Most of us are completely distracted on a day-to-day basis, and for good reasons. There are so many options for eating and entertainment, new restaurants and things to do abound. In Sacramento, CA we live surrounded by beauty, history, rivers, and a quick ride to the coast or Lake Tahoe. We have more contact and connection opportunities via social network than every before. As a father of two boys, now 11 and 13 years old, my wife and I give much thought to this idea of focus – being present and not distracted; Being attentive and giving attention. I fail miserably at times, nodding to my son’s/wife’s questions while doing some work or reading, only to ask, “What did say?” And maybe acknowledging, “Uh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening/paying attention.” Specifically in the realm of technology, distraction lurks. Many forms of technology can be wonderful tools and has made our lives better on so may fronts. I cut myself some slack here – 10 thousand songs in my pocket and a world of information at my finger tips. How can we not be distracted! Technology clearly has an addictive quality that can work against our productivity, our relationships, our attentiveness.
I was stunned by a TED talk (a bit older now) that highlights studies showing how technology (including primarily video games and pornography) have become an addiction. He makes the point that boys, in particular, are not maturing and intimacy is lacking. Watch the clip. It’s less than 5 minutes. “What’s the solution?” Zimbardo asks, “… not my job. I’m here to alarm…”
I too have no solutions, but I have a few thoughts. I’m a guy. I have two boys. My boys play video games, and I partake at times. I have a computer, laptop, iPad, iPhone… I’m concerned.
- We constantly monitor the tension between the glorious internet age and restricted use – that goes for all of us, not just the kids. Talk to me in 10 years to see how I actually did, but we are big fans of open dialogue, family meals, lots of questions back and forth, and articulated freedom with discussed consequences. One difficulty is that I use technology in my work, so to the boys it looks like I’m playing or just glued to technology – sometimes both… sometimes it’s hard to distinguish.
- Frequently and intentionally unplug – kinda obvious, but hard to do. I went camping this past weekend and found myself checking email and Facebook while relaxing in the tent. If it’s pressing work, I attempt to get back-up help – I’ve used a virtual assistant, or a called on other associates to fill in. I let current clients know that I’m checking out before I leave (auto response emails are good for this and specific voice messages). Also when I’ve really checked out, like when I went to India for a few weeks last year, I get someone to be on call for me to handle any emergency business. In little ways, I leave my phone at home or in the car when we go to dinner (I know… no selfies or pics of the food!). It’s like the old days (and still) when I knew if I didn’t sit with my back to the TV at the restaurant, I wouldn’t listen to my wife as well. We try to have meals together as a family with no technology.
- Professionally / Business-wise-Boundaries. Being self-employed, I’m the only one breathing down my own neck – no boss to reprimand me, no parent to give me a time out. It’s easy to see why those who are self-employed are always on the clock. More work, can equal a bigger payday. The infamous “carrot” always looms large. However, mental health and focus may be the bigger, future payoff? Small disciplines – I’m a big fan of turning my ringer off when I’m with a client. I have to be “all there.” I can’t just nod and pretend like I’m listening. I intentionally make eye contact; Ask lots of questions; Listen well; Have fun. Relational, non-sexual intimacy, I find is the bedrock of great business relationship and cultivating a referral business. I definitely time-block to get a ton done in a few hours, then take a break and don’t feel guilty doing so. Just as I try to limit business on off hours and on weekends, I limit non-related screen time and technology during business time.
- Non-Tech Hobbies – I find that when my boys are playing hard, building something, engaged in a game, creating art, reading, etc…. the urge for screen time goes away. As parents, we have friends over, play board games together, go for walks, bike ride, eat out, play sports, create and build together… Physical activity is the key for me. Practicing consistency in friendships and family give me opportunity to test and develop greater focus.
- Meditation – While I’m no guru, times of silence, deep breathing, some sort of centering, even minutes before engaging with family or a client goes a long way toward attentiveness.
Ahhhh, it’s a constant battle, but feels so good when we get intimate, centered, and fully engage.
What are your areas of struggle and victory in this area of focus, technology, family? This is where we help each other. Please share.
Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker – 916.595.7900