October 11, 2017Stop the world. I want to get off.
Unplugging is a familiar refrain among today’s professionals, yet few know how to accomplish it or why it’s so important. When disconnecting isn’t an option, many professionals substitute small respites with friends and family. Millennials maintain that work-life balance is non-negotiable when considering a new job but then struggle to balance the demands of their budding careers with their desires for a standard of living nurtured in a period of economic prosperity. While work-at-home jobs are the poster child of family-friendly HR policies, finding the right work-life balance has long been key to personal and professional fulfillment.
To understand the depth of our quiet-time starved nation one needs to look no further than the rise of meditation and mindfulness centers on corporate campuses. Today, it is not uncommon for Fortune 500 companies to include a Director of Wellness among their executive ranks and to offer daily meditation sessions. Don’t have time for meditation? No worries. You can download a smartphone application like Headspace that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training for people on the go. So, the very device that is stealing our downtime is now able to help people slow down without slowing down. Amazing!
Our cognitive ability – thinking, reading, learning, remembering, reasoning, processing – is most productive when each skill is exercised and working in concert. Weakness in one area may impede our overall ability. A recent WSJ article, How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds, makes the case that as our brains become more dependent on mobile gadgets, our intellect weakens, our concentration suffers, and our ability to reason diminishes. Just the opposite of what you might have expected from having unfettered access to information.
There’s plenty of research supporting the physiological and psychological benefits of self-reflection, contemplation, meditation and the simple act of deep thinking. Think of it as a kind of REM sleep for your psyche. But don’t count on knowing when it’s time to get off the treadmill. We’ve all worked with someone who sets off on a much-needed two-week vacation only to find an increase in the frequency of their work-related emails. Is this the type of behavior employees should be emulating?
There’s no doubt that success in any endeavor results from hard work and dedication, but there’s more to it than just adding another rep to your routine. Uninterrupted myopic regimens stifle creativity and innovation and limit our ability to see the big picture. What’s needed to achieve peak performance is a type of cross-training for the mind. Many corporations rotate their most promising managers every few years for this very reason.
So the next time you’re seeking answers to life’s challenges or scrambling for a creative solution, don’t underestimate the benefit of slowing down, getting lost in your thoughts or embarking on something new and different. Oh. And don’t bring your phone.