The art of switching off: Surviving in a digitally demanding world
I have realised I am spending too much time DOING and too little time REFLECTING; not enough sitting still and looking back on what has happened, and using this to look forward to where I am going and the possibilities ahead.
I love the challenges of my job, the opportunities for learning and working collaboratively, and appreciate the flexibility of working online. Much of my online work is done from home, and the days when it is wet and cold and miserable and I can curl up on the couch and work from there are precious. BUT, working online and from home has its own challenges.
The ability to work from anywhere, anytime brings with it the temptation to work everywhere, all the time.
I have been reflecting on my own professional journey as well as on the bigger picture of my life.
I had the opportunity to listen to Brendan Spillane keynote at the NZLA conference in Tauranga.
His keynote was on The school as CAMPFIRE
Teaching social literacy in an 'Ice Age of the human heart'
Brendan questioned, "What does it still mean to be 'social'? Will schools continue to be places where the people come together face to face? And, if they do, what will be the social literacy necessary for this negotiated shared space? Who will teach it?" “How do we teach our young people to regulate the demands of a digital lifestyle, carving out lives of meaning and authentic connectedness from the white knuckle ride that is our contemporary experience.”
I took a really hard look at myself as a result of this keynote, thinking about me and my colleagues, and how we regulate the demands of a digital lifestyle, making sure we are living lives of meaning with authentic connections, and how can we avoid burning ourselves out.
“The way we’re working isn’t working. In a fast-paced world, increasing numbers of people are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and disengaged.”
- Mindful Leadership Global Forum
The temptation to be "connected educators" online 24/7 makes for an awfully long work-week and little time for reflection, let alone family and friends.
Brendan talked about, "the quaint notion of leaving work and going home", and how this is no longer relevant in a world where so many of us carry our work around with us on laptops and mobile devices. To be life literate, says Brendan, we need to have sources of calm. Respites from the busy-ness of life, time to rest, recharge, and relax.
So how do we go about obtaining sources of calm in our busy lives?
We need to find the things that bring us JOY, and make time for more of these in our lives.
Real JOY — that deep sense of calm and satisfaction we get, that feeling that all is right in the world. We should look for opportunities to do more of what makes us happy – make possible the still time in our work and in our play.
Joy can come in all sizes and shapes, and is highly individual. What is joyful for me may well not be joyful for you. What brings YOU joy?
It's important to know that taking time to have JOY in our lives is not selfish. We do this for others too, it helps us to be life literate, to have the energy to be supportive parents, partners, and colleagues, and we need to make time to do this now.
Giving joy is just as important as receiving it, and we are lucky in our teaching and facilitation roles that there are many opportunities to give joy as we share in the learning journeys, celebrate successes, and interact with other passionate educators.
What is your purpose in your work, in the rest of your life?
Are you prioritising your day to ensure the majority of your activity is directly related to your goals? Or are you getting caught up in email shuffling or flitting from task to task. It is important to have a clear purpose in order to achieve high performance in all aspects of life.
If we take the time to streamline our working day to ensure our workflow matches our purpose then we are more likely to be high performing.
The same goes for our personal time; it’s important we allocate time to pursuing our personal goals.
purpose and priorities = performance
If you care about something – never do it with other things – Jim Loehr
To be everywhere is to be nowhere – Seneca
If something or someone is important, then rest your full attention on it, don't do it with other things, don't try to do two (or six) things at once.
So if, as Brendan says,
"The school is as campfire, a place to come and learn to be successfully socially literate,
then surely it is our job as educators to work on our own social literacy in order that we model this for our students, our colleagues and our communities.
SO, what am I proposing?
Just because I can work 24/7, doesn't mean I should.
Taking more time out for the JOYFUL things in my life — be that a glossy magazine, watching my kids play sport, spending time with friends, crocheting curled up on the couch and not being tempted to stop mid-article, mid-game, mid-stitch to check on emails or twitter streams.
Not working less, rather, making sure there is a clear space between my work and the rest of my life, and ensuring that when I am working, I am focused solely on the work in order to be more productive, more effective, more attentive to those I am working with. When I close my laptop I will “leave work”, and not be tempted to check emails while stirring dinner, ring someone while picking my kids up from school or sports practice, or sneak in a few hours work while pretending to enjoy family movie time.
Will this make me a better employee, colleague, mother, wife, friend? I sure hope so.
Food for thought for others, too, perhaps.
What are your own thoughts and experiences?