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Personal Development Tip: Finding Your Dead Zone

In Personal Development on May 23, 2012 at 3:08 am

I went off-roading yesterday with my b/f/f Mike. He has a red Jeep Wrangler 4×4 and it’s as much of a joyride as it is a chick magnet. Trekking through rocky back roads and dense forestry in Pennsylvania is a vivid excursion I recommend experiencing first-hand. Not knowing what’s to come at each turn, searching for the next “deep kick” was the best part.

We hit a lot of dead zones in Pennsylvania, and this really allowed us to get lost. I started thinking about the benefits of living out here and how wonderful it would be to get away. Technology fills a “space” in our lives, and if it is removed something else most likely will take its place to fill the void. This is the perk of living in a dead zone.

I had my Droid ready to roll so I could share my journey and relive the action, but my connection to the outside world was completely severed. (How often can you say that?) My world was reduced to three things: Mike, the Jeep, and the mush between my ears. It was liberating.

The benefits of being disconnected began to present themselves, clearly. I could explore my thoughts freely without feeling the constant tug of email alerts, text messages, (previously) draw something notifications, and phone calls—to name a few.

Imagine the creative royalties that would come with this freedom. This is my dead zone. I’ll help you explore your inner dead zone below. Sure, the Internet and people sending me these “interruptions” have their place and there’s certainly value in both parties, but try and recall the last time you had a nice cut of time for your thoughts to marinate. (A time and place for you to retreat.) The dead zone is a healthy way to cope with all of the data that is sent our way each day.

We usually have a room of our own, but there are devices that can be distracting. We’re bred to be connected, as this is human nature, and we create culture hubs to unite one another. It just so happens that our hubs are made up of wires and signals. Wireless carriers pitch this to you every day: Zero drop-offs. No more dead zones! Who’s in your top-5? are forms of keeping you on the grid. The same can be said for social networks (e.g. G+ circles) and various tech-social platforms. We thrive on being connected and we assign value to being connected.

News flash: there’s [also] value in being disconnected. The reasons and benefits to escape are up to you, and you need not go far to make this a reality.

Discovering your dead zone

It’s not rocket science–all that it took for me to discover my dead zone was a joyride in a Jeep. The ah-ha! experience is nice, but here are three simple tasks you can do to discover your dead zone:

  • Define your dead zone. Make a list of conditions that constructs an appealing state of being for what you wish to accomplish.
  • Identify what distracts you and seek to eliminate the stimuli. For example, I have 9 tech toys that have a screen—all of which require active participation (no matter how small or large).
  • Execute the plan. Manage the little things and draft a call to action.

I understand relocating to a remote island or even to a place with bad service (like spots in PA) as a call to action isn’t realistic for most people. It’s easier to set up some hoops for the outside world to jump through, first, in order to reach you. Creating your own dead zone is also a chance to marshal self-control, which in practice has its own perks.

Here are some suggestions to discovering your own dead zone:

Know your limits. Think about what facilitates progress [in a project or organization] and what inhibits production. I assess the risks and rewards of opening up to the digital matrix because this is something I struggle with. Use a style that you’re familiar with, like the pros and cons approach. If you have difficulty assigning limits, ask some friends or colleagues.

Create a routine. This is a long-term objective to accomplish two major goals: (1) develop consistency and (2) manage the expectations of others. Having a set schedule is an easy way to do this. Regularly allotting time for yourself or something you would like to pursue in a controlled environment sends a firm message: Interruptions are only to occur when urgent. You don’t have to disappear for hours, but if people know you like to take a walk or workout at 1 p.m. they’ll generally leave you to your business without taking offense to it.

Keep your vices in check. If you really want to create a dead zone, make sure your vices are accounted for. If they help you work, entertain them properly. (E.g. cigarette breaks.) But if you identify a vice as harmful, perhaps it’s better to check that one at the door. It’ll be there when you get back.

Know your environment. Having an environment that is built for you, to entertain all of your senses, is a plus. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch – these are all sources of inspiration and development. So make the most of them and have fun with it. If the smell of coffee arouses you, set up a mini coffee bar. (I have a soft spot for vinyl records.) The aesthetics should not be overlooked when making your dead zone.

Turn off the cell phone. I mentioned limits in the first point, but this deserves its own section. Some applications like foursquare have a Mute button that disables push notifications, when you need a break. That’s beautiful. (Thanks Foursquare.) If this isn’t an option, search through an application’s settings menu. Here, you can curb unwanted interruptions or at least control them. (E.g. change what you receive notifications for.) There’s also airplane mode which turns off most of your device’s signal transmitting functions. You’ll still be able to use the device locally. If all else fails, turn the phone off.

These practices work for me, but they may not work for everyone. The beauty of the dead zone is that each person has their own unique idea. What are some things you do to break away?

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