplugging from the Online World Helped Save My Business

I have a confession to make.

I’ve spent the last two months questioning my business: Why am I doing this? What value am I bringing my clients? Where do I want to go from here?

I’ve gotten rather intimate with these thoughts in my head. Sometimes, I struggled to find any answers at all. Those were the days the self-doubt came creeping in. The days I questioned my worth, my direction, my ability to reach my goals.

Some days, I found myself lacking motivation. I was just going through the motions, hitting deadlines, checking items off the to-do list. But my heart wasn’t in it. And this was scary to me.

You see: I’m a builder. A creator. I love watching a new client website or email campaign come to life. I love getting my hands dirty, digging in to an entrepreneur’s story and helping them recognize how far they’ve come, and what it took for them to get to where they are now. I love helping them connect the dots, showing them how every step along the way served its purpose.

And as I continued to peel back the layers on other people’s stories, I forgot to appreciate my own.

Then I stepped away from it all.

Luke and I spent two weeks in August exploring Canada’s east coast. The first week we joined my family in St. John’s to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday. Then the two of us rented a car and hit the road, making a pit stop in Twillingate before heading west to Gros Morne – a bucket list destination for me. Over the span of this trip, I stood at the edge of the continent, watched humpback whales wave their majestic tales, breathed in the fresh sea breeze from the edge of a cliff, and watched waterfalls cascading from 2,000 feet. And I did it all while surrounded by the people I love.

newfoundland

Of course, it was a working vacation. I happened to get assigned a dream project writing five profile pieces for Canadian Business right before our flight was scheduled to depart. There was no way I was passing it up. And while we worked long hours leading up to the trip to finish client deadlines, we still managed social channels from the road.

So my “step away” wasn’t a big step by any means; just a small one. When Luke and I were staying at a friend’s place in Twillingate, there was no Wi-Fi and very limited cell service. We had no choice – we were forced to disconnect. My unplugging from the digital world added up to a full 24-hours over the span of a weekend, a whole day away from my device and the accompanying email and Insta notifications buzzing in my ear. That space was like a giant breath of fresh air for my brain. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet for my creative soul. And just like that, I found the clarity I was looking for.

My work is part of who I am. I take it everywhere I go. Even in Newfoundland, I was interviewing entrepreneurs and business leaders for Canadian Business, holding onto every word of advice they shared and looking for ways to apply it to my own future career plans. No matter where I am, I’m constantly thinking about my business – answering emails, brainstorming new client campaigns, pitching new prospects I meet along the way.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.

I’ve built a career as an entrepreneur so I can take off early to go get ice-cream with my husband. I did it so I can work from the cottage on a Friday, taking a break to play with my dog in the lake. I did it so we can take the time to explore our country’s east coast together, without having to worry about using up all of our vacation days.

This is my “why.” It’s why I’m going to continue to push myself to work long hours, to reach new limits, to drive new results for clients, to meet those tight editorial deadlines, to turn my weaknesses into strengths and become the best I can be.

And sometimes, this means turning off the smartphone. It means playing hooky on a Wednesday afternoon. It means sleeping in on a Sunday and then spending the afternoon curled up with a good book and a big mug of tea. This is how I re-charge; it’s how I keep the creative juices flowing. As long as I stay focused on the “why,” and take the time to indulge when needed, I know I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be.

What’s your “why” – the reason you put in the long hours, sacrifice your social life, and invest everything you have into your business? How do you stay focused on the big picture? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Author:

Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is the founder of Web of Words. She helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. She has written for Zoomer Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and dog-child. To learn more, check out her portfolio at charlotteottaway.com and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.

4 Comments Write a comment

  1. I love this article, it resonates with me…know I have some thinking to do…Thanks Carly!

    Reply

  2. I NEED one of these vacations because I’m feeling the same. In no way would I give up what I have built but I need a recharge and focus for sure.

    Reply

    • Charlotte Ottaway

      It’s overwhelming to think about taking the time away, but from one entrepreneur to another, it’s so necessary and worth it.

      Reply

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