Tag Archives: Creative space

By Caitlin Krause @MindWise_CK

Caitlin

I recently went tech-free for five days, which doesn’t sound like a huge number, but it had me wondering: could I do it? Could I actually get away from apps, emails and texts for that amount of time? What would the experience be like, and could I, as a mindfulness consultant, use it as some sort of experiment, in order to inform me of my own habits and knee-jerk expectations?

I was both excited and intimidated.

I prepped for the “great unplugged” event, setting up my email auto-response; warning friends and family that I would be out of contact for the five weekdays. It might sound as if I was heading off on some adventure in the wilderness — a trip to Italy for a week was a different sort of exploration. I would have hardly any online time, so the “tech sabbatical” was a necessity. It turned out to be more profound than I could have predicted.

The following are my 10 top observations of effects of living tech-free:

1) Starting Local: There was no checking in the morning and at night; instead, I woke up and stretched in the morning, choosing to meditate or take a walk/run outside. I focused on weather; I listened to my own body. When I check email in the morning, my first thoughts are often connected to the idea of tasks or job; instead, my thoughts while unplugged were about the quality of my natural environment. It seemed to form a good base for the day, to start local.

2) Observe the World: I am usually observant by nature; did this tech-free week heighten my awareness? Not sure — but I can guarantee that my lack of connectivity didn’t dampen my observations. After about a day, I stopped habitually reaching for my phone to check it. Breaking that habit was oddly liberating, and didn’t take very long.

3) Navigate using surroundings: I like that my phone can help me find my way around when I’m in a bind, yet I prefer the feeling of navigating by sight/curiosity, or taking advantage of the directions of the local experts. Of course, there’s time to consider, but operating off-the-grid made me more aware of my own independent skills, resilience, and appreciation of my surroundings. Even with yelp, foursquare, and all other travel apps in consideration, staying tech-free seemed to simplify life, heightening joy.

4) Joy Factor: As mentioned, there is a simple joy in being a part of each moment as it happens. There is no rush be elsewhere… I’m aware that each present moment is all that really exists.

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5) Humanity: Albert Einstein famously said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” This is a concern. Even selfies appear… self-absorbed, by nature. Without my tech dividing me from others, I found my own empathy increasing… I was fully present to engage in smaller exchanges; to be part of the pulse of life. It felt richer, somehow, this experience.

6) Interior Landscape: Without the constant sense of urgency to touch in with social media, I was free to explore the landscape of my thoughts. Some of my own ideas surprised and amused me; it was refreshing, to rediscover the voice inside, away from online chatter. I even went for runs without headphones, and found that my constant use of an iPod while exercising had made me unaccustomed to the sound of my own breath. This elemental re-connection was profound.

7) Offline Presence: A lot is emphasized about establishing an online presence, but what about my offline presence? I became even more aware of my connections and interactions with others in my local community, and I was able to focus more on what was actually happening, without my mind wandering to a list of online connections and plans. My offline presence was enriching, sustaining and fulfilling, and I would venture to guess that I had a better time during this adventure because I was fully present.

8) Time: I estimate that I saved about four to five hours a day, for five days, from cutting out my tech interactions. Incredible. Now, what I do with technology is highly enjoyable and enriching, yet I might justify it as a necessity, which is certainly not the case. I understand there’s a balance to strike, and, while I love certain advantages that technology provides, I greatly value the benefits of this ability to unplug.

9) Love Endures: It occurred to me that friends might wonder or think I didn’t care if I wasn’t posting or texting right back. Not the case; in fact, love is uplifting and supportive by nature, and I don’t need to be in constant contact to remind others of the strength of human bonds.

10) FOMO overshadows reality: Yes, I’m confident that I’m always going to be missing out on something when I’m offline, but I can pick right back up, and the benefits I’m experiencing offline are just as important. The tech world is fast-paced, and you can feel as if you’re outdated if you’re offline for longer than an hour. Still, the benefits of a tech sabbatical speak for themselves, and all of that action-packed online forum will still be in full effect when I want to jump back in. It’s always a choice.

In sum, my tech-free week was not without its high points and hitches, strides and slides (I posted several snaps on Instagram one night, which felt illicitly fun), yet the time offline produced a few overall observations that I find both useful and surprisingly powerful. I’ll certainly opt for it in the future— though, I’m sure I’ll need to refer back to this list again to remind myself of why I’m breaking the habit. It’s well worth it: disconnect to reconnect.

Holidays can bring down any routine you have just acquired with miraculous discipline and take you out of whatever you have been doing. Whenever I read anything related to productivity and creative work it seems that a good routine is needed plus exercise plus a healthy lifestyle. I also know that now in my fourties that this is the type of life I want. Gone are the days where a night out was the highlight of my week. I enjoy getting up early on Sundays and having a full day of “flow” without appointments other than for a nice brunch in the city.

Still, the occasional long weekend (and we have many of those in the spring) is a chance to take a mini-break. It’s also a chance to see the family and friends you have fallen out of touch with. Especially as a self-employed blogger, writer, or service professional you might easily fall into the trap of not knowing how to handle “free” time anymore as you always have “work” to do, emails to read, social media to follow up on, potential clients to get back in touch with.

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I suggest you try to break this routine on purpose and see what you take away from this experience. Allow yourself a few days offline. Fly away to a location on your “1000 places to see before I die list” and experience a new world. Routine and productivity are necessary but once in a while you need to shut down, re-boot and clean up the motherboard in your brain.

You can also support this process by planning relaxation for your body, soul and mind for example a Spa retreat in Austria, a hiking holiday in Graubuenden, a castle tour of Germany or a bicycle trip around lake Constance.

I am advising against putting yourself at excessive performance pressure during your holidays. I believe this might be counter-productive especially if you you are usually “driven” in your work life.

Also, I advise you give yourself a few days of adjustment into the “free” time and out of the “free” time. You could develop a ritual such as unpacking your suitcase in three steps, sorting out pictures and presents, updating your diary. This might be easy and natural for you but also remember that your body might have to adjust especially after long travels. When you are employed you might want to leave work earlier and keep the evenings work-free.

How was this experience for you?

...ask yourself how to make more money...
…ask yourself how to make more money…

How to Solve any Issue

Did you just have one of those days where nothing seems to work and the bread fell down with the buttered side? Or where you just want to have a “quick” cup of coffee and then you drip the coffee all over your white blouse – just before that client meeting?

Then you almost start crying and you cannot even find one good argument in the client meeting why they should work with you instead of anyone else in the market. You start to babble and you know that you have lost them. Or you sit in that interview and the HR Manager tells you “We will get back to you.” and you know it will be a rejection email again.

Neuro-scientists have found out that we have different areas in our brain. When you are driven by fear your most primal part of the brain gets activated. In the “fight” or “flight” mode you won’t be able to develop good solutions to any issue you might be facing right now. Challenges and obstacles will block your mind and you might consider yourself ready for therapy.

While you are in that “the world is unfair”-mode you will not also not be able to come across as strong and professional. Whether you are looking for a new job or whether you are trying to get a promotion at your old job you won’t come across as self-confident as you have been pushed out of your inner “middle”. (In German we say “innere Mitte” and we mean the place where you are at ease with yourself and where you accept your flaws as well as your strengths).

Best is to call it a day, go home and apply this method.

1) Distract your mind with soothing music. Turn on relaxing music on your i-pod, go for a walk or a dance class before you return to your issue at hand.

2) Ask your brain an open ended question such as “How can I serve this client better than others?” It is important that the question starts with “HOW…?”.

3) Do something completely different such as housework or go to sleep. 

4) Set a timer for 25 minutes and write down all solutions that come to your mind without stopping yourself or judging them.

Later you can structure your thoughts and devise an action plan. I have noticed though that the more ideas I write down the better. It does not mean that I have to implement all of them but I need to write down about 20 ideas before I come up with new ones. So don’t stop yourself too early. It’s also fun to do this exercise in a group.

Let me know how you develop your creative brain.

When you start out as an entrepreneur you need time and creative space. This space can only develop if you allow yourself the time to make your business profitable. I have a five-year plan but I started preparing for this step together with my husband about three years ago in August 2009 we had the basic ideas that would shape this business and it was my long-term vision since 1996.

Having a vision, good ideas and potential business partners is not enough if you do not have creative space. You need some financial security so that you will survive without an income for at least six months. If you had a very good income for years, were used to booking vacations in any place in the world and flying to NYC for long weekends then you better decide if you are willing to live on half of your income or less for at least two years.

You might also need to decide to change some habits. You might need to move into a flat share or sell your car. Most importantly, you need to define your financial priorities. Will you be able to handle less luxury for a while? Are you prepared to work 24/7? Does your family support you when you are getting really busy? Do you have a network, which understands your needs and helps you through times where you do not know if you are going in the right direction? Do you have a good business plan?