Be Out of Touch – And Enjoy It!
As the owner/user of an iPhone, an iMac and a MacBookPro, plus a wireless connection in office and home, and in most public venues for all of them, (plus a roommate who is similarly connected) I am somewhat familiar with email, voice mail, live conversations and meetings through various means including Skype, Google+, webinars with and without video and conference calls. Add to this mélange of apparati the social media network that includes one or more of the following social media -Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, My Space and Google + – and you have activity that sucks up a lot of time, attention, energy and resources. Yes, it’s how people communicate, connect and do business and fills our calendars and schedules with meetings, appointments, commitments and projects.
The phrase, “taking time off” is interesting because one cannot really ever turn time off. What we mean is “time out” from the usual and ordinary, perhaps to invest in the unusual and extraordinary. Like it says in the old ads for Timex, it just keeps on ticking. One day, we will run out of time, or walk out, or lie down and check out. Think of some of the amusing ways people speak about time. “I didn’t have time to do it.” What they really mean is they did not choose to take the time to do it, whatever “it” was, but who is going to say that? How about this one? “It’s time to eat.” That was my mother calling from the kitchen. Whether you were actually hungry or not didn’t matter. It was “time” for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One family I knew quite well, not my own, sat down precisely at 5:30 PM every evening for dinner and everyone was expected to be there and be on time. Being “on time” is highly important to many people but different cultures regard that behavior with more or less value. Personal priorities about being “on time” may also vary.
In certain cities in the U.S., it is not uncommon for us to find timetables or daily schedules for buses or trains. If the bus is to be at a certain stop at 10:09 PM, for example, one can expect that to happen at the designated time, give or take a minute. For polychronic individuals such precise timetables are mind-boggling, as many of them are simply used to going to the bus stop and waiting – not knowing whether they will be waiting for five or forty-five minutes. That is just the way things are.
This difference in time orientation is reflected in the complaints of U.S. business people conducting business in Saudi Arabia or in Mexico, for example. A big source of frustration for them is the difficulty of getting through a meeting’s agenda. That is because in these countries meetings begin with an extended socializing time in which time is spent establishing social rapport – usually over many cups of coffee or tea.”
We are often like Pavlov’s dog. The bell rings and we respond whether by changing activities, answering a call or checking something in the oven. We are conditioned and regulated by time. It’s “time” to go to bed. It’s “time” to get up. It’s “time” to go to work. It’s “time out” and “time” to start again. It’s “time” for the meeting. It’s “time” to leave in order to get there in a reasonable amount of time. It’s all about time and yet time is an invention, a construct for our convenience and we are bound by it. How we measure time and how we use it reveals an enormous amount about who we are as individuals and who we are as a culture.
Here’s a phrase that amuses me because of the double entendre. “It’s about time” we say, meaning usually that we have waited for some time for something or other to happen and finally, it has taken place. Whether that expresses gratitude, relief or annoyance depends upon the context. A long-awaited package arrives at the door and we say, “It’s about time!” And really, it is simply that it has taken longer than was expected or desired for the delivery to be accomplished. Big deal! Get over it! At least we got the package.
ßIn order to get more done in the same amount of time the phenomenon of multi-tasking has appeared and it seems to have arrived in conjunction with the advent of computers that are able to perform several functions at the same time. Recent research at Stanford on multi-tasking shows that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.
High-tech jugglers are everywhere – keeping up several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text messaging while watching television and jumping from one website to another while plowing through homework assignments. But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multi-taskers are paying a big mental price.
When it comes to our brain’s ability to pay attention, the brain focuses on concepts sequentially and not on two things at once. In fact, the brain must disengage from one activity in order to engage in another. And it takes several tenths of a second for the brain to make this switch. As John Medina, author of “Brain Rules” says: “To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.” ( http://brainrules.blogspot.com/2008/03/brain-cannot-multitask_16.html)
When we are in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, we are apparently not able to filter out what’s not relevant to our current goal. That failure to filter means we are slowed down by that irrelevant information.”
However, that said, there are examples and instances that may show some exceptions and here is one such illustration. The song, “The Time of My Life” which was the music and lyrics used in the final scene of the movie Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, was written by Frankie Previte. Previte said: “I received a call from Jimmy Ienner who asked me to write a song for this little movie. I told him I didn’t have the time and he said, ‘Make time. This could change your life.'” Frankie’s former bandmate John DeNicola and his friend Don Marowitz came up with the music for the song. Says Previte, “I received a track from John and Donny and I wrote the lyric and melody for the chorus in the car while I was driving along the Garden State Parkway, going to a studio session for another song.”
Here’s the message: Making or taking time to do what is really important can change your life. The question is, what is really important? You are!
In light of all this connectivity, our current offering is an opportunity for a small group of people to unplug for several days and come together in an old-fashioned retreat setting and see what we might make of this kind of experience. It will be interesting to get some feedback on the unplugged part of the Seminar and see how many were really able to stay simply unplugged for most of three full days. Perhaps the only way to accomplish that part is to go to a hermitage where there is no electricity, no wireless, no cell service (global sat excluded) no land lines and make it a true wilderness event. I will put it on my to do list and write it out on a yellow note pad. Consider the SFLC event in April in Santa Fe, New Mexico! http://www.santafelead.org
© Gary Gruber 2013