Thursday, April 15, 2010

Down Time from the Digital Roar

Just after writing about the Digital Detox Week, I came across this interesting article in the Unclutterer blog echoing some of the same ideas I have been thinking about managing ones focus and creative time. Organizing the Creative Mind by guest blogger and author Scott Belsky. I love the title, even. Doesn't it sound so warm and encouraging? Yes, it is possible to organize the creative mind!

It seems he has a book as well, Making Ideas Happen, which also sounds worth finding.

He offers several observations about how you might "organize projects and manage your energy" to make your ideas happen.

This article is chock-full of inspiring ideas, but the one idea that really hit me, especially in regards to the Digital Detox Week, is how we have been conditioned to be "reactive" with our energy - responding to endless input - rather than proactive. To avoid getting sucked into the vortex of incoming emails, messages and other contact, he says,
some people schedule “windows of non-stimulation” in their day. For a 2-3 hour period of time, they minimize their email and all other sources of incoming communication. With this time, they focus on a list of goals – not their regular tasks, but long-term items that require research and deep thought

I am reminded of some kinds of meditation in which one sits quietly and quiets the mind so as to notice what ones deeper self might have to say. Who can hear the whispers of our soul beyond the shouting of the demands of our life?

The internet is endless stimulation of one sort or another. Expand that to include all digital devices, and it's clear many of us live thoroughly washed in a dull roar (or deafening shout!) of input. Who can hear quieter whispers beyond all that input? Not me.

Perhaps I am so smitten with this description because it seems to frame the unplugging as a respite from the onslaught. Unplugging for a while is not just a nice idea; it's necessary "down time."

I'm looking forward to pursing other projects that have nothing to do with the digital world. Maybe I will look about me with new eyes. Perhaps I will put my hands on real life projects, something with texture and heft and scent. Perhaps I will find mental space to think about deeper issues in my life. How is my life going? What new goals are pushing forward for attention? Perhaps I will take more naps and laze about on the couch. Sleep is always good.

Scott also writes about what he calls insecurity work, those "small repetitive actions don’t help you make ideas happen.....just help you feel safe." Yeah, I'll check email one more time, look for an update one more time. I can see how that would chew up lots of energy and time. It's likely that the smaller the distraction, the more ultimately time consuming it is because one doesn't even notice the minute bits of energy put into them. They add up without one even noticing.

My hope for unplugging includes being more aware of how I use my digital time. Am I just spinning my wheels? How much of what I do is actual productive time? When I'm conscious of what I am doing, I have to admit that much og what I do online amounts to nervous tics of faux productivity.

I'm still a little nervous about unplugging. What if something comes up that really needs my attention? What if somebody really needs to get my answer on something? What if I am overrun with emails while I am gone? What if my sister or friend needs me? What if...?

It's a good thing to notice, huh? What energy am I losing feeling anxious about keeping plugged in? I'm thinking that whatever it is that's landing in my inbox, certainly nobody is dying, or losing money or sleep over it, so I might as well let it go for a while.

I was just gifted with fresh strawberries. I'm think I'll start the week with pie.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Things I am Loving This Week So Far

Ceasarinni bread, airy, chewy, eggy bread with a crust of seeds, like sitting down to breakfast in Italy.

Taking the time to bask in bright dappled sunlight + a cool breeze off the river.

Baby clothes neatly folded and organized.

Online touch typing lessons.

A freshly washed kitchen floor.

The crunch of sugar in the crust of a dessert muffin.

Snagging heirloom tomato seedlings, leading to high hopes for Summer gardening.

Little girl giving us ankle hugs.

ankle hug_0003
"I'm a hugger, not a biter."

Punny humor.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Digital Detox Week: Unplugging the Beast

Last week I ran across a suggestion organized by AdBusters: Unplug yourself from all your digital and internet devices for a Digital Detox Week. Sounds like something I could use more/less of so of course I promptly went back to evil FaceBook and forgot about it. Luckily, I had written it down in my calendar. It starts Monday, April 19th, 2010.

It's a "nice idea" but will it work? Is it possible? And more importantly, am I willing to make it happen??

I think it will work.

Taking a break from the way we usually do things can give us new perspective and fresh insight, a mental break. We don't even see our life as it is sometimes, so buried in the virtual world are we. The digital world has become the air we breathe. Taking a step back... nay, taking a huge step back will give room to get past the nattering of our mind - has anybody sent me an email/said something clever/done something shocking or newsworthy? - and see what our lives have become. There will be space to consider what we really want our lives to be like, rather than floating through our days trying to keep up with the flood of information and endless entertainment.

I think it is possible.

On those occasions that I have been backpacking and far in the wild (without a cellphone or iPod, of course!), I have found myself sinking into a more observant and meditative state. I renew my contact with my and the world's deepest cycles of eat sleep work breathe play. And I come back to my everyday light with new eyes and an appreciation of the principles and qualities of a life of clear and simple purpose. On those rare occasions that I am cut off from the internet, it can be refreshing to focus on other things. So unplugging for a week on purpose is likely to also give me a more observant and clear-eyed state.

I am willing to make it happen.

I tell myself I am. I know it will be good for me, BUT... Ha. The "but" is of no real consequence or substance. I am used to allowing myself a generous amount of disconnection through reading on the internet. I am a bit scared to unplug. I need some of that entertainment to distract and sooth myself. Perhaps that all the more reason to do it. Like going to bed at a reasonable hour, I can make it happen, if rarely. Somehow, I think this will be easier.

I think it needs to happen.

Notice that this is a question that I skipped right over as a given. Yes, yes, yes. It does need to happen. I get so caught in the digital world. Perpetually exciting and tantilizing with one more contact, one more piece of information, one more connection just out of reach. One more creation, one more sentence, one more distraction. One more thing taking me away from the equally important but often more neglected rest of my life.

. . .

I think I will have an easier time of it if I set myself some targets and can push myself past the initial resistance to take action.

It helps me is to set a target time to be off the computer or into bed.

It also helps to actually turn off or put my computer to sleep for the duration. If I don't turn it off, I am periodically tempted to mosey by and see what is going on, but once I click "Sleep," the big screen goes dark, and I'm forced to get up and walk away. Happily enough, once I submit to leaving it off, it loses some pull on me. I can avoid sitting down in front of the machine and am free to enjoy or focus on something else in the real world.

Of course, I don't have a job that requires use of the internet or computer. I don't have a palm pilot or any sort of fancy phone-camera-internet-pager device that keeps me tethered.

I don't have complete confidence that I will be able to restrain myself from checking email at least every so often, so I am prepared to give myself one timed online session a day. Maybe every other day. We shall see how I do.

I am hopeful, though, that once I accept my unplugged state, I can release my digital preoccupations and move on to other occupations.

It will be interesting to see what else I do that week!

It starts Monday, April 19th. Anybody else interested?