How to Stay Sharp and be Successful by Disconnecting
Many articles on business performance and leadership development focus on the role of technology. From artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing, every day we read about new ways for businesses to improve their performance and profit margins.
This article has a different focus. While acknowledging the importance of technology in the modern marketplace, it is the people within a business, including the leadership team, who are ultimately responsible for its success.
To function at their highest level and connect effectively with their colleagues and other team members, it is sometimes necessary to disconnect from technology.
Powering off for even a short time can take a lot of self-discipline as it is all too easy to just check that ‘one last email’ or sneak a peek at a news feed.
Here are some non-technical suggestions for activities that will help leaders to sharpen their minds and benefit their companies at the same time. They will also assist leaders in taking their minds off their computers and smartphones.
What leaders can do with their downtime
Learn a new skill
The human brain grows stronger through being challenged. There are many skills that can be learned or practiced without the use of technology. These include learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, taking up photography or cooking among others. By using books and face-to-face instruction, leaders will strengthen their skills of memory retention and communication with others.
Increase mental flexibility
In addition to learning new skills, leaders can sharpen their minds in several other ways while avoiding the lure of technology. The humble crossword and other word puzzles are effective ways of keeping the mind fresh and expanding the vocabulary.
While ‘powered down,’ leaders can use the opportunity to make calculations without digital calculators, remember appointments without online calendars and communicate with colleagues in person rather than through a device.
Another way to increase mental agility is to do ordinary tasks in a different way. For example, using the opposite hand to carry out a task or changing the order of a daily routine.
Be socially active
Just as practicing practical and intellectual skills will improve physical and mental agility, making an effort to be socially active will improve social skills. It is too easy in today’s connected workplace to ignore colleagues sitting in the same office while focusing on clearing an email inbox or taking part in a remote video conference.
Disconnecting from technology can mean reconnecting with colleagues. This can serve as a reminder that leaders need to be constantly aware of the immediate environment to ensure a happy, engaged and motivated workforce.
Take up meditation
Meditation and mindfulness practices can make a huge difference to a leader’s personal effectiveness and if you’re looking to disconnect from technology, that could be the ideal time to start.
Meditation can help leaders to remain aware of all that is going on around them while simultaneously focusing their attention on the task at hand. It is not about emptying the mind, as some people think, but training the mind to be in the present rather than hanging on to past events and worrying about the future.
Eat a balanced diet
Without the distractions of technology, leaders can use their spare time to ensure they are eating a balanced, nutritious diet every day. This will give them the energy and mental focus to deliver a consistent level of performance throughout the day. A healthy diet is also important for emotional balance which, in turn, helps promote a positive work culture.
Enjoy adequate rest
The internet and digital devices have blurred the boundary between the working day and private life. This is particularly true for leaders who can find it difficult to fully switch off. By making a commitment to disconnect, leaders can restore their work/life balance and ensure they get adequate rest and sleep.
Be physically active
Time spent on computers and mobile devices can eat into the time we would normally spend on fitness and physical activities. This is a shame since exercise has been shown to support cognition, memory, learning and problem-solving.
Leaders can use the time reclaimed from technology to visit the gym or go for a jog, swim, bike ride or even take a brisk walk.
Technology is an inevitable part of the future of global business. However, by occasionally ‘powering down,’ leaders can work on their mental agility and soft skills to the benefit of their personal development and the success of their businesses.
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