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Canadian author + speaker Christina Crook communicates about technology, humanity, faith & wonder for audiences and publications throughout the world.

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Christina Crook is the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World, which has made her leading voice on human flourishing in the digital age. 

Through her speaking and writing, she reveals how key shifts in our thinking can enable us to draw closer to one another, taking up the good burdens of local work and responsibilities. She writes about the value of focus, making space to create, and the meaning we find in more limited connections. She challenges the Western values of power, control, and success, revealing how wonder, trust, and discipline are central to the experience of being human and the keys to our joy.

Google wants to foster JOMO

Christina Crook

 

Did you hear the news? Google wants to foster JOMO—the joy of missing out - in its users.

At its recent annual developers conference, the company announced several new features designed to help people monitor and manage the time they spend on their devices. The goal: Enable users to understand their habits, control the demands technology places on their attention, and focus on what matters.

"Helping people with their digital well-being is more important to us than ever," said vice president of product management Sameer Samat. "People tell us a lot of the time they spend on their phones is really useful. But some of it they wish they'd spent on other things." - WIRED magazine

The JOMO movement is growing.

Just this morning, a colleague wrote: "There’s something there that people are connecting with, and even as marketers in the digital space, the notion of disconnecting to make a more meaningful existence resonates with us."

We are the Architects of our Daily Lives

Christina Crook

Our days are full.

For most of us, from the moment we wake up in the morning, our days are ripe with noise and busyness and rushing. At the end of the day, we are tired. We are so very tired. 

Can you relate to any of these feelings?

"I'm tired of trying to keep it all together. My team needs me. My spouse needs me. My kids need me. I feel like I am already living with a wall of regret."

"I'm exhausted. I'm on 24/7. I feel like I can't turn off because if I do my career will slow down and my boss will think I'm a lazy sloth and I will miss my dentist appointment and I'll never get my side hustle off the ground and I won't know about my friend's new puppy and..."

"I come home from work feeling numb. The only thing I have energy for is scrolling and Netflix. And more Netflix. And more Instagram. And more Facebook. At the same time. I've been on social long enough to know it's a waste of time but I. CAN. NOT. STOP. I don't know what else to do."

It takes a powerful no to say a powerful yes.


A couple of years ago, I decided to step away from this kind of bombardment to discover what life might be like without the windows of my day crowded by news and punditry, busyness and chatter. 

I gave up the Internet for 31 days

It was a time of slowing, quieting and coming close to family and my immediate community in our west end neighbourhood of Toronto.

Unplugging was like someone taking an eraser to the chalkboard of my mind and wiping it entirely clean.

I could hear. I was still. I spent my time and attention with intention.


All of us can sense that there's something wrong with our relationship with time.


All of us can sense that there's something wrong with our relationship with time.


“For most of us, we’re rarely aware of what we are doing. Our attention is constantly diverted. Being mindful is difficult because we are always anxious about time. We never have enough of it," writes Cecile Andrews in the wonderful compilation, Simpler Living, Compassionate Life.

Another woman and her family decided to challenge their relationship with time. Suzanne Crocker, a retired physician, and her husband moved themselves and their three children, ages 10, 8 and 4, to a remote part of the Yukon where they lived for most of a year. They lived for those nine months with no electricity and without any means of keeping time. No clocks. No power. No “You’ve got 5 more minutes.” No more “Hurry, we’re late.”

What they found is that in the absence of time-saving technologies like cars, smartphones and washing machines, time expanded. They had more of it.


Time expanded. They had more of it.


We are living in a culture that can't turn off. 

We complain about having no time, all of the time, and yet we impulsively spend what free moments we have submerged in the never-ending drama of email inboxes, social media feeds and television that often leave us feeling more exhausted than if we’d not bothered with them in the first place.

During my digital detox, when I was no longer compulsively reaching for my smartphone throughout the day, I made two important discoveries:

First, that the world keeps turning without me. The web keeps clicking along without my words, without my likes and dislikes. It made me feel small. It reminded me I am small. I'm not the centre of the universe. The world, it keeps on turning.

Second, I discovered that I wear my busyness like a badge of honour.

I’m a mother of three young children. I have an executive husband who travels often for work. I have no family living nearby to help out. I have a lot of good reasons to say “I’m so busy.”


I have a lot of good reasons to say "I'm so busy." But what margin I have, I fill.


But the truth is, there are windows in my day for slowing down, for doing the things I want to do, connecting with the people I want to connect with. But what margin I may have, I fill. 

I could sit for 10 minutes and read a novel while my kid runs around in the park, but instead I check email.

I could drive a reasonable, relaxed pace home, but instead I operate like a race car driver to get on to the next thing. 

What Suzanne Crocker and her family’s example teaches us is that in order to find time we must stop valorizing our ability to keep a more and more frenetic pace.


We must stop valorizing our ability to keep a more and more frenetic pace.


“As parents, we’re the architects of our family’s daily lives,” write Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross in their book, Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

“We build a structure for those we love by what we choose to do together, and how we do it. We determined the rhythms of our days; set a pace. There are certainly limits to our control… Ask any parent of a teenager. And it often feels that our lives are controlling us, caught as we are in a mad rush from one responsibility to another. Yet the unique way that we perform this dance of daily activities says a lot about who we are as a family.” 

Filmed over 9 months, off the grid, without external crew, and featuring the unique perspectives of children, Crocker’s documentary, All The Time In The World explores the theme of disconnecting from our hectic and technology laden lives in order to reconnect with each other, ourselves and our natural environment – parents connecting with children, children connecting with nature. 

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, writes: “Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.”

The benefits of moon-bathing, forest walks, and earthing (making a small nature connection in the midst of a city) are manifold. The need for these kinds of connections to nature have never been so lacking and never been more needed. We are out of step with the seasons, with our circadian rhythms, with our hearts. We can not live or love well in rushing.


We can not live or love well in rushing. 


It may not surprise you that city dwellers have a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centres. The truth is, we are on a treadmill of our own choosing. We rush from one task to the next, filling what free moments we do have with quick online check-ins and extra tasks.

Rushing. Rushing. Rushing. Doing. Doing. Doing. Producing. Producing. Producing. Consuming. Consuming. Consuming.

We can step off. 

Recently, I've been challenging myself to do one less thing. One less errand. One less email. One less task. Some days I take extra time to be present to my kids at school drop off: kissing their messy heads before they disappear behind the double doors and lingering to catch up with another parent. I’ve begun the practice of arriving earlier for meetings, sitting for 10 minutes to give myself space to pause and prepare. I’m aiming to leave the dishes in the sink more often to pick up a library book and read. 

It’s powerful to focus on one small thing. It can change us. 

Where do you see margin? Is it in your early hours, lingering in bed? Is it over your lunch hour? Is it in the early evening, when you could leave something undone? Hold that space sacred. 


By reexamining our relationship with time, we may discover we have more than we think.


We are the architects of our daily lives. By reexamining our relationship with time, we may discover we have more than we think.

 


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Christina Crook is the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. She has addressed conferences, corporate teams, and universities over the past several years, sharing with them how presence and peace can be found in the midst of the cacophony of the modern world. She’s a personable and engaging speaker who shares her advice in a way that’s relevant and uplifting. Invite her to speak or facilitate a workshop with your team.


Recommended viewing:

"To get the freedom of time again, we had to free ourselves from the structure of time - and see what would happen."

Filmed over 9 months, off the grid, without external crew, and featuring the unique perspectives of children, All The Time In The World explores the theme of disconnecting from our hectic and technology laden lives in order to reconnect with each other, ourselves and our natural environment – parents connecting with children, children connecting with nature. Learn more.

In the game of life, it’s the curious who win. 

Christina Crook

It was Christmas Eve 1993 when John Lloyd awoke to the devastating thought that all he had achieved was worthless. By all outward standards, Lloyd was the picture of success. He was a TV producer and director with homes in London and Oxfordshire which he shared with his wife and three children. Before the age of 40 he had produced some of the most popular comedy shows in Britain and had three BAFTAs - Britain’s Oscars - to show for it. But that Christmas morning, he was flattened by the sense that he didn’t know anything.

“[Lloyd] entered a serious depression, despite knowing he had much to be thankful for,” recounts Ian Leslie in his book, Curious: The Desire to Know and why your Future Depends on It (House of Anansi, 2014.) “Lloyd eschewed some of the popular strategies for coping with male mid-life crisis,” writes Leslie. “Instead, he took time off work, went on long walks and drank whiskey. He also started to read,” something he had never had time for during his previous years of success." 

He dug into Socrates and ancient Athens. He learned about magnetism and light. He had no method or plan, says Leslie, but simply followed his curiosity wherever it took him.


"He was furious that no one had thought to let him in on a secret: the world is incredibly interesting.”   


Lloyd’s exploration was driven by the sheer pleasure of discovery underpinned by his desire to understand nothing less than the meaning of life: “I was really trying to find out, what is the point of me? What is the point of anything?”

A few years later Lloyd pitched a new show to the BBC: QI, a quiz show now loved by millions for its ability to make anything from quantum physics to Aztec architecture both entertaining and interesting. In his pitch to the network executives, Lloyd explained: “There is nothing more important or strange than curiosity.” QI was Lloyd’s crowning jewel, now one of Britain’s most popular and longest running TV series. 

For many adults the flame of curiosity has all but gone out. In fact, some experts say our pure intellectual zeal begins to wane as early as four years old. We hit an equilibrium and quit adding to the store. As a result we have fewer questions and more default settings.    

“This waning curiosity is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Leslie. “It’s essential in becoming a person who can act on the world, rather than one in thrall to it.” But in his study of the inquiring mind he has landed on an essential truth:


In the game of life, it’s the curious who win. 


If you’re paying attention, everything you see and do - from a fire beetle’s underbelly, to the Magna Carta, to a blade of grass - is extraordinary.

A life of pure utility quickly becomes sterile. Embracing JOMO opens up space for curiosity and quiet. You never know where inspiration might strike. 


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Christina Crook is the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. She has addressed conferences, corporate teams, and universities over the past several years, sharing with them how presence and peace can be found in the midst of the cacophony of the modern world. She’s a personable and engaging speaker who shares her advice in a way that’s relevant and uplifting. Invite her to speak to your team today.


Recommended reading:

 

Bored and Brilliant shows the fascinating side of boredom. Manoush Zomorodi investigates cutting-edge research as well as compelling (and often funny) real-life examples to demonstrate that boredom is actually a crucial tool for making our lives happier, more productive, and more creative. What’s more, the book is crammed with practical exercises for anyone who wants to reclaim the power of spacing out.