November 7, 2017
If your productivity is down: Save the data and reboot the system!
“Have you tried rebooting it?” is the default answer from any specialist you ask to fix a technology problem, and, in more than half of the cases it actually works.
What if we think of our mind as a computer with a hard drive storing all existing data and a random-access memory (RAM) for all data that is currently in use? Sometimes, programs misbehave and cause the system to slow-down or even collapse. A reboot empties the RAM by ending all running processes while keeping information on the hard drive safe so that, under normal circumstances, the device runs much faster after a restart.
“When was the last time you switched off for 24 hours? If the answer is “I can’t remember” a digital detox could be what you need.”
When I first experienced that sleeping 10+ hours would no longer relieve me from exhaustion, I realised that I had no clue how to reboot my own system. Despite being incredibly organised, my productivity was close to zero, and my brain felt like bedded in cotton buds. I was unable to identify the program that was draining my resources nor find the power button that would initiate a reboot to free my random-access memory.
The solution showed up when a good friend pushed me to commit to a week-long digital detox and namely, to stay away from any device, such as phone, computer, TV, music player – you name it! The benefits of staying away from our devices are scientifically proven and have been manifested in anecdotal evidence.
“The lack of constant distraction appeared to free people’s minds to contemplate more important issues in their lives, and it also made them believe they had the willpower to sustain a transformation.”
But, although I spent the time in nature and beautiful company, the first three nights were terrifying: I woke up from nightmares in which I missed deadlines, my dog got kidnapped, and I got lost on my way to important meetings. As I figured out later, the reason for that discomfort was a lack of preparation. Random thoughts prevented my mind from relaxing: What if I miss an important deal while being offline? Did I inform the cleaner about my absence? Shouldn’t I follow the news? To avoid such mental distraction, I developed three tricks:
Export the RAM
I literally copy everything that currently occupies my mind, and could distract while being offline, into a reliable storage box. Anything I want to remember once I am back into my routine will end up on a list, independently of whether it is of low or high priority, of private or professional relevance. After the detox, I will look at the list, with a clear vision and the ability to cluster tasks, set priorities and free time by cancelling unnecessary commitments.
Be two days early
Before the detox, I inform my network and activate an out-of-office notification in which I am explicit about the fact that I will not access any devices. This not only increases my accountability and wire my willpower for success but will also allow my mind to relax. Since I mostly leave for a more extended detox, I start the notification two days early. You will observe an instant and significant drop in incoming emails and still have the chance to concentrate on urgent requests before departure!
Detox days are great opportunities to spend time creatively, and I personally enjoy writing and drawing into a brand-new notebook. Many thoughts will cross your mind once you get offline and you will be amazed how energising it feels to think a thought until its very end without distraction. Equip yourself with tools that help you catch your ideas so that you can build on them once you get back to your devices. Then, follow up and share.