THIS IS NOT A WHINGE.
Many of us seem to be spending more and more time working, or doing work-related things. The days of the 9-to-5 are a nostalgic dream. Work-style forms of communication along with the demand for 24/7 fast response seem to have permeated our social lives too.
These days, you’ll routinely see parents (usually mothers) pushing buggies with one hand, while apparently texting with another. Even that is an out-of-date interpretation – as they are more likely to be communicating via a social media network.
The Blackberry was launched as a business tool allowing push-form email to reach busy peripatetic executives so they could keep in touch with their office. These days, it is an ‘essential’ tool in the management of a busy home life. Even parents who stay at home, to look after their children, routinely use instant messaging and the social media (esp Facebook) to keep in touch with friends and relatives throughout the day.
Just as employers began to fight back against the tide of social media and the “misuse” of work-based PCs for personal purposes, so they discovered that they had to embrace Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn for their own activities. At the same time, the platform switched from PC to smartphone and was effectively removed from their control.
As Blackberry technology was largely superceded by smartphones, these tools were not even marketed primarily to business users but to domestic ones. All the same tools and more were in demand from the tech-hungry ‘domestic manager’. What’s more, the home-based parent has personal disposable cash to pay for the many ‘sell-ons’ that are offered via these devices, whereas the business-user relying on a tool provided by their employer often can’t buy even if they want to do so.
I SAID THAT THIS WAS NOT A WHINGE…
The consequences of these massive social changes are important.
There are many that I could focus on, but there’s one that I want to highlight.
One of the most important aspects of personal growth, whether for self-, leadership-, or organisational-development, is the ability to engage in reflective practice. It has been proven time-and-time again, that the most satisfied and successful people routinely spend time in reflective practice. Whether this takes the form of some structured meditative process, or a repetitive activity (I’m off to mow the lawn in ten minutes), taking time to look back over the last few hours and to draw lessons both consciously or unconsciously from it massively improves happiness, well-being, present and future performance.
For some, these lessons are best caught in a journal, for others, it’s the act of reflecting and interpretation rather than documenting the conclusions.
By their nature the majority of blogs are accessible to the public-eye and so, perhaps, few contain these reflections, though a handful of politicians (a breed who have traditionally been fervent journal keepers) have embraced this format, and already there are twitter archive tools to capture the thoughts of those who use the 140 character medium.
However, on the whole, the impact of the fast and furious, 24/7, social media, instant communication environment has been a serious decline in the number of people who make it a habit to reflect purposefully on their lives.
Earlier this year, I started working with a new client. He’s a businessman engulfed (indeed almost consumed) by this culture. Our sessions proved to be the only time that he was able to escape, turning off the technology, sitting in a calm environment, and recounting some of the events of the previous few days. As we began to do so, and I began to offer alternative interpretations of the motives and drivers of those around him, he began to see that he had not only been failing to learn from his experiences, but he had been dangerously over-interpreting some of the behaviours of his peers, reports, bosses and competitors, not to forget his wife and daughter.
His entry point to the world of journalling, is to keep a list of events that he wants to talk through with me. Whether he takes it further we will see. While his colleagues are probably too wrapped up in their own frenzy to notice the consequent change in his behaviour it has not escaped his family. For his birthday last week, his teenage daughter bought him a beautiful fountain pen and classic notebook inscribed; “because I love the new you!”
Dr Graham Wilson is an organisational psychotherapist – a confidant to senior executives – helping them understand company psychodynamics, situations, politics, and their own and other people’s behaviour –