How long would you do it?

There is nothing like a good night’s sleep to keep us refreshed and energetic to face life’s daily challenges.

And after a good night’s rest, what is the first thing you do when upon waking in the morning? Is it to reach over and check your phone for any new messages? Do you immediately switch on your tablet or computer and “check in” to the day’s happenings?

If so, you’re not alone. The temptation to remain connected to the constant stream of information the internet provides is more than most of us can resist. News, weather, those interesting updates on all our social media sites… all just a moment’s click away! 


It’s not easy to resist the lure of all this info after we’ve logged out for 8 hour of beauty rest, but it is a challenge we should meet. Knowing when to unplug from technology can make a huge difference in how well we connect to ourselves and others. The first 30 - 60 minutes of one’s day is a perfect example. By dedicating our first moments of the day to quiet, peaceful time, we allow ourselves to recharge our system, which in return will better enable us to meet the challenges of the day ahead. Sleep alone isn’t enough, and let’s face it, many of us aren’t getting enough proper sleep, either. Sleep allows our unconscious system to regenerate, but our consciousness needs some time as well. By reaching for our phones first thing, we overburden our consciousness, which can make us anxious, unhappy, and much less productive overall.


Think about what it will feel like to stay off your phone for 30 minutes when you wake. Does the very notion make you anxious? That’s a sign that you need to step back from constant online connection. Obviously there will be some days when deadlines approach, life happens, and so on, and you won’t have the luxury of quiet time to start your day. That’s fine. But overall, we need to ease into a more reflective, balanced and controlled management of technology in our lives. Little steps can make a world of difference. 10 minutes before reaching for the phone in the morning. Then 15. Then 20. Then 30, 45, and so on.


Imagine having the first hour of your day online connection free. A hour of peaceful reflection, an hour of taking time for you and only you. An hour for your conscious self to be alone and distraction free. Imagine how much better rested you will feel, how much more energy you will have to meet the day ahead.


Is this a challenge you can meet? Well, you won’t know until you try. And the time to start trying is now!


Forever Young

Did you ever see the movie Big? In this film, Tom Hanks portrays Josh Baskin, a kid who magically transforms into a 30 year old. And through a series of fortunate events, he winds up as an executive at a major toy company, where his 13 year old insight proves itself invaluable to a stiff and stodgy development department that has lost sight of what truly appeals to its customers: fun.

The film highlights the value of the free-flowing enthusiasm of youth. As kids we are filled with ideas, and well, idealism. We create on a grand scale; nothing is too great for our imagination to overcome. We have yet to be burdened by the pressures and responsibilities of adult life, and as such, a world of infinite possibility lies before us.

Our tragedy is that many of us lose our youthful optimism and enthusiasm. Most often our youthful spirit isn’t gone entirely, as noted in the film when Josh coerces a fellow exec to let down her guard and join him on a trampoline. Most often it is just hidden, tucked out of sight, until something allows it to return to the surface. The moment it returns our lives are instantly transformed and we find ourselves wondering why we ever lost our way.

Often a life-altering event like an illness or catastrophe will force us into a contemplative zone where we reassess what our life is all about. In these moments, as the cliché goes, few of us find ourselves wishing we had spent more time at the office. Most often, we lament opportunities lost: times we didn’t take chances, didn’t live adventures, didn’t express our feelings to someone we care about. We realize the value of life’s playful and sincere moments, and we decide to readjust accordingly. 

But we don’t need to wait for something dramatic to occur: we can choose to reconnect with our youthful spirit at any point. We can let go of the misconception that indulging our playful nature is childish, a behavior to be left behind. By choosing to affirm our youthful, expressive nature, we empower ourselves to connect in new ways, and on new levels. Doing so won’t just empower our personal lives; it will empower the lives of those around us. Because the less stifled we are, the more we free those around to be less stifled as well, a point well illustrated in the film as the infectious energy of Josh sweeps over those he works with. In fact it is this energy that propels him to rise through the corporate ranks very quickly, a point perhaps lost to those amongst us who view towing the established line as the most secure route through life.

While the film focuses on a toy company, the point is not limited to all things kid related. Our wide-eyed youthful enthusiasm forms the base of all creative energy, and empowering it allows us to better address problems of any magnitude. There is something to be said for letting down our guard, releasing ourselves from the fear of judgment, and basking in the freedom of an open exchange of energy and ideas. Because after all, that is life at its very core: an exchange of energy with those around us. 

Until recently, rigidity has been a staple of adulthood, especially in business. However, with the relatively recent emergence of the tech sector, a shift is slowly underway. Technology companies world wide are awakening to the value of youthful, creative energy, and are designing workplaces to foster just such unfettered environments. Truly, there has never been a better time to be a grown up kid.

The film concludes with Josh deciding to return to his life as a 13 year old. He has lived a great adventure, but the pressures of adult life are more than he is ready to endure. His decision reflects the true reward of youth, for the value of his childlike insight isn’t the productivity he displays: rather, the reward is a life of freedom. The freedom of a child, to be unencumbered by the many, often unnecessary, burdens placed upon us as adults. We all have to grow up at some point, but doing so doesn’t mean burying the child within us. Rather, we need to enhance that child, for this energy and enthusiasm forms our very foundation. Expressing that energy is one of the greatest gifts we can give, both to ourselves, and those around us. The world will thank us for it, so then…

... why don’t we start recovering the child we left behind?

The Typewriter

If you’re getting on in years, or just happened to grow up somewhere that was technologically stunted, you may well remember the perks and pleasures of that most sophisticated of analog machinery: the typewriter.

It’s interesting to think: at one point, the typewriter was new technology. Speed and efficiency was increased many times over. People were excited. More work could be done in less time.

Actually the typewriter represented new technology many times over the course of its functional lifetime. What originated from humble beginnings in the 1800s morphed into the deluxe, ergonomic and efficient electronic typewriter of the 1980s. In between were many variations: manual gave way to electric, which gave way to electronic. On board error correction was introduced. With each new development our efficiency and ease of use grew.

But apart from the important progress that this machine gave us at certain moment, there is something oddly rewarding about using a typewriter: a connection with our senses that is lacking in the word processors and personal computers we use at the moment. Consider the sound of the typebar striking the paper, the weight of the keys beneath our fingers, the dinging of the bell and subsequent slap of the carriage as it returns to the left for the next row of text. We don’t just use a manual typewriter: we enter its realm. We have the physical act of rolling in the paper, adjusting the settings, watching as the print comes to life before our very eyes.

Typewriters will never match the efficiency of our modern day computers, but in one sense, this is the pity about the rapidly disappearing analog world: we become more efficient than ever, but in the process we lose our sense of touch, and feel. We output more but bond less with what we produce. That’s ok in one sense, because who wants to go back to manual error correction and liquid paper? But be careful not to become a part of the machinery itself. We are well served to remember the goal of all our ever-advancing technology: to allow us more time to connect to the world and enable us to do the things we love.

Meeting people is fun

When you look at communication technology today, it’s difficult not to be hugely impressed. We are more connected across the globe now than at any other point in history. We have friends and networks that span countries and continents, we converse with people we’ve never met in places we’ve never been, we share photos, recipes, philosophies, you name it, with a countless array of peers worldwide.

The ability to make friends and find like-minded souls across the world is a gift of technology none of us may have dreamed of, even a couple of decades ago. It is a wonderful gift, something to be truly grateful for. But it’s important to remember, however, that we only have so many hours in a day, and the more hours we spend online, the fewer hours we spend in the actual physical company of others. And as social creatures, we ignore our need for physical interaction at our own peril.

One cannot overstate the value of physical touch. While we can be connected to thousands of people online, nothing can replace the immediate reward of a hug. Online chatting is great, but it’s the experience of seeing our friends in person, looking in their eyes, touching their hands, that offers us the most rewarding connection.

Consider the simple hug: how else can we immediately express our feelings to another human on such an instinctual level? Through a hug we can express empathy, compassion, love, fondness, devotion or sorrow. The act of hugging another person connects us in a way that is immediate, and ultimately human. It is a form of communication and bonding that cannot be replicated in the virtual world. 

This is not to say we should downplay the value of words. Sharing our feelings through words or video allows us to strengthen our bond with those we care about. But emotional bonds are not meant to be online entities. While video chat is a welcome tool to bridge great distance and prolonged absence, it is no substitute for the physical company of those we cherish. 

A primary draw of technology is precisely the ease in which it replaces our traditional social interchange. We gather our friends online to discuss our interests and hobbies, play video games, comment on videos or politics, all from the comfort of our homes; no driving or searching for parking required. When we’re feeling lonely, it’s easy to log on and interact with someone, somewhere, with a common interest. And while we may feel connected to others, in some way, we sense that something is lacking.

That something is our humanity. No app exists that can replace the experience and reward of human physical interaction. Trying to replicate the human bonding experience in a virtual environment would be like trying to replace the sun with the glow of our computer screens (perhaps something that many of us can relate to).

Remarkable as our virtual lives are, eventually we desire the warmth of our fellow humans, in person.

The challenge in this scenario is that we often don’t realize how isolated we’ve become. We’re doing more communicating than ever, so it doesn’t occur to us that we may be lacking in other areas of our lives. We’re so busy chatting and posting and updating that we may not realize it has been days, or weeks, or even months since we’ve actually touched another person. We may not see that while our brains are constantly engaged, our hearts are left wanting.

Communication technology is indeed a wonderful thing. How we choose to use it will make all the difference in our lives. As long as we remember to step back every now and then, unplug ourselves from our machines, and re-plug ourselves into the arms of each other, we’ll be fine. Realizing the physical limits of technology is the first step in creating that balance.

Oú est le Téléphone?

When I grew up, people had a very different relationship with the telephone. Inthose days, a phone wasn’t a little vibrating brick constantly buzzing for attention in your pocket. Instead it was mounted on the wall, a permanent, stable fixture of measured communication. Each home had one phone line, generally controlled and monopolized by the teenager of the highest social standing at the time.

Things have changed quite a bit over the years. First came the tabletop telephone: their long coiled cables offering us a new found freedom to enjoy conversations somewhere other than the kitchen. It wasn’t long until the flashy handsets of the new and exciting cordless telephone arrived on the scene. Initially limited in range, it didn’t take long for technology to advance, and soon people could happily wander outside in their yards whilst talking to grandma, 350 miles away. 

As time passed, it wasn’t just phones that progressed: their features and options multiplied. Soon call waiting did away with the ever annoying busy signal, voice mail replaced the red blinking light of the answering machine, and multiple lines allowed family members to regain some peace and harmony.

When the first cell phones arrived, they were commonly tethered to the posh automobiles of “movers and shakers”, or connected to the type of cumbersome suitcase easily mistaken for a bomb. It was easy to understand why such contraptions weren’t a staple of the “must have” Christmas gift list. But the mere fact that the mobile phone now existed put the notion in our brains: how great would it be to have a phone with us all the time? Just imagine: no running to answer the ring, no missed calls, no scrounging for change at a dingy pay phone in the wrong part of town.  

Eventually cell phones became an affordable reality for the masses. Communication flourished, as did the speed and efficiency with which we could get things done. Plans could be organized; people could be reached anywhere, any time, and suddenly the pace of life accelerated many times over. While this newfound communication made life more fun and efficient, it didn’t come without a cost.

That cost was defined in a new paradox: as efficiency is increased, demand increases alongside with it. So, while upgraded communication allows us to do more in less time, suddenly, more is expected of us from those on the other end of the line. It’s not as if we’re able to catch up in the game of life: get a lot more done, in less time, and be further ahead than ever before. No, the game of life increases its pace just as quickly. 

In the past our work lives commonly ended at 5 or 6 pm and that was that: with work done, our lives were ours again for the evening. Now we can be reached all day, every day, and are expected to respond. We then apply the spirit of this unending communication to our personal lives.  In the days before answering machines, we might call someone and if no one answered, well, that was it: they weren’t home, and we’d have to try again later.  In our current climate, a call unanswered becomes a cause of stress: is the recipient of our communication intentionally avoiding us? If we leave a message, we expect a prompt response. What reason could exist for anything other than a prompt response?

With the advent of texting, things have become even worse. We send a text; we expect an immediate response. Many of us become irritable if our demand is not met. On the other side, we receive what feels like an unending barrage of texts and messages from an ever-widening range of sources, all expecting a prompt response. The inevitable by-product of all this efficient communication? Stress, stress, and more stress.

As we struggle to manage this paradox of increased efficiency/demand, we may find ourselves longing for simplicity to ease our burden and alleviate our stress. We will never return to those charming days of a single telephone mounted to a wall, its rotary dial sparking our thoughts to recipients near and far, just as we will never return to the days of tapping telegrams or delivering letters on horseback. The point isn’t to regress, but to better manage what we have. Our systems allow us to communicate instantly and broadly to entire populations across the globe, or to video chat with family members a few miles away. Managing this potential requires honesty and reflection: how dependent have we become on our modern lines of communication? Are we controlling them, or are they controlling us? Are we able to switch off, unplug, and enjoy a moment unfettered by the constant hum of digital communication? What boundaries do we need to set to ensure the demands of technology aren’t outweighing the benefits it provides?

Setting a healthy balance will always be a deeply personal task: what works for one will not necessarily work for another. But it is an important step to take. For everyone who is feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or lonely even in the age of massive online friend bases, take a moment to assess your relationships: are you getting more x’s and o’s than real life hugs? Are you online communities enhancing your real world relationships, or substituting for them? How much power does technology hold over your life, and what can you do to get it back?

It’s good to remember what the telephone is for: it is a device that allows us to connect. Connecting with one another is one of life’s great challenges and one of life’s great rewards. The information age has placed a great power into our hands, and with that power comes the responsibility of managing it well. Otherwise we will lose the rewards all these effective means of communication have to offer.

Taking the time to manage the ways you interact with the vibrating brick in your pocket is a crucial task in today’s ultra-linked environment.  While another task may be the last thing we feel we need, this one is well worth completing.

Your analog brain will thank you for it.