I’ve written before about digital detox, and the benefits that reducing electronic clutter and dependence on devices has had on my productivity, and mental health.
This weekend, I was interested to read a story that started in the tabloids about Simon Cowell, who has reportedly given up his mobile phone for the last ten months.
On the surface, this seems like a great story, but it got me thinking. Here is a successful businessman, taking control of his dependence on devices and looking after his mental health. Cowell says he spent a lot of his time ‘irritated’ at his phone and then annoyed at others using their phones while in meetings.
Simon Cowell is not alone, plenty of notable names have talked about detoxing from devices, but the truth is that these people can afford to do that.
Ditching your devices is the ultimate luxury – giving back time and privacy in one fell swoop.
I’m sure that I could ditch my phone if I had people around me that would use theirs instead.
The reality is that most of us run our lives ourselves, using our phones as an essential tool to stay in touch with work or friends, access goods and services and sometimes get entertainment.
However, there has to be a balance.
Its fair to say that there are definite issues with over-dependency on smartphones and tablets, data tells us that many people look at their phones within 15 minutes of waking up and work-life balance can be severely impacted by intrusions into leisure and rest time.
Solving this requires an investment of time and effort, but there are simple steps that you can take that will help.
- Reduce the number of notifications and alerts that disturb you or break concentration. Switching off pop-ups, removing red ‘badges’ and uninstalling apps that generate alerts are good steps.
- Schedule periods of time without your smartphone nearby. These unbroken times of concentration can drive high productivity.
- Remove smart devices from the bedroom, to encourage better rest and sleep.
- Carefully ‘curate’ the things allowed into your inbox so that when you do handle email, you are not processing pages and pages of ‘junk’ email.
All of these steps have helped me become way less dependant on my smartphone, and more aware of the people around me.
So, whilst ditching the smartphone may not be an option for most of us – we may be able to reap some of the benefits without creating a dependency on other people to do work for us.
It’s fair to say that Jordan Peterson is enjoying a ‘moment’, from academic to YouTube ‘person of interest’, there has been no escaping the coverage.
I bought 12 Rules for Life before my trip to New Zealand, and read it during the long flights, and in my hotel in Auckland.
As the title suggests, the book is divided into 12 chapters, each one titled with one of the rules that Peterson has devised. Largely speaking these are matters of ethics, and the author uses science, religion, philosophy and literature to make his case for each of the rules.
The origin of the book, is a set of questions that Peterson was asked on Quora. In turning those questions into the 12 Rules, Peterson has presented an essay supporting each of the ideas.
The 12 rules are as follows:
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back
- Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
- Make friends with people who want the best for you
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
- Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
- Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
- Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
- Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
- Be precise in your speech
- Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
- Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
The overarching principle of the book is that every person has a basic instinct for ethics and should be able to find a meaning for each of these rules. The essays present a number of comparisons or examples.
For example, in the first chapter; “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”. Petersen gives a number of examples of social hierarchies, including the behaviour of lobsters as allegories for how people can (and should) accept the responsibility of their own lives. The lobster example is funny, and written well – although quite lengthy.
Overall, I found the book enjoyable. The ‘rules’ are largely common sense, and I suspect that the examples could have been stripped back to very short essays if the author was inclined. There is a fair amount of ‘grandstanding’ in the examples and language used – and some may find the depth of the examples a bit off putting.
In summary, 12 Rules is a self-help book for our age – the rules and the examples are sometimes old fashioned, but the underlying principles are sound.
This is the final part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life. You can read the rest of the series here.
After a break of a few weeks, we reconvened our Working Out Loud circle for our twelfth and final meeting on Friday. It felt familiar, and good to be back together as a group.
As usual, we opened with our check-in. After a gap of 6 weeks, everyone had a lot of news to share. Some of it related to Wokring Out Loud, and some was broader, but it was great to hear about what had been keeping everyone so busy. We had updates on travel, hobbies, business and leisure activities.
The break felt like we were starting afresh in some ways. The general emotion of the team was one of excitement; getting closure, hitting milestones and celebrating our journey.
Reflecting on our goals
At the beginning of the circle, we all set individual goals. Some changed and evolved along the way, mine included.
I felt a bit derailed towards the end of the WOL journey, business travel stole my time and I felt like I had let my goal slip out of sight.
My biggest reflection was that when I deliberately focus on WOL, then it works and brings benefits very quickly. Therefore, when things threaten to derail me, I need a stragey to create resilience.
When I think back to taking a three-week trip with a lot of travel, I should have reframed my goal, and had a different intention to keep up my writing habit and keep my goal in mind.
I know now.
Letters to the future
We discussed our letters to the future, with reflections, predictions and aspirations. It was wonderful to hear everone so focused on the future and what changes WOL had initiated.
I sent my letter to myself on futureme.org – for once, I won’t publish it here.
This one is for me.
Pay it Foward
We had a lot of discussion about how we would pay the WOL work forward. Some of our group have thought about joining another circle, or working on programmes to bring WOL to wider audiences.
We discussed how we could continue our time together. Our group has been productive and energising, and there is a sense that we want to continue meetings, with a set agenda for WOL ‘Alumni’.
Personally – I think there is no coincidence that I lost my way with my goal, at the same time as we slowed down our meetings. My #mutanfall group acted as a set of the most amazing accountability buddies.
It looks likely that we will continue as a group, and we’re working on scheduling those meetings for the future.
My key takeaways
- The WOL circle has been a productive use of time – inspiring me to some different ways of working and adding the experience of reading the book.
- The effort of Working Out Loud needs to be deliberate and focused in order to maximise the benefits.
- I made some great friends through the process – and I think that anyone who gets into a WOL circle will have that opportunity as well.