To disconnect is to reconnect

In the few weeks leading up to a holiday, and now a couple of weeks after, I’ve been a bit pre-occupied and noticeably absent here. I learnt a lot while away on holiday, much more than I had expected. I trekked to a remote, private island in the Solomons – Papatura Island. A world away and disconnected from everything. Not even Twitter could reach me. My mum replied to my mere three text messages sent via satellite phone. No TV, no radio. And all this just a three hour flight from Brisbane to Honiara, an hour’s flight in a small turbo prop landing on a spit of grass where boats floated awaiting to take us to the retreat.

Sound crazy? Could you do nearly two weeks without internet?

Who knew disconnection could be bliss?

Constantly connected and filled with ‘busyness’ I realised wasn’t good for me. In fact, the more I was connected, the more the connection hindered my self-esteem, confidence and eventually feeling ‘stuck’ (and I’ve felt this way for a long while now). Disconnected from everything was confronting at first, sobering second and then eventually liberating.

This (forced) disconnection taught me of its importance. Actually, disconnecting led to feeling more connected – mind, body, emotions and friends through conversation. I was reminded of how great doing nothing feels; to talk with no real purpose other than to laugh, joke and have a great time. Without an ‘audience’, feeling like I should be doing something this way or that and the any number of right ways, I was free to be me. I let go all judgment from media and criticism internally. Being disconnected and having ‘nothing’ mornings or afternoons were some of the most productive times for ideas and learning.

This has me thinking about the importance of having ‘nothing’ times and allowing the mind to wander a little. As a hyper connected community of passionate professionals, us info pros are at risk of losing the joy and comfort of just doing nothing. We’re very involved in our work. Interests, professional development activities, commitments are not limited to one ‘container’ or workIng hours. This is one of the strengths of this profession and it’s professionals, but it can be our downfall if we don’t fully process ideas and knowledge in order to make meaningful connections within our collective body of knowledge and evolve practices and service delivery. Taking in, making sense and learning about new things within the profession can take time to mull over or for new ideas to brew.

What I learnt being disconnected is that it’s okay to have these times and we need to give ourselves permission. Yes, things move quickly and there is always something to do, check, write, plan. But I’m talking about stepping off the hamster wheel for just a few hours, put aside the ‘to do’ list and allow yourself (and the mind) to wander and gravitate to what you really feel like doing at that particular time. If that’s to stare aimlessly at the ceiling while laying in bed, do it. If that’s to have another pot of tea and enjoy the view from your place, do it.

Here are a few things that made my ‘nothing’ sessions productive (yes, productive!):

  1. No access to the internet or a phone anywhere near you. I mean it!
  2. No laptop. Actually, no technology of any sort.
  3. Have a notebook and pen handy to record or explore any thoughts and ideas that come to you. This is so you can remember them later.
  4. If you write, only do it when you feel the need. No ‘should-ing’ all over yourself!
  5. Get comfy – a chair, bed, whatever.

My best ‘nothing’ session was when I set myself up with a magazine, a book and a pile of notebooks at the ready. I read my magazine, had an idea, wrote it down, returned to my magazine. Looked out over the bay, dozed, picked up my book. Later that day, I had a nap (guilt free), did a bit of yoga, picked up my camera and started taking pics of the sunset.

Sunset over the jetty on Papatura Island, Solomon Islands.
Sunset over the jetty on Papatura Island, Solomon Islands.

The key here is to plan nothing but have a few things on hand you could gravitate towards. This could be a book, some knitting, etc. In this ‘nothing’ session, the aim is to be more present by effectively ‘listening’ and reacting ‘as it happens’. This is particularly useful when you’ve been going in circles about something and need some clarity. Some answers and ideas can’t be rushed.

A ‘nothing’ morning or afternoon is about reducing the mind clutter getting in the way of those ‘ta-dah’ moments. So give yourself permission and enjoy!

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