Technology is great, but it can just as easily drive you to distraction.
It’s time to unplug from the Internet and reconnect with yourself.
Google’s Gopi Kallayil understands the benefits of today’s über-connected world better than most.
The son of poor rice farmers, Gopi grew up up without electricity or running water and had nothing more than a basic education.
But as he so rightly points out, technology can just as easily drive us to distraction. While way more sophisticated, the human brain needs periods of quiet time and mindfulness in order to function optimally.
How is that possible when our ‘always online’ lives are constantly dragging us in the opposite direction According to Gopi, the solution is to unplug from the Internet and plug into the “inner-net”.
That may sound like a big ask, but if a product marketing manager at Google can find a balance between his day job and his mindfulness practice, there’s definitely hope for the rest of us.
Here’s How to Unplug in 5 Simple Steps
So how does he do it? Gopi says he has five strategies that help him unplug and live mindfully. In theory, they’re not that hard, but as we well know, it’s the putting into practice part that trips most of us up.
Approached one at a time, however, even the likes of you and I will get it right eventually.
1. Focus on the Essential
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey highlights the importance of focusing on what’s important, rather than what’s urgent. He claims mastering the art of putting first things first is the only way to achieve maximum productivity.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
2. Do One Thing at a Time
It’s time to stop with the multitasking. Humans are wired to be mono-taskers, so let’s just embrace that. But while multitasking at least has its roots in a desire to be more productive, the curse of continuous partial attention is even more pervasive.
Linda Stone describes it as a desire to be a live node on the network. She says we pay continuous partial attention in an effort not to miss anything. In social media parlance we refer to it as FOMO (fear of missing out).
Given the amount of information available to us nowadays, you could be online 24/7 and still miss out on most of what’s out there. A far better approach to is to do one thing at a time and give it all your attention. At least that way you get to enjoy the full experience of that one thing.
“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” —Zen Proverb
3. One Minute of Mindfulness
For Gopi, mindfulness means yoga and meditation. For you, it could be something else entirely, say, reading poetry or dancing. The point is not so much what you do, but that it inspires mindfulness.
One minute may sound ridiculous, but think about it. There’s no possible way you can fail to do something that only takes a minute. Conversely, commit to practising yoga for an hour a day and you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
By giving yourself what Robin Sharma refers to as the micro-wins advantage, every small achievement comes with the corresponding release of a small burst of energy, confidence and motivation. We all assume it’s the radical acts that bring about radical results, when in fact it’s these tiny daily wins.
4. Make Non-Negotiable Appointments for Mindfulness
Find one anchor in your week to commit to. It has to be non-negotiable too, so you can’t bump it off your calendar just because something urgent came up.
Refer back to #1 above on the difference between urgent and important.
Gopi’s weekly non-negotiable is to lead a Monday evening yoga class at Google. Since time alone and replenishing my creative well are super important to me, mine is to go on a weekly artist date. Figure out what yours is and do it no matter what.
5. Friend Yourself
The most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself. Social media allows us to befriend people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. And yet, when it comes to ourselves we’re more out of touch than we’ve ever been.
Gopi has some wonderful advice for connecting with your inner-self. He says you need to listen to the tweet of your heartbeat, pay attention to the status update from your body and respond to that urgent chat request from your brain.
Gopi also reminds us that we are all gifted in terms of our brain, our body, our breath and our consciousness. But achieving peak performance requires us to unplug from the Internet and plug into the inner-net. Why not shut your laptop and do that right now?