Last week I got ill and had to cancel a trip abroad. Amazingly, my Associate Ginny stepped in, but I knew what this meant — if I’m too ill to travel I am too ill to go on social media. I was a bit like the teenage version of myself who stayed home to miss school to get better but desperately wanted to go out to parties anyway. You can’t have your cake and eat it. So I came off Instagram and Linked in, felt the withdrawal, remembered I am 39 not 9 and rested. Here are four things I learnt in those four days about staying connected to who you are, not just your social media accounts.
1) Have a tech-free lunch
Who are we when we have to stop scrolling down the screen? On the Friday of this four day stint I was the husband who made my wife lunch and we sat in the garden talking. No phones were on the table — it was just us (and a ridiculously-healthy-cracker-avocado-tomatoey-thing). We are the most connected of people in this world, but the most disconnected. In the UK we even have a minister for loneliness. What would it look like if once a week we had lunch with someone we love and kept our phones not in our pockets, not face down on the table or the empty chair next to us, but physically away from us? And what if we made that lunch minimum 30 minutes long?
2) Do a pro-active task on tech without the distraction of tech.
My mate once suggested to me that I check in my emails only twice a day. This is still nearly impossible for me but in these four days I did find myself booting up my computer, quitting mail immediately and only focussing on one task — my CRM system. We get so used to feeling distraction that seeing the mail come swooping in can soon become an adrenaline rush, and eventually a resentful enemy rather than friend. Focussing on one task focusses me a lot more — where am I in this business, am I achieving any goals or wandering aimlessly through tech and pressure? The story of our business starts with us in the day-to-day grit of admin and structure. If we don’t know where we are going and what plates we are spinning (or not) we are losing that sense of connection to everything we have worked so hard to build up.
3) Take 10 books to read 1.
Home or away, I have to feel alive when I do business. It is 40 plus hours of my life a week so I must excel at a few things well to make this work. Not having social media over these four days turned me to a love I had almost forgotten — books. I love to dip into books and for many years I felt wrong and ashamed — everyone else seems to read one book at a time, one week at a time. I feel most at home and connected to the way I work by carrying around about ten books. I may only read one of them and I may only read it for fifteen minutes, underline something then go off for a walk to process it. But I feel relaxed, creative, free from pressure and, most tellingly, alive. If I am working from home this is really easy. If I am away I limit myself to five books.
4) Go for a walk, Make an actual phone call and allow 30 minutes minimum for it.
I confess that I multi-task badly. If I am on the phone — that person can’t see me, so I can check an email, like a post on Linked in, do some cleaning, in fact do anything but be present for that person. We are most human when we are most connected and that person on the other end of the line is seeking connection. Fake listening is only hearing the words, not listening to the person behind the words. Fake listening is listening to get information out of the person, rather than creating a narrative with that person. Remember those books when you could choose which chapter you read next and decide what happened to the characters? Every phone call should be like this. We have an outcome in mind but we are willing to be taken on the journey of story by the other.
I am going to put these four practices in every week to the best of my ability. I would love for you to do the same and let me know how it goes.