August 28, 2015

How to Unplug Skillfully.

woman cel phone computer technology digital

I love FOMO.

Not that I love experiencing Fear Of Missing Out, but I love finally having a name for what has been ailing me.

I thought it was busyness. I thought it was excitement. I thought it was what an entrepreneur needs to do to stay ‘in the loop’. But I’m starting to see that it’s indeed fear that is underneath my steady increase in screen-time.

Fear that if I don’t stay on my game, I’ll lose out. That if I don’t stay connected, the momentum will pass. When I come to think of it, I’m amazed by how much of my work-life is driven by fear.

And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one FOMO’ing. Have you noticed how rare it is becoming to get an out-of-office reply these days? When I’d mail out a newsletter a couple of years ago, I’d receive at least a couple of dozen of them. My last newsletter, which grew considerably and was sent in the depths of summer, triggered no more than three.

It looks like the unplugged human being is becoming an endangered species really fast.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but I’m taking the right to unplug very seriously, and this is why:

I can feel in my body how essential it is to log out. How being connected to myself periodically requires not being connected in cyberspace. And if I have to kick some FOMOs ass to do so, I will.

In fact, I consider it my job as an innerpreneur to identify where fear is calling the shots. And I’ve found out this is very easy, actually. FOMO is felt in the body—our ultimate anti-virus tool.

Let’s say you’re taking a holiday, like many of us are right now. What would more peaceful: to keep your WiFi on, check into the occasional message, or to switch it off? Your mind—FOMO’s playground—may try to convince you how it’s necessary to stay connected. Yet your body might relax into the mere thought of keeping your smartphone in your night cupboard for four days on end.

Your mind will always fall for FOMO. Your body is not so easily fooled.

So even though it’s starting to feel like a political statement these days, I still occasionally log out for three weeks in a row. Yes, I do need more discipline to not log in when WiFi is available everywhere. And I did noticed an increase in slightly offended reactions from clients or people I work with—which didn’t happen five years ago.

But I’m motivated to claim cyberspace-free chunks of life-time. Like a gardener who’s motivated to prevent a weed from taking over her garden. It’s my job. Nobody else is going to do for me.

In fact, most people have an interest in you and me being available all the time.

I recently heard someone say that the most valuable future real-estate isn’t a square meter of land, but mind-space.

It’s the span of your attention that marketers and business will fight over and pay for.

I don’t know about you, but I’m dedicated to invest wisely. Aside from remaining my Right to Unplug, I’m also seriously minimizing screen time recently. Too many hours staring at a screen and interacting in cyberspace hurts my brain and smothers my creativity.

After a recent specific episode of intense screen-crazy, I’ve put myself on a rigorous screen diet: I’ve assigned two hours, twice a week for doing e-mail. I dig my teeth into it and don’t let go until it’s done—and then I’m done. That’s the deal. I’ve also officially scheduled open afternoons and one morning to do my own practice. As I’m self-employed, I have to defend my mind-space not from colleagues or a boss, but from my own beliefs and addictions. Still, I think it could work the same when you’re employed, working 9 to 5 or even more.

Whatever work scenario you’re in, you can regain control over the attention-gold in your mind and life. Remember that doing this is quite a new frontier. There aren’t many teachers out there telling you how to unplug skillfully, or how to take care of your precious real-estate. I’m sure that in a few years there will be.

A lot of research on the effects of screen exposure is currently being done.

But right now, it’s more like the Wild West. It’s unruly.

It’s not going to be your boss, your business guru or your culture that’s going to give you permission to plug out if you feel that it’s essential for your wellbeing: you’re going to be the bad-ass gardener of your own mind.

Now, enough about me! How do you deal with FOMO? Do you feel lost in cyberspace or troubled by screen-time? What are your tips for protecting mind-estate? Again, this topic feels so Wild West, I think we can really benefit from exchanging what works for us.

I’d love to hear from you!




Author: Geertje Couwenbergh

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: William Iven at Unsplash 

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