In a new book from Steve Jobs’ former executive assistant, Naz Beheshti, we learn a few interesting tidbits about the former Apple CEO. One of which is that he almost never turned off his iPhone.
That’s not really surprising. I’m sure most of us could say the same. Certainly, it’s not uncommon for people who lead large corporations to feel the need to stay connected all the time. That temptation, however, can be draining–and I don’t mean just for the battery on your device.
Look, there is no doubt that most of us have spent more time on our devices over the past year, than ever before. In a world where we haven’t been able to be together physically, our devices have made it possible to stay connected in ways most of us had never anticipated when the world shut down last March.
We use them for meetings, for FaceTime with friends and family we can’t be close to, and even for ordering groceries. But the truth is, we don’t always need to be connected or available, and there’s a real benefit to turning off your device. Beheshti’s book paints a picture of the rare occasion Jobs would turn off his iPhone:
“I quickly discovered what playtime looked like for Steve Jobs, and how it was one of the keys to his success as a great innovator,” Beheshti writes. “Whenever someone was looking for Steve, or whenever he could not be reached on the phone, there was only one place he would almost unerringly be found: In the office of Jony Ive, Apple’s former chief of design officer.”
Value Time to Play
It was in Ive’s design lab that the pair dreamed up some of the most iconic tech gadgets of the last two decades. When Jobs went in to see the mockups or prototypes of whatever Ive’s team had been working on, Apple’s CEO would turn off his iPhone.
“We would lose our minds trying to get in touch with him, trying to get him to his meetings,” says Beheshti. “At some point, we would have to call Jony’s office and enlist his help in dragging Steve away from his playtime. His time with Jony gave him space and occasion to laugh, imagine, create, and feel a renewed sense of freedom.”
A lot of people think creativity is a gift, and while that’s true to an extent, it’s a practice more than anything. That means it’s something you cultivate. The most effective way to do that is by setting aside time to play.
Focus on Right Here
Of course, it can be hard to stop what we’re doing in order to “play.” There’s always something else to do, and it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re only being productive if we’re writing a report or making a dent in our inbox. As a result, most of us have a hard time shutting off the list of to-dos and other thoughts that chase us through the day. A big part of that is because of the constant stream of incoming communication on our iPhones.
When you turn off your device, it tells the people you’re with that there isn’t anything “out there” more important than what’s happening right here in front of you. It tells them that you’re focused on what’s happening here and now. Everything else can wait.
That’s such a powerful signal, and not just for your coworkers, by the way. Try turning off your device when you sit down for dinner, or when your son asks if he can read you a book. Want to make someone feel valued? Take out your iPhone, turn it off, and then give them your full attention.
Be Willing to Disconnect
Finally, as a discipline, there’s a practical benefit to turning off your device. I’m serious. I know that in a world where we’re all used to being accessible 100 percent of the time, it can seem like blasphemy, but turning off your device is a signal to your brain that it’s okay to be disconnected. That’s a bigger deal than you may think.
Many of us spend most of our days reacting to outside stimulus, whether it’s incoming Slack messages, emails, or other notifications. As a result, we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that we have to be connected or available.
Turning off your device completely helps you not only focus on what’s in front of you, but it allows you to re-train your brain that it’s okay to not look at your iPhone every 90 seconds to see if you have a new notification.