Technology is both a blessing and a curse. Innovations we would never have imagined just five years ago have taken hold of our minds, and our hearts, and help make our lives easier. Tablets have worked their way into our homes, offices and schools and have had a powerful impact. By now you’ve surely seen or read a story about Autism and the iPad allowing students to express themselves. It’s amazing to think about how powerful technology is, and even more amazing to think about how powerful it will be in another five years.
But even with all that technology can help us achieve on a daily basis, it has its drawbacks. Sure, there’s the financial side of it, but there’s a bigger issue — technology is one colossal distraction.
That’s right. I said it. Technology is nothing but one giant distraction. Look around you when you’re at a restaurant, waiting in line to purchase tickets at Tinseltown or just walking around the mall. Odds are you’re going to see just as many people, if not more, on their smartphones as there are people not on them. These people are staring at a small screen, as if they’re staring through a window to the rest of the world.
People are looking for interaction on their phones, instead of concentrating on the world that waits patiently for their attention directly in front of them.
From the time we wake up we are constantly text messaging, checking Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, the weather; the list goes on and on. We end up repeating these tasks until we go to sleep, destined to repeat it again the next day. It’s easy to become a slave to your device, beckoned by a beep, anxiously answering each demand with a smile.
As we begin a new year, we make promises to ourselves. Promises we fully intend on keeping. Promises we feel will better our lives, and the lives of those we surround ourselves with — Online and in person.
This year, for 2013, work on diminishing the number of distractions technology creates in your life.
Do this by taking time each day to create blank space. Set a specific amount of time every day where you sit down, with your smartphone turned off. Not silenced, but turned off. Same goes for your tablet, computer, TV and anything else that could possibly distract you. Turn it off.
Sit down with a cup of coffee, or a cup of hot tea, a notebook and a pen. Do nothing else but think, ponder, imagine and examine different facets of your life. Is there a big project coming up at work you feel you need to pay more attention to? What about an assignment for class that you just don’t quite understand? Or, perhaps, you just need some time to relax and enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the calm.
Creating blank space in our lives, on a regular basis, has the potential to do amazing things. Ideas we have been too busy to let surface magically work their way out.
The notebook and pen creates an intimate connection between you and your thoughts. An intimacy we’ve lost when using a slab of glass to tap on, or the piece of plastic with numerous buttons we pound away at.
A blank piece of paper is also symbolic in that it, in and of itself, is blank space. A blank piece of paper offers you limitless potential.
You’ll find, over time, if you continue to create this blank space and free your mind from the beeps and clutter for a few minutes a day, you’re going to feel reenergized. You’re going to quit wasting your time, and begin to focus your time on the things that matter the most.
Eventually this blank space you create will work its way into the rest of your day and you’ll find yourself staring at your phone less and less, and interacting with the people around you more and more. These interactions, these bonds we form, help us to be more productive, more creative.
We live in a society that feels our productivity increases due to the technology we bring into our lives. And while we may get more work done on a daily basis, odds are we are working longer hours at the same time.
You may be asking yourself what the random beeps, rings and dings are throughout this article. Each one of them represents a time when I was interrupted while writing this article. It’s hard to work with the number of distractions these beeps represent. This is a struggle we all face on a daily, if not hourly basis.
If you want to hear someone far more qualified than myself talk about creating blank space and the benefits of making it a habit, make sure you watch or listen to Episode 6 of The Foundation podcast featuring Jesse Jacobs. Jesse tells the story of going from one of the pioneers during the dot-com boom of the 90’s to slowing his life down, creating blank space, and opening up one of the most popular tea lounges in San Francisco: Samovar Tea Lounge. The way he talks about blank space is inspirational to say the least.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to turn off my phone, computer, tablet and even the radio. I’ve got my favorite pen and notebook sitting on a table, along with my favorite coffee cup, waiting for me. Who knows what will come of it today, but that’s the true beauty of creating blank space. The possibilities are limitless.