I think back to a cozy, Italian restaurant I visited recently. This used to be a place for conversation or people watching. Instead, at the front table, no one was talking. Everyone was face down – eyes on their phones - swiping or frantically typing.
Let’s be honest, we are all guilty. (Myself included.) We all have a mobile device, if not multiple. (Guilty, again.) In fact, there are more mobile devices than people in the world. And, they are being used often. A 2015 report notes there are more Google Searches on mobile than desktop. The ability to connect more often, faster, and from anywhere is increasing. The human moments – both at home and at work – are being sacrificed. And, in case you’re waiting for the world to slow down, it’s not. As Shelly Palmer has said “Tomorrow will not be like today. Today you will experience the slowest rate of technological change in your lifetime.”
We are busier. Our minds are paying attention to more. And, it’s increasingly easy to disengage – even without realizing it – and miss “the moment”. An HBR article talks about the ill effects that losing these moments can have both personally and professionally in The Busier You Are, the More You Need Mindfulness.
So, how can we find ways to be "in the moment" while living in a fast-paced, increasingly connected, and digital world? Here are three tips:
1) More face-to-face. A CEO (and ex-Coca Cola exec) I worked with once said, “When someone stops by your desk or office, look up and engage. Even if you are busy – seize the moment. Human interaction is so important.” I realized that as CEO, she must be busier than me so if she could take time, so could I.
Have you ever been talking to friends or colleagues while they’re looking at their phone or computer? Whether it bothers you or not, you’re not getting their full attention. And, over time, the opportunity to dialogue, learn, and have that “human moment” will become less frequent. So, look up, be present, and take advantage. Even better, actively create opportunities to dialogue face to face. Friends and colleagues will appreciate it and you never know what you will learn.
2) Dedicated “think time.” Articles in publications from HBR to Inc., share the importance of taking time to think. Whether two hours a day or two intense weeks once a year, there seems to be little by way of a “magic formula” for leaders. Instead, the common theme is uninterrupted time (consider: no social, email, conference calls… or even music) to let your mind wander, strategize, and ideate.
I find my best time is while running - in fact, I often debate stopping to take a quick note along the way. A former colleague (and serial entrepreneur) constantly reminded his team to “find an hour a day, just for them.” However you choose, carving out “think time” allows the opportunity to gain a different perspective, get away from the noise, and explore your own thoughts. Like most things, you may need practice to build this muscle. So, start slowly with just 30 or 60 minutes and find what works for you.
3) Discipline. Let’s be serious though. We do need time to do things like check our emails, share a thought, post our favorite quote, and scroll news feeds. But, to what end? And, when? We need to be disciplined and establish "rules" for ourselves. Making it a conscious choice to engage or disengage from the “insta-frenzy" (that urge to constantly check our phones) and not just a mindless habit.
And, don’t just call it multi-tasking. We've all seen colleagues scroll through their phones while in the back of a large meeting or on a phone or video call (and, are probably guilty ourselves). But, this often mindless effort is distracting. You might think you are making better use of your time, but an article in Fast Company contends you are actually paying less attention. Or worse, reducing productivity – by up to 40%. Who needs that? Next time, try checking your email before and after a meeting or call, not during. And, if you need to send an email during a meeting, consider excusing yourself for a moment. Keeping an eye on every alert? Try keeping your phone out-of-sight or turned over for a set period of time to reduce distraction.
Distractions will continue to surround us. We've seen an increase in the number of technologies and digital channels vying for our time, not less. And they are hugely impactful - often credited for increased efficiencies and speed. Mobile phones are just the beginning - everything from our clothes to our cars are soon to be connected. So, what does this mean for those critical "human moments"? We need to encourage opportunities to engage face to face (phone or video calls included), set aside uninterrupted "think time" and be disciplined with our choice of when we engage or disengage from the "insta-frenzy." So, the next time you reach for your phone to scroll through your emails or social channels, ask yourself if it should wait. You might not know what you're missing.