I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between living intentionally and living digitally. I think it’s hard and possible. It’s one of the biggest threats I see with clients, both individuals and organizations, to living and working how they say they want to.
Last week I had the great treat to go on Manoush Zomorodi’s WNYC New Tech City show. She invited Vincent Horn, of Buddhist Geeks, and I to speak at the Green Space about digital detoxing for 2014 and how to live purposefully with technology. This opportunity allowed me to clarify some of my own thinking and here’s my current thinking:
- First figure out how you want to live and work and love and play – and then figure out how technology can make that more possible and not less.
- Develop a purpose-led relationship to technology, not an invention-led one. Just because Google events a new app in which you can be notified on your phone every single time an email comes in, doesn’t mean you should. That single feature can change your entire experience of a day without you even realizing it.
- Email is the biggest threat to your sanity. Define your relationship to it. Use away messages more often. Decide when during the day you want to look at it. Don’t use it on weekends if you can possibly avoid it.
- Create pockets in your week for long, inefficient, unplugged time like reading a full book or going on an #IAmHere Day.
My husband and I started an experiment 16 months ago to turn off our tech on weekends and explore our city. It started as an idea to simply spend time offline, with friends, being present and deepening our relationship to the place we lived. We called them #IAmHere days. We set a few simple rules: Commit to being there for the full day (10-12 hours). Phones off (except for maps). No drop-ins. Be game for anything.
#IamHere days have grown into self-organized adventures in which a group of four to six people explore one neighborhood or theme in a city over the course of most of a weekend day. A friend of ours, Baratunde Thurston, wrote about his experience of an #IAmHere day in December when he unplugged from the internet for 25 days. It’s a bet against efficiency and optimizing. It’s a bet against the notion that you can’t make new friends after college. And it’s a bet against our always-on culture. Turn off your phones, open your eyes, walk, and talk. And that’s really it.
We’ve just finished our 14th #IamHere day this past weekend on Roosevelt Island, which Jill Filipovic reflects beautifully about here. Part of the magic of the experience is the small size of the group. And yet a number of people have asked how they can partake. So we’ve decided to launch a blog in the hopes that more of you can host pockets of presence and collective offline togetherness in your own cities.
And yes, I realize that my grandmother’s word for an “IAmHere day” is simply “Saturday.” But alas, sometimes we need new containers for old ways of being.
If you organize one in your city, let me know how it goes!
I received the wonderful invitation last November to speak at TEDxUHasselt in Belgium. I talk a bit about the fears that hold us back and some specific steps that I’ve found helpful to begin to, well, reboot yourself.
Last month I tried a new experiment: Public Visioning Labs. Until December, all of my group Visioning Labs were designed and conducted for private clients — companies, universities, startups, etc. I had been getting a number of requests from folks who were curious about the Labs and wanted to experience one without doing the more intensive one-on-one Labs. So, I decided to create and launch a group Public Visioning Lab in New York city.
The Public Visioning Lab is an opportunity for individuals to explore their own sense of vision and purpose and experiment with various tools to wordsmith together a personal purpose statement. The Labs are limited to 20 people and are an introduction to some of the tools I use at Thrive Labs.
The Labs are two 2 1/2 hour sessions on a weeknight. The January Lab is on Wednesday, January 16 & Wednesday, January 23, 2013, from 6:30-8pm. You can sign up here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5091942136#. (No drop ins). And once you do so, I will send you a Visioning Workbook to get you on your way!
I was recently approached by Kristen Joy Watts to participate in something called The Weight of Objects. She asked me to think about an object that was important to me and explained that she and photographer Ramsay de Give had banded together to collaborate on a portrait project. The twist: the portraits are of both the person and their object. Watts is a senior content strategist at R/GA and de Give is a freelance photographer for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Basically, they both have day jobs and yet have decided to, on their own time, create this cool, quirky lens on the world.
Their project reminds me of two ideas that often come up in Visioning Labs that I have clients work on:
First, the idea of a Passion Project. A Passion Project is a way into doing something that you love without making it your whole life all at once. The idea is to identify one or two things that you love (or you think you will love) and devote a certain amount of time to that thing. For example, for graduate students who have three months of summer internship time, to work for two months and spend one of those months dancing or composing music or cooking intensively (taking on a Passionship rather than an internship, if you will). For those working in full-time jobs, taking a week of vacation and rather than traveling somewhere testing out an idea intensively. (Would I really like to write for 5 hours a day, or do I just like the idea of it?)
Second, the idea of slow-drip coffee. Slow-drip coffee is a term my husband first used to describe what happens when you read the newspaper regularly. Spending 30 minutes a day reading the newspaper adds up to a lifetime of knowing what happened in the world and being able to tie events (small and large) together over time. However, if we only ever read the newspaper when it out-competed everything else one could do with those 30-minutes, we might never actually sit down and read it. Similarly, working on something you enjoy for small bits at a time and sticking to it adds up to a project. To me, The Weight of Objects is a perfect “slow-drip coffee” project. They both have a lot of other things going on, but on one burner is this incredible project that clearly brings them both joy and, over time, mastery. And, when they’re done, they have collected incredible stories, pictures and experiences for others to share.
Envision | Embody | Enact
Priya Parker is a visioner, conflict mediator and strategist. She works with organizations and leaders to zero in on their core purpose and build out smarter strategies. Drawing on ten years of work in government, social enterprise and Track II diplomacy in the United States, India and the Middle East, Priya designs visioning and innovation labs that help organizations grow from the root.