Wednesday, 21 April 2010

EMPOWERING OR OVERPOWERING?

This post has also appeared as my weekly 'Distinguished Contribution' in www.hosepmag.com on April 6, 2011. Here's the link -
http://www.hospemag.com/2011/04/dc-4-existential-lessons-on-active.html

As a published poet, on-a-sabbatical writer and a to-be-published author, I really do understand the importance of maintaining discipline, being focussed, goal oriented & consistent and setting priorities. Giving vent to seed-germination-plant theory, I place enough weightage to the fact that every action was once a noble thought that was nudged out of the crevices of the mind by strong will, determination, perseverance and a muster of all three assisted ably by hard work and creativity. With such straightened out thinking, as clear as water, what becomes my nemesis is the wrong-doing or sloth that comes in my path by way of procrastination and playful, mindless distractions. Such as checking out friends' statuses and pictures on Facebook, keeping abreast with the latest tweets of my tweeple, watching that interesting video on youtube or simply getting down to a nonsensical virtual game that is so utterly unproductive but helps me hide behind the sham that I am occupied, albeit ungainfully.

Though every morning starts with an honourable intention, a sacrosanct to-do list jotted down in the most private place in the house without any worldly interference and a resolve to conquer my Goliath, the moment the morning starts progressing into the day, my will begins to wither, the determination gets embattled by the urge to click elsewhere and the spirit starts slackening. The charms of social networking beckon and ensnare me in its fold relegating what's important to another day and time. And once you are onto this social, virtual juggernaut, it is mighty difficult to wean yourself out as it begins to suck you into the deep recesses of its womb. Sooner than later, you get into this jocular, other wordly mood living a vicarious existence in the lives of your friends, far removed from the real and important goals of YOUR life.

When you are on the net you tend to make that big mistake and be disillusioned with a make-believe situation that you can actually multitask to the extent that you can work and play at the same time. So, you get into this monstrous maze that sets you clicking from one tab to another in the most futile manner and with the result being zilch on the productivity front. Besides, new research is beginning to point out that humans cannot multi-task on more than two things at a time. So, turn a deaf ear to this latest scientific revelation at your own peril.

Finally, know thyself as bible exhorts, know the raison d'ĂȘtre for your life. Listen to that big drummer up there who beats uniquely for you, hear out the silent little beats that make music only for you and follow your impassioned heart and rational mind into getting on the path that only YOU are meant to tread upon.

Go on, beat the brash onslaught of the unimportant or the less important, conquer the bastions and charge ahead on your mission and goals in life.

Here's a fantastic and informative piece by Soren Gordhamer, that's appeared in Mashable - The Social Media Guide, where he enlists FOUR steps for managing social media attention. Read on -

Soren Gordhamer is the organizer of the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which brings together staff from Google, Facebook, and Twitter with others to explore living wisely in our modern age.

There have never been more things that call out for our attention: We have tweets to read, Facebook statuses to check, and now Google Buzz updates — not to mention text messages, e-mails, and cell phone calls. And the amount of data is growing each day. Recent reports estimate that the average American consumes 34 GB worth of content a day, including 100,000 words of information.

While this access to information has numerous benefits, learning to live and work skillfully amidst an active social media lifestyle is an art in itself — one that will be increasingly challenging in the years ahead.

When we do not manage our social media life, our attention (the essential element for any task) gets more and more divided, and we end up constantly busy, but not very effective. We find ourselves at the end of the day overwhelmed and fatigued, wondering, “Just what did I actually accomplish today?”

Below are four lessons in staying sane and focused amidst an active social media lifestyle.

1. Know the External Reflects the Internal

“The biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned in life is that the external world is just a reflection of the world within.” — Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

One of the essential questions for those of us who live active social media lives is, “Where should I put my attention? How much of my attention should I give to Facebook, Twitter (Twitter), Google Buzz, YouTube (YouTube), or another site?”

However, while the amount of our attention that we give to social media is important, so is the quality of that attention. It is hard to give our full attention to anything when internally we are feeling overwhelmed and unfocused. Our internal state gets mirrored in the external world, so even though we may spend a lot of time on social media sites, it may not be spent productively.

Taking time to settle your mind when you notice yourself off balance or overwhelmed — whether it is through a walk, a visit to the gym, or whatever works for you — can shift the state of your internal world such that you have a greater chance of making your time on social media more effective.

Lesson: Balance the internal before taking action in the external.

2. Do One Thing at a Time

“When people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them, errors go way up, and it takes far longer — often double the time or more — to get the jobs done than if they were done sequentially.” — David E. Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition, and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan

I know this may sound counter-intuitive, but give it a try. Whatever you are doing, put all your attention on that. This means resisting the tendency to multi-task. In fact, a recent study at Stanford found that the more people multi-task, the worse they become at it.

Yes, that’s right — the more you do it, the worse at it you get. The illusion, of course, is that the busier we are, and the more we “do,” the more we accomplish. The research, curiously, paints a different picture.

Instead of checking Twitter or Facebook while also talking on your cell, finish one first, then do the next.

Lesson: Put all your attention on whatever you are doing at any given moment.

3. Invite Instead of Force

“Do or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda

The idea that the harder we try, the more we will get done, and the happier we will be is a myth. Of course, some effort is needed in any endeavor, but the real question is, “what kind of effort are we putting forth?” We have all likely met people who work like mad at their endeavors, including social media, yet consistently get very few results.

Some time ago I interviewed George Mumford, the sports psychologist who helped Chicago Bulls players during the Michael Jordan era get “in the zone” (he later also helped Los Angeles Lakers players). He said that the first thing he often tells players is that “if they try to get in the zone, they can’t.” Instead, it involves an open alert attention, and the same applies to our social media lives.

Trying too hard, whether it is to make a basketball shot, gather more followers on Twitter, or increase sales of a product, creates tension that impedes our work. We cannot force these things, but we can invite them through a balanced, steady effort.

Lesson: Engage with a focused and open attention that invites instead of forces.

4. Know Where Your Attention is Most Needed

“When players practice what is known as mindfulness — paying attention to what’s actually happening — not only do they play better and win more, they also become more attuned to each other.” — Phil Jackson, who has won a record 10 NBA Championships as a coach

How many times have you been talking with someone, and the person’s cell phone rings, and without even knowing who it was or if it was important, the person immediately vacated your conversation to take the call? It was not even a choice. He or she was attentive to you for one second, and then poof! The person was mentally gone the next.

Of course, there are times to take calls and respond via text while with a friend, but if we are not careful in the age of social media, our attention can get bounced around like a ping pong ball, from this call, to that text message, to that tweet, such that by the end of the day we are exhausted. Mindfulness, or attention to the present moment, is lost. We spent our day “chasing,” letting others determine our focus, not choosing for ourselves where to put our attention and attending to the tasks most important to us.

Lesson: Ask yourself where your attention is most needed and direct it there.

Conclusion

In the coming years, the amount of information at our disposal is only likely to increase. When Google recently launched Google Buzz, their team addressed the challenges of this information era, saying, “we want to present some tools and techniques to help you manage your attention better.” While this is partly a technological problem, it is also an internal and life balance problem.

The challenge of our time is to live connected and use all the great social media available to us, while at the same time harness and direct our attention where it is most needed at any given time. After all, where we decide to put our attention is, essentially, how we choose to spend our life.

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