9 successful CEOs and entrepreneurs who can go hours — sometimes days — without checking their email or phone

Andrew Burton/Getty ImagesArianna Huffington puts her phone to ‘bed’ every night.
  • Some successful people take long breaks from email and digital technology (or don’t use them at all).
  • Still, they manage to be rockstars in fields like tech, finance, and fashion.
  • Below, see nine of those people, including John Paul DeJoria, who doesn’t use computers, and Karlie Kloss, who takes a weekly digital detox.

When you’re the founder or CEO of a company, it’s a given that people are going to be vying for your time and attention. It’s your choice how to respond.

Some of those CEOs and founders opt to be glued to their phones all day, checking email and the news. Others opt to limit the energy they devote to digital technology, going hours, days, and sometimes weeks without checking in.

Below, we’ve listed nine successful people who have spoken publicly about digital detoxing, checking out, and going off the grid. Read on to find out how and why they do it:


Hinge CEO Justin McLeod disconnects from work for a week or two at a time

Van Sarki

McLeod, who founded dating app Hinge, recently deleted the email app from his phone. He’s found himself to be a happier person.

“I’m a much better decision-maker, I’m a much better strategist, I’m a much better leader when I’m not wrapped up in the minutia of what’s going on in the company and what’s going on in the world,” McLeod told Business Insider. “I’m giving myself the space.”

He also tries to disconnect from work for one or two weeks every year. “That helps me clarify my thoughts, when I’m not sucked up in the instant day-to-day operations of Hinge,” McLeod said.


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff completely unplugged for 2 weeks

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

CNBC reports that in July 2018, Benioff mailed his iPhone and iPad to his summer home in Hawaii – then left for a two-week vacation in the Galapagos Islands, Bora Bora and Easter Island.

Benioff has long been a proponent of meditation, mindfulness, and seeing the world with a “beginner’s mind,” a concept from Zen Buddhism that describes constantly seeing the world anew, as if you didn’t know anything about it.

While meditating and taking calls exclusively by landline that summer, Benioff realised he was too busy and decided to bring on a co-CEO.


Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington tucks her phone into bed at night

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global (and previously, HuffPost) has for years been championing sleep as the key to success. So perhaps it’s no surprise that she advocates keeping your phone out of your bedroom, like she does.

In a Medium interview, Huffington said she puts her phone “to bed.” She added, “Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away in order to sleep: our to-do lists, our inboxes, the demands of the world. Charging your phone away from your bed makes you more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone.”

And she never checks her phone first thing in the morning.


Kode With Klossy founder Karlie Kloss takes a weekly digital detox

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

When former supermodel Kloss is at home, she admitted to the Mirror that “I keep my phone pretty close to me.”

But Kloss also said she takes a regular digital detox. “I will totally shut off and not post Instagrams or answer my emails. I think it’s important to step away for a minute and actually reconnect with people and reconnect with yourself,” she told the Mirror.


Tommy John CEO Tom Patterson doesn’t check email during regular work hours

Courtesy of Tommy John

In an interview with Inc., Patterson said he minimized the number of emails he received daily with a simple strategy. Patterson, who is the CEO of men’s clothing company Tommy John, set up an automatic response that read:

I am currently checking email before 9am and after 5pm EST so there will be a delayed response. If this is urgent please call or text.

Patterson said that indeed, he now checks his email before 9 a.m. and right after 5 p.m., but never in between.


Gyana CEO Joyeeta Das goes on silent retreats or deep-sea missions twice a year

“I love extreme tech all the time,” Das told Forbes. “Sometimes it’s more alive than humans if one could see its intricacies.”

Das is the CEO of big-data startup Gyana, and she told Forbes that twice a year she goes on silent retreats or deep-sea missions, which are her versions of a digital detox.

“My ultimate choices are islands in deep sea surrounded by marine mammals where nature rules, in places like Thailand, the Philippines or Bora Bora; that’s where I’m at the mercy of water and faith in the universe, and this recharges me every time.”


Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett doesn’t have a smartphone

Apple CEO Tim Cook has tried to convince legendary investor Buffett to get a smartphone, to no avail.

In fact, as of 2018, Buffett still had a Samsung flip phone, which he showed off on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Buffett also once joked about his phone on CNN: “This is the one Alexander Graham Bell gave me.”


John Paul Mitchell Systems cofounder John Paul DeJoria doesn’t use computers

Kevin Winter/Getty

In another Inc. interview, DeJoria, who is also the founder of tequila maker Patron Spirits Co., said he doesn’t use email or a computer.

“I would be so inundated that I wouldn’t be able to get any work done,” he told Inc. “Instead, I do everything in person or on the phone. I have a phone book that’s 15 years old and filled with whiteout and rewrites. I carry that everywhere.”


Karl Lagerfeld creative director Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t use the internet

In 2010, Lagerfeld told Women’s Wear Daily that he buys computers “because they are beautiful objects.”

He also said that he doesn’t use any kind of cell phone. “My eyes are open, but they are not limited to a screen,” he told WWD. “For me, the world is a huge screen. That’s how I see it.”

Then, in 2018, Lagerfeld told The Cut that he doesn’t “do” internet or Facebook. “I have assistants who inform me [about] what I have not seen,” he said. “Personally, I have no time.”

(Lagerfeld does have a Twitter account, suggesting that he uses the internet, but it’s unclear if he publishes the tweets himself.)

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