Someone always stops me in the hall at a conference or asks anxiously after a talk: How much time should I spend in front of a screen? At what point should I pull back and take a break? Should I stop every 30 or 45 minutes?
My response is always the same: How do you feel? Your body is wiser than your mind in these matters.
The challenge is, most of us, especially the brainy future thinking high tech types, tend to favor the inclinations of the mind. The mind, for many of us, is often tyrannical towards the body. “Just stay up 3 more hours. One more all-nighter. A Red Bull or two and I’ll meet this deadline! No walk until this paper is done…”
Our always-on lifestyle has favored thinking and doing. As we move toward a lifestyle that seeks quality of life, we’ll find ourselves valuing sensing and feeling. We see the first signs of this in the various food related movements that are gaining popularity: slow foods, Farmer’s Markets, and preferences for artisanal and local organic foods.
The operative questions are: How do I feel? What would feel better? These questions can help create a flexible, flowing workstyle that will enable the wisdom of both body and mind to come through in everything we do.
This piece also appeared on the Huffington Post.
In early 2007, at the suggestion of my M.D., I took a course in Buteyko breathing and incorporated it into my morning routine. I would get up, take a walk, do twenty minutes of Buteyko, then, sit down at my computer to work.
Day one: Within the first few minutes of sitting down at my computer, I noticed I was holding my breath – a huge contrast to the breathing exercises I was doing only moments before.
Day two: Within the first few minutes of sitting down at my computer, I noticed I was holding my breath.
Day three: This isn’t an anomaly, it’s a habit! Does everyone do this?!
I spent the next 6-7 months observing and interviewing over 200 people. I watched and spoke with people in their offices, in cafes, in their homes, and, roughly 80% of this sample appeared to have what I called, email apnea. I interviewed a variety of healthcare practitioners and researchers on the physiological impacts of breath holding. I’m grateful to these professionals for answering my questions, referring me to other professionals, and referring me to relevant research.
I posted on this on HuffPo and Radar. The comments posted on Radar are worth reading.
Since posting the original pieces on email apnea, the Steelcase Walkstation has come on the market. There is some evidence that we’re likely to have better posture at a standing or walking workstation.
Filed under attention, Blackberry, breathing, continuous partial attention, email apnea, health, Huffington Post, information overload, iPhone, O'Reilly Radar, screen apnea, Steelcase Walkstation, technology