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"The art of switching off: Surviving in a digitally demanding world"

It's getting far too long between blogposts. Too much time DOING and too little time given to REFLECTING; not enough sitting still and looking back on what has happened.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't have things to write about. I constantly have a million blog posts swirling around in my head but usually they remain a title and a few opening sentences and never get to be developed any further. It’s just that in my role as online and e-learning facilitator, just like in teaching, the work is never complete.

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.

These last 2 weeks I have had opportunities for amazing PD,including the chance to be an educator and a learner and prompts to reflect on my own professional journey as well as on the bigger picture of my life.

One of the major impacts on me in the last 2 weeks was listening 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 real hard look at myself as a result of this keynote, thinking about myself 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 not much time for reflection let alone family and friends.

Brendan talked about "the quaint notion of leaving work and going home" and how this action is no longer relevant in a world where so many of us carry our work around with us in 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 and 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 them in our lives.
Real JOY - that deep sense of calm and satisfaction we get, that feeling that all is right in the world. Look for opportunities to do more of what makes you happy - make possible the still time in your work and in your play.

What brings you JOY?

Joy can come in all sizes and shapes, and is highly individual. What is joyful for me, may well not be joyful for you.

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.

The second takeaway was one of having a clear purpose and achieving high performance in all aspects of life.

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 getting caught up in email replying or flitting from task to task.

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 spend time pursuing our personal goals.

purpose and priorities = performance

A third strong message in Brendan's keynote was

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.

This is a very timely reminder for someone who prides herself on being the multi-tasking queen. Maybe I should do a little less multi-tasking and a little more focussing.

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 when I am working, I am focussed 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.

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Comment by Hazel Owen on November 26, 2014 at 10:43

I've been meaning to respond to your post for ages (of all the posts to not respond to, the one that talks about taking / making time is the one that has slipped).

On the other hand, I would say that one of the reasons that my response has taken a while is because I have been taking time out to spend with friends at the weekends (when did it become guilt-inducing not to work at the weekend!!?) We have been up North at our place and the surrounds (picture below of us with some lovely pals who we have known since Uni days).

The things is, as you capture, without joy, without space, without friendship, without unexpected meetings / connections, without love, without rest...there can be no creativity. 

Google, for example, recognises this. A 2013 blog post shares that "Casual collisions are what we try and create....You can't schedule innovation, you can't schedule idea generation". So, "the rooms Google has created for those creative people include ski gondolas in the Zurich office, a pub-like meeting room in Dublin, and sidewalk cafe in Istanbul", plus nap pods for that "five-minute to 15 minute power nap"!! (source).

Are you still taking heed of your own suggestions, Catriona? ;D Any wonderings occurred since you have started to "leave work" and be more attentive to what is happening in the moment?

John, Hazel, Sandra, and Noel - just around the corner from Tapuaetahi

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