(Photo by Flickr user Dan O'Cker, used under a Creative Commons license)
You: “How’s your week going?”
Me: “It’s been good! Busy.”
I’ve had this microconversation so many times that I may be singlehandedly responsible for the fact that the word “busy” carries no meaning. Sorry about that. It always feels true — each day busier than the last with so many interviews and events and words. And then there’s the busy-ness of the world around me — usually just a push notification or tab away — violence to be mourned, new memes to be understood, that election, oh that election. There’s just so much.
It’s a distraction sickness, as Andrew Sullivan points out in this horrifically poignant essay, and we all need to figure out how to unplug.
Add running a startup to the already-significant din of life, work and the world and you’ve got yourself a serious self-care challenge — a challenge #dctech entrepreneurs face everyday. So how do they do it? We reached out to a few very active and engaged #dctech figures to learn what strategies they employ in order to unplug and get away from it all.
Ximena Hartsock, cofounder at Phone2Action, has two main strategies — exercise and music. “I LOVE to run,” she wrote in an email. “When I run I can think more clearly about things and I tend to come up with the most creative solutions.” Hartsock also said she feels “re-energized” by music, and makes time to attend her favorite concerts and music festivals.
For Adam Zuckerman, founder of Fosterly, the answer is a bit more literal. “Long walks with the phone turned off or left behind” is his secret to getting away from it all, he writes, adding, “that said, I have three phones with me right now…”
We never said this is easy.
Marty Ringlein, CEO of events ticketing software company nvite, takes a similar approach. “That’s easy,” he writes, in response to my inquiry. “I have a dog, Preston (@puggle on Twitter). We go on at least two dog walks a day, every day, a minimum of 2 miles and at least 30 minutes at the dog park; that’s usually 4 to 5 miles a day — I purposefully leave my cell phone at home. It’s just me and man’s best friend taking a jaunt through one of the world’s greatest cities, every day, twice a day — doesn’t get much better than that.”
Going on a little hike today pic.twitter.com/KxIK7Dr3Hd
— Marty Madrid (@smarty) September 18, 2016
Shana Glenzer, CMO of MakeOffices and #dctech organizer extraordinaire (she’s behind DC Tech Meetup and is the cofounder of DCFemTech), also has specific rituals around which she tends to unplug. “During baseball season this is a no-brainer for me,” she wrote in an email to Technical.ly. “Catching a Washington Nationals game is one place where I can completely shut down my active mind and to-do lists and just enjoy myself.”
Winter is always a bit more challenging, Glenzer writes, but this winter she’ll have her hands full — she’s expecting twins.
All of this is fairly straightforward, though, when compared to the sheer diversity of strategies employed by Monica Kang. Kang, the new President of DMV Startup and founder of InnovatorsBox, has a full slate of ways to unplug as well as manage a busy workload and social life. These range from building in buffer time to her calendar, to doing something that is not work related, to being carefully intentional about the things that she does. “The more intentional I am throughout my day the easier it has been for me to step back and unplug,” Kang writes.
In reality, there isn’t a perfect, universal method when it comes to figuring out how to unplug and take time for self-care. It’s an individual process. So what’s your secret?