Come on, admit it. Are you addicted to technology? Do your hands start shaking if you’re torn away from your handheld device for more than a few hours?
For an introvert like me, social media has fit my personality like a glove. I’m verbal and bold online in ways I would never be in person—and I get to practice my quips and one-liners.
But social media (and technology in general) has also been my “enabler,” the environmental trigger for my procrastination gene. So recently, I booked myself into a four-day retreat cabin in the woods near St. Martin’s (www.inthestillness.ca) in the hopes that it would help me to focus on a special project with a fast-approaching deadline.
But it was harder than I expected to have no Internet connection, no cell phone, no television and no radio for four days. At first, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt overwhelmed and completely alone.
It’s possible that the more goal-oriented or extroverted one is, the harder an exercise this would be. Being alone with one’s thoughts is possible for everybody, but it’s the amount of time one can stand doing it that varies.
So, if you’re working on an important project and need a change of scene to work on it, or if you just want to take a breather from technology and “dry out” for a few days, here are some tips to make it a more enjoyable experience.
1. Pick an inspiring place. Do you like hiking in the woods, or do you like the beach? If you’re an athlete, maybe you want to go to a location known for your sport: running, biking, skiing or swimming? Perhaps you’re more inspired say, by the sights and smells of Chinatown, but can you still completely unplug? Somehow I doubt it. Why don’t you stretch yourself and find a quiet country nook?
2. Take a deep breath and listen. Drop your bags and pay attention to your surroundings. The wind and rain, bird calls, scurrying squirrels, chirping crickets…even the sound of your own breathing. This is something we don’t do very often. Throughout our lives, we rush from activity to activity without pausing to reflect on why we’re rushing or appreciating the moment in which we are doing it.
3. Give yourself a bit of time to adjust. There’s no point in expecting yourself to be productive from the moment you arrive. Can you book an extra day or two just to decompress? Bring your favourite books and read on the front porch. Nap. Pray. Carry a journal around with you to scribble thoughts or ideas, because in the silence they will surely come.
4. Bring an alternate creative activity or hobby with you. Do you play the guitar or some other portable instrument? Bring it along. Do you paint or draw? Take spectacular photos? Write songs or poetry? It’s the perfect opportunity to use another part of your brain in your break times.
5. If you don’t complete and perfect your project, don’t be disappointed. This is for the more goal-oriented among you (me included). Retreats take practice. You are developing discipline of the mind, and you’ll definitely be more productive than you think. But if you set the bar too high, you’ll feel guilty, like you wasted your week. Time invested in your own mental health and creativity is never wasted.
6. And finally, don’t be afraid of silence. Embrace it. It isn’t so terrible. Remember, on the seventh day, God rested.