I’m no magician, but I can make myself disappear.
For the past couple months, I’ve disappeared from work for 90 minutes twice a week.
It’s a powerful trick that lessens stress, increases productivity, sparks creativity, improves work/life balance, and changes your perspective of work.
Since I’m not a magician, I’m happy to reveal how the trick works and what you’ll get from pulling your own disappearing act.
1. Understand What It Means To Disappear
The point of the suggestions I’m about to give you isn’t just to tell you to play hooky from work or pull your own Ferris Bueller’s Day Off re-enactment.
When I talk about a disappearance, what I mean is to make a conscious decision to do the following:
- Get away from work during a time you would normally be doing work.
- Disconnect and make yourself unreachable for a set period of time.
- Use that time to do something you wouldn’t typically do that’s beneficial to you.
Now, here’s how to do that…
2. Commit To Disappear At Set Times
This isn’t about leaving work when you happen to have a slow day, a gap in your schedule, or the Friday before a holiday weekend.
You want to schedule a disappearance and commit to following through on it even if it doesn’t fit comfortably into your typical work life.
The point is to make the disappearance — and by extension, yourself — a priority every bit as important as your work or clients.
I chose to schedule two disappearances a week, with each one slated to last an hour (plus some travel/transition time on each end of those hours) and typically planned them for the afternoons.
It doesn’t matter when you decide to disappear or how often, as long as you schedule it and stick to it.
3. Choose Something To Do During Your Disappearance
The next step is to figure out what you want to do during your disappearance.
Choose something you don’t typically do and not directly related to your work.
The goal of a disappearance is not to spend the time replying to email or working on your sales presentation. Getting away from the office to be more focused on your work is great, but that’s not what this is about.
I use my disappearances to read books— something I enjoy doing when I get into a flow, but rarely set aside specific time to do.
It’s been the perfect activity for me, but there are countless other things you can try depending on your interests.
Things like walking, painting, writing, meditation and a million other endeavors would likely work just as well.
4. Disappear To Somewhere You Don’t Usually Go
One of the best ways to disappear is to go some place nobody expects to find you — including yourself.
Put yourself in an environment that feels different than where you typically spend your days.
Rather than just going to the same restaurant you always go to, your home, or your office break room (god forbid), find a location that’s new to you.
Before I started disappearing, I rarely ever went to coffee shops — I’m not a coffee drinker and haven’t written a screenplay in years — so that’s where I chose to go during my first disappearances.
I focused on coffee shops I had never set foot in before, and eventually expanded to other locations I rarely frequented — hotel lobbies, office building courtyards, book store patios, and public parks.
Sometimes, I’ll return to a place I’ve disappeared to before if I enjoyed it, but none of the places I’ve gone are places I go for anything other than a disappearance.
Most of the places I go to have some other people there, but not many. If you’re pursuing an activity like reading, you probably don’t want to go some place packed with people and noise. The point is to get away from that.
(Though if your work day is typicalyl quiet and solitary, maybe disappearing to a crowded place is a nice change of pace?)
5. Disappear To A Spot That Requires A Commute
Try to pick a location that will take you at least 15–20 minutes to get there— and don’t use that commute to do work.
This commute time gives you and your brain a chance to transition from work mode to disappearance mode.
The physical act of moving from one place to another helps you get into the right headspace for your disappearance.
The same is also true for when you return to work afterwards.
Your commute back to the office helps you transition back into work mode — it’s like the process of stretching before working out and doing a cool down exercise afterwards.
6. Airplane Mode
You don’t have to be on an airplane to use airplane mode on your phone.
When you arrive at your disappearance spot, kick things off with what will soon become your new favorite ritual — put your phone in airplane mode.
Once you hit that button, you’re disconnected from the world. You’ve disappeared.
It may make you anxious the first time you do it, but it will quickly become your favorite moment of the disappearance.
You’ll notice how rare it is to actually be unreachable these days and (if you’re old enough) remember what it was like to live life without the constant pull of emails, text messages, social notifications, news alerts, and phone calls.
You’ll also realize that version of life is a relaxing place to visit.
With your phone in airplane mode, your disappearance has begun.
As you do the thing you’ve chosen to do during this time, pay attention to how it feels and what you notice.
It will likely take you a few minutes to adjust into what you’re doing, but you’ll eventually get dialed in and feel completely different about how your day is going.
If you’re some place where there are other people around or interesting surroundings, don’t be afraid to pause from what you’re doing and notice them.
The point of a disappearance isn’t to be as productive as possible, it’s to enjoy it as much as possible.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to accomplish something during this time. Allow yourself and your mind to wander.
Your world will feel different when you’ve locked others out of it and are enveloped in your own bubble for a moment.
You’ve disappeared. Relax and enjoy it.
8. Ease Out Of Your Disappearance
When your scheduled time for the disappearance is over, you can start to ease your way back into the working world and being connected.
The commute back to your workplace helps with this transition, but you can also start it in the place where you disappeared.
I’ve found it’s nice to turn airplane mode off and reconnect before I leave my disappearance location.
I’ll spend a couple minutes wherever I am checking back in on my emails or work before physically heading back to work or a meeting.
It lessens the feeling of returning to work with a pile of stuff waiting for you.
9. Pay Attention To What You Learn
Even after a single disappearance, you’ll be shocked how much you learn about yourself and your work.
Your lessons will be your own, but here are a few things I bet you’ll discover:
- Your career doesn’t come crashing down if you disconnect from it for an hour or two.
- You get emails constantly because you check and send emails constantly. When you take a break from doing that, so too do the people who email you.
- Your work will feel less overwhelming. A disappearance creates enough space to refresh you and things that stressed you out will feel less so after you’ve gotten away from them for a bit.
- You’ll feel more in control of your work and life. Staking claim to even just an hour of your day reaffirms you are your top priority and recalibrates your work/life balance.
It Sounds Great, But You Could Never Do It With Your Job, Right? Wrong.
Full disclosure: I work for myself and that makes disappearing easier than it likely is for somebody with a boss or a more restrictive work situation.
But it’s not impossible for anybody.
If you don’t have enough control of your work schedule to do this, pull a disappearance during a time you do control. Try it over your lunch break, before/after work, or on a weekend.
You can find time somewhere to do this and you’ll still reap the benefits even if you’re not able to do it during your typical 9-to-5.
One other thing to remember: You likely have WAY more control over your work time than you realize. Just because you assume you can’t pull this off during the work week, doesn’t mean you’re correct.
Schedule a “meeting” to get yourself out of the office, tell people you’re going to work on a project and need some quiet outside of the office, or whatever you have to do.
You’re creative — you can find a way to make it happen.
And I hope you do, because I’m sure you’ll find it a great use of your time.