Have you ever felt like you are trapped in a never-ending technology loop? Well if you are anything like myself then you know the feeling of drowning in your own devices. I once watched this episode of Portlandia and thought “WOW, I guess I’m not alone in this world.” It’s been over a year since I saw this episode, and only now am I really realizing how trapped I truly have become, and how ready I am to change.
But the question is how do we balance our lives with an existence that is surrounded by computers, smart phones, tablets, and the loop that just doesn’t stop? I have been ruminating over this for many weeks now. Knee deep in pre-production for my new feature film, I feel myself melting into a deep mound of quick sand, unable to find a way to come up for air (literally sometimes I forget to breathe, and I find myself taking huge inhales). There is always one more thing to do, one more email to answer, text to address, tweet to send, Facebook update to read and the loop goes on forever.
I recently picked up a copy of Arianna Huffington’s new book, “Thrive”, thinking it was about female domination in the work place, but to my surprise it was all about how to find peace. Balance between being a workaholic and enjoying the simple pleasures of a life filled with love, friends and family. A few pages into the book I felt like I should stand up in a room filled with my peers and state, “Hello, my name is Alexandra Boylan and I am a workaholic!” This book couldn’t have come into my life at a more perfect time. I have found myself grouchy, cranky, burnt out, snapping at my husband, and feeling overwhelmed constantly, with no idea how to escape myself and my insane need to never stop. My husband and I started producing our own projects over three years ago, and I can honestly say we haven’t taken a day off since. We sometimes work till 3 in the morning, because if we spend one more hour on it, that’s one more hour, faster it will be done, and that many more steps closer to a finished project.
When you don’t clock in and out of a job, it’s hard to find your own boundaries and give yourself permission to stop for the day. I have heard some people can’t work from home because they lack the discipline to stay on track without someone telling them what to do. Well I have found my husband and I are the opposite, we NEVER stop working because no one has given us permission to go home for the day. And how do you go home, when your office is your home? It has led us into a very unhealthy existence and this wake up call is not being ignored. My husband John and I often joke around about how much gray hair we have acquired since forming our production company, but I’m starting to think what’s funny about that? If we don’t find a way to change, we might send ourselves into an early grave.
In the year 2009 I moved from Los Angeles, CA to Albuquerque, NM to escape the grind of a city that never sleeps. I knew the second my car was miles outside of LA that I needed a break from the hustle and bustle, and the never-ending rat race of trying to succeed. Upon my arrival I decided to seek out a job that had nothing to do with myself, I wanted to have a job with meaning, something that I could be proud of, I wanted to focus on others, rather than myself. I was hired for a company called “Home Instead Senior Care” and I began a journey that would change my life. I became a companion to elderly people, and I relished in my quiet moments with people who had lived extraordinary lives. My job was to listen to them, love them, and make them feel special as they moved into the final years, months, weeks, even days of their lives. I was hired to bring joy to these people, but really they brought joy to me. I remember vividly entering an elderly gentleman’s home; I was led through halls lined with plaques, medals, and awards for his involvement with NASA. This man had done remarkable things, and the proof was encased in glass surrounding him. When I sat down I inquired about his life achievements, and he quickly waved his hand discarding everything I had just seen, and started telling me about his family, his wife, and the years he had shared with her before she passed away. I sat there deeply moved by his words of appreciation and admiration for her and the home they had built together. This man was not the only client I worked with that had walls of accomplishments or outstanding life achievements, but one thing they all had in common was that at the end of their time here on earth, as they sat with a stranger all they wanted to share with me was the stories of their family. No one wanted to talk about his or her jobs; they only wanted to reflect on the family they had created! There pride was in their loved ones, not the shinny medals hanging on the wall.
This job gave me first hand insight to what really is important at the end of our lives, and yet here I am only a short four years past those days, and I am back to being a career obsessed woman. How quickly I forgot the importance of taking time to stop and appreciate the people I have in my life, to turn my devices off and sit face to face with a real life human being, listening to what they have to say, getting to know them without the constant buzzing of my phone pulling my attention away.
I just spent a month on 18 acres of land in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, and even in the quiet of the desert I couldn’t find peace, because I could not stop being addicted to technology. I would go for a walk, and find my mind was still on an email I knew I had to respond to, or I would rush through my afternoon stroll attending to the constant blinking light of my iPhone text messages. I had convinced myself that I MUST answer everything immediately, and my patience was constantly wearing thin. A few weeks into my time on the mountain, I really started taking notice of my unhealthy behavior. And with a desperate need in my heart to relax, I stopped taking my phone on my walks, even if it meant I couldn’t listen to my ITunes library. I started turning my devices off at dinnertime, and forced myself not to check my email until the next morning. I was giving my devices more attention than my mental health, and that is not good for my inner being or my business.
One big step I am taking in curing myself of being a technology looped addict is I now take Sundays off! I turn my computer off on Saturday night and I do not allow myself to open it till Monday morning. I only allow myself to text message with my family on Sunday, otherwise I call it a technology free day, and I have found that with this true day off, I feel recharged, and rejuvenated to start my week of work. It is impossible to work yourself into the ground, and I believe our work suffers when we don’t give ourselves the much-needed time off, so our mind can become clear and our body can recover from the non-stop noise.
I am yet to be cured of my addiction, but I believe taking the time to recognize it, puts me on the right track to recovery.
My brother is also a workaholic. I used to think his love for surfing and paddle boarding was just a hobby, but I have realized it’s the only time in his crazy business filled days where he can get away from his devices. What a perfect place to leave it all behind. The ocean, it forces you to leave it all on the sand or it will be destroyed by the water.
What do you do to unwind, to find peace and enter that quiet place in your mind? We live in a noisy world, how do you find a way to stay healthy and calm? I would love to hear your thoughts on how to get out of the trap of the technology loop and live a balanced life between work and play. So please add a comment below!
And don’t forget- Be present because you will never be here again!