It was halfway across the channel, surrounded by fog so thick you could taste it, that I realized I had forgotten my iPhone. Not just my phone, but also my lifeline, my tickets for the rest of my journey, the contacts for my meetings, my schedule, my notes, my connection to the world. The ferry continued to slowly make its way across the currents, blasting its fog horn every few minutes in fear of meeting a small craft having lost its way with no radar. I dug through my bags in hopes that sinking feeling in my belly was wrong. My instinct was right and my lifeline to the real world was left behind on the island. My AppleWatch tapped my wrist and prompted me to “Breathe.” This made me slightly chuckle, as perhaps it was just the cue I needed in that moment. Panic would get me nowhere.
What are the consequences when the last thing you see before shutting your eyes at night is your phone. When it comes to breaking bad habits with technology, this one happens to be a big trigger for many of my clients. We like to point fingers at kids and teens that are trying to maintain their snapchat streak, participate in group texts, watching the latest episode of The Bachelorette. As adults, we are just as guilty, perhaps for different reasons. Whatever the rationale, the consequences are rarely considered in their entirety.
The perfectionists dilemma, delegate before it is too late. It is easy to say in retrospect that doing things differently would have been smarter. It is usually quite clear when you look at things from the lens of productivity and efficiency. Unfortunately, as a perfectionist, the instinct is to control, not delegate. I am aware of this tendency, but that does not take away the urge to control. What does help is recognizing the damage that perfectionist tendencies can cause and that there is a “good enough” that comes before my desired result. Often, getting to that “good enough” requires outside perspective, breathing deeply and letting go.
Every Spring we clear the unused, worn beyond repair and unwanted to make room for changes in our lives and our bodies. This can take the form of cleaning out clothing closets, training to get fit for bathing suit season, removing all the comfort foods that got us through the Winter, even cleaning up receipts to prepare for taxes. Some of us are more disciplined than others about this custom. Coming from a family led by the belief that if it can last another year with a duct tape, it should not be thrown away, I am pretty poor at the full closet purge. Nevertheless, I am very aware of the lightness that comes from a successful cleansing when achieved.
In the digital era, we accumulate as much or more clutter that can cause distraction and stress. In my work with digital life balance, the burden of unwanted notifications and interruptions can cause a heaviness that creeps in when we are not aware. Here are some very easy and quick things you can do to Spring Clean your digital life and make room for clarity and effective use of the tools that you have at your disposal.
- Back-up your devices (smartphone, computer, tablet) onto both the cloud and an external hard drive for safe keeping. Small external hard drives even up to 8TB can be purchased for a very reasonable price these days. This way if your internet is down or your cloud provider is having issues, you will always have access to your data (photos, etc)
- Remove unused smart phone apps that you have not used for a year. Be sure to make note of login and passwords, in case you wish to reinstall later. If it is an app that you use annually (ie. a certain airline or event) create a travel or event folder to keep them from cluttering your homescreen. When you have done this, turn your device fully off and on to reboot.
- Turn off notifications for all apps that are not critical for your day to function. You can turn them back on as needed.
- Remove devices from the bedroom! Use an alarm clock instead of your phone or tablet. (Sleep tracking devices are the exception). Creating a docking space for devices to charge overnight outside of your bedroom will not only be better for your sleep but also improve your connection with your self and partner.
- Cable and cords, oh my! The first thing to go or get lost on the numerous devices are the cables and cords (including headphones). Take a moment to sort them all by type (lightening, mini-usb, voltage, etc). Throw away any that are non-functioning or have exposed wires - these are a fire hazard. Twenty dollars for a new cable is a better investment than replacing damage caused by a fire. Put an elastic or tie around each to avoid tangles. Then put them in pouches or ziplock bags by type.
For those of you who already do these practices on a regular basis, kudos to you. You are well on your way to developing digital life balance. For those of your who do not already, plan a day to be kind to yourself and make room for it. Like our traditional Spring cleaning, it may feel like work, but you will feel a lightness from the successful cleansing as a result of your efforts.
Since completing my PhD in January of 2016, I have been sharing my findings through various speaking engagements and events. I had not intended to post the slide deck as I work on the book, BE-ing@Work, that includes the findings. The continued research has proven to expand the topic wide enough that it seems worthwhile to share my dissertation study with my network. BE-ing@Work in this context is about seeking innovative interventions that enable people to bring their best selves to work. It takes into account challenges in user experience, design, culture, engagement, wellness and chronic illness, and the multidimensional aspects of life and work.
I have been collecting people's stories over the past year about managing and thriving despite or because of stress, chronic illness, leadership, social, technology, family and life in general. I am inspired by the possibilities and opportunity to develop new solutions and systems that will enable individuals and organizations to thrive. If you have a story to share, please do not hesitate to reach out.
I will give you one hint as to some of the most inspiring people suffer from chronic illness. They are able to not only keep up with but in some cases outperform their peers as a result of learning to listen and respond to their bodies and brains needs for nutrition, exercise and rest. Apps and devices help them listen
So many exciting things have come out of my last year of research and writing. The stories and cases collected for my book on BE-ing@work identified some incredible opportunities for research and practice. Fresh insights into the gifts as well as the challenges of chronic illnesses were brought to light. Innovative approaches are being used to decipher behavior as relates to wellbeing. It is exciting to begin to see their acceptance in the mainstream human capital management. I look forward to sharing these and much more.