The digital world. The Internet of Things. The fact we’re "always connected."
In many ways, without sounding over-dramatic, it’s a fantastic time to be alive. Being able to speak (almost) face-to-face with someone at the other end of the world or track your health even when sleeping? Yes, please!
And I genuinely do love it. For me, there’s something fascinating about integrating digital into my everyday life, from my role as an SEO Specialist to a husband, dad and friend.
But — and I’m certain I’m not the only one who thinks this way — every now and again I need a break. Sometimes it’s just a couple of hours without e-mails; other times it’s a couple of weeks without access to any type of social media. It’s essentially a digital detox.
The problem is, when you’re working in the digital industry, it can be difficult to do so.
Working in SEO, the industry changes so much and there are many different components to consider and manage at all times. Even a couple of hours away can make it feel like cracks will appear in your carefully crafted foundations.
The good news (hey, there’s always good news!) is I’ve seen, developed and/or witnessed a number of ways we can take a break as SEO professionals and not let it ruin our strategies, client relationships and, ultimately, careers.
Note: I’ve purposely kept away from the most obvious tips here. We all access e-mails and social media accounts on our phone, so I’ve tried to focus on advice you may not have considered before!
A Break is Possible
This is the very first thing you need to understand — taking a break is possible. It’s a reality. It’s something you can genuinely do.
What’s more, when you do, the world isn’t going to fall down around you.
As I mentioned above, SEO requires you to take into account a huge array of different components, and, as such, you can find yourself being the catalyst; the one person who is keeping all of the plates spinning and the figures increasing. By virtue, this gives you the belief that without you, everything will fail.
But — and I promise you this — as long as you plan and prepare in advance, failure will not come into the cards.
The amount of planning and preparing is vital though, and very often comes back to communication; both in the way you manage any incoming communication and how you deal with what you’re delivering.
Don’t Be Afraid to Tell People You’re (Generally) Not Available
A prime example of the former can be seen in an e-mail I received from Lisa over at Content Marketing Institute before Christmas. Just your regular e-mail, until you get to the signature; it had one very interesting piece of copy that I thought was nothing short of fantastic:
Lisa obviously knew that come the festive period, she’d be taking some time off. Why wait until you’ve actually left the office to let people know via your autoresponder?
Now, not only is the idea of this message itself great, but the specific hashtag? Oh, man. That just blew me away.
Lisa wasn’t planning a full digital break, and was clearly going to be using Twitter, so why not use this channel for any type of communication deemed urgent? A quick tweet with that hashtag and she could jump on a call or into her e-mails to look at the issue further — but only issues that are practically pre-qualified as being urgent.
In a similar vein, Martin Bryant, Editor-in-Chief at The Next Web, recently took a month off work (yes, a whole month), but remained active on Twitter. I had a question I wanted to raise, so I tweeted him — and Martin responded promptly, putting me in touch with the most suitable person in his absence.
He was already using the network anyway, so why ignore a work-related tweet that would have most likely turned into an e-mail, making his inbox even larger?
Scheduling is Your Friend
In terms of the communication you’re sending out, the key here is scheduling. In fact, I can’t emphasize enough just how much a proper scheduling process can completely revolutionize the way you work and allow you to take breaks as and when you need them.
Without sounding like a product placement advert, I use Sidekick. I’m sure there are other options out there, but it was the first one I was introduced to and it does the job exactly as I need.
Having a range of features, the most important for me is the ability to write e-mails and schedule them to be delivered on a date and at a time I stipulate. The benefits are numerous, but I generally summarize them as being able to send e-mails and know I won’t feel obliged to instantly write back to any responses.
We all look at our inbox regularly, and I’m sure most feel it almost a necessity to reply to e-mails as and when they come in. When I’m scheduling e-mails, I could do so before I leave, or take a break from my break (ironically) and spend an hour replying, setting them to send in a couple of hours or days — when I won’t be checking them, and therefore won’t have that personal guilt trip to reply.
It is worthwhile pointing out here that scheduling doesn’t just relate to e-mails, and many SEO activities can be completed in advance, too.
Take social media as an example. It’s never ideal to schedule all activity, but sometimes it's needed. I have many memories of spending days scheduling tweets for numerous clients so I could take a week off!
I’m sure people are aware of the various options out there already, but I use, or have used, Buffer, Hootsuite and Sprout Social regularly.
Utilize the Resources Available to You
A lot of being able to take a break and ensure it doesn’t have a negative impact on your SEO career is to do with using the tools and resources that are available. In addition to the above social media scheduling tools, I’ve talked about Sidekick and Twitter hashtags, but there are so many more. Some you’ll find more useful than others, but one I think everyone can benefit from is IFTTT.
Standing for "If This, Then That," the basic principle is just that — you create recipes that say, "If this happens, then do that." And when you begin to think about the numerous ways this could happen, you start to realize how it could automate various processes and allow you to take a genuine break.
For example, if you only need to know when an e-mail comes through to your work address from a certain person, why not set up an IFTTT recipe that sends an e-mail to your personal account when such an e-mail comes through? Or, what about if you’re looking to share some of your own Instagram updates on a work social media account? Rather than login to it, how about a recipe that says when you publish an Instagram post with a certain hashtag, go on and publish it to the company Twitter account?
As I mentioned earlier, taking a break is always a possibility, and your SEO career will not fall apart when you decide to return.
Assuming you have planned and prepared effectively, and people are aware that you’re not available (and know either how to contact you in emergencies, or whom to contact) a break from all things digital is not only a possibility, but something that could very well prove to be extremely beneficial.
Have you ever done a digital detox? How'd it go? Let me know in the comments!