So, I did it. Well, I almost did it. I almost made it an entire week without Twitter or Facebook. Rich and I were on vacation last week; traveling through the Southwest and seeing some beautiful landscape out there. My goal for the week was to completely and totally unplug – no Twitter, no Facebook, no Google+. Nothing. I had scheduled some tweets in advance but I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to cave in and go online. I made it to Thursday.

Am I disappointed? A little. Rich and I are in intense job situations and have been for some time. He works in product development and there is never a good time to step away. I work as a freelancer, which means I haven’t had a paid vacation in about 9 years. So taking time away is a very special thing for both of us.

Why look at Twitter when I could look at this instead?

But as the week progressed, I realized that the art of unplugging doesn’t just mean dropping off the electronic map totally. There are ways to unplug while still getting news and information through all the channels you would normally use. It’s how you deal with the info that is the difference. I realized on this trip that there are tactics to deploy no matter whether you are on vacation or not:

Filter out the noise. — Depending on whether you use Twitter, FB, or Google+, the noise may be higher or lower for you. I love Twitter, but there is a ton of noise on there. What do I mean by noise? I mean the tweets that say “I just ate a cheese sandwich” versus the tweets that say “I just got engaged!” I want to see the latter but I don’t necessarily care about the former. Solution? Create lists of people you really want to follow while away or for when you have little time to spend on a social media site.

Set up a (low) wall between work and personal time. – I am so guilty of throwing myself into my freelance business starting in 2002, and knocking down any wall that existed between work and home life. It’s a bit tough to separate when your office is down the hall from the rest of your life, but it’s important to put up that wall. I do this both physically (closing the office door, and sometimes vacations) as well as online (separate Twitter handles and FB profiles for personal versus work). If you don’t have a wall, I suggest you begin building one soon. Trust me, it will do your mental and emotional state a world of good.

Reading but not responding. – Part of unplugging is also reading info, status updates, or tweets but not needing to respond to every little thing. It’s not only a time suck, but can just wear on you. There is a line between engagement and being overwhelmed by a few people who take up more time that they give. Read, absorb, respond thoughtfully if you must, and move on.

So, now that we’re back, my plan is to remain in an unplugged state for as long as I can. It takes 21 days to form a new habit. But how many days does it take to break bad ones?