Cafe Witness

Thursday, June 14, 2007

5 Ways to Positively Disconnect

I'm overwhelmed with media buzz 24 hours a day. I wake up to email and go to sleep with video games. Very little in my day is spent outside the thrall of media consumption.

When I need to clear my head and re-attune myself to what REALLY needs to be done -- or, just as important, what my subconscious tells me I want / ought to be doing -- I need to unplug; sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a couple days. If you have trouble doing the same, here are five tips to help you disconnect:

1. Commute in Silence

The drive / ride to work may be a great to time listen to podcasts or the radio, or catch up on phone calls / email. It's also a good chance to disconnect your mind (for a regulated period of time) and let it wander.

Observe your surroundings. People-watch. Listen to the sounds of your car. Maybe you'll notice something you overlooked before, or stumble upon a new idea.

2. Eat Alone

For all the business wisdom associated with NOT eating alone, sometimes a quick lunch or lengthy dinner on your own terms is enough to reset the vibe. Find a window seat. Eat at your own pace. Have dessert. Then return to the issue at hand.

3. Leave the Cell Phone at Home

Blasphemy? Hardly. When I volunteer at the Animal Rescue League in the evenings, I rarely take my cell phone with me. The hour or two that I spend walking dogs is made even more pleasant knowing I won't be interrupted by telemarketers or arbitrary texts.

4. Meditate

Reserve a small portion of your day -- in the morning, after lunch, in the evening -- for voluntary solitary confinement. Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. Turn off distractions -- except an alarm clock, if you tend to fall asleep in such circumstances.

Allow your mind to wander freely. Focus on the positives, both real and desired, in your life. Then return to your daily routine with renewed clarity and vigor -- and, perhaps, a few new ideas.

5. Take a Tech-Free Vacation

Unless you're on a business trip, the best thing that can happen to you is to be booked into a hotel with no internet connection. The harder you have to work to stay connected -- where is the nearest internet cafe? -- the easier it is to allow yourself to become disconnected.

When I went to Paris last April, I had no working cell phone and no laptop. We relied on maps, a guidebook and a basic understanding of the French language to get around. And the fact that I couldn't check my mail for three days made me forget why I ever wanted to check it in the first place.

Getting Past the Fear of Seclusion

Society has trained us to believe that we're only experiencing life if we're connected. That's entirely dependent on what your "life" consists of. For most of us, it could (and should) involve a lot more activities without keypads and screens.

Don't think of disconnecting as a negative. Think of it as a way of getting back to that larger life we keep forgetting we're part of.

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