It was yet another Monday evening I was spending traveling to Helsinki. Tired after the 3 hour flight and the usual airport hassle, I was looking forward to getting taxi and heading to my hotel as soon as possible. My driver, a Finnish lady with greying hair and sweet full, rosy-cheeked face drove me in silence through the highway right next to the lush birch forest I love to look at whenever I travel to and from the airport.
Thanks to the late night hours, the traffic in Helsinki was almost nonexistent and so we reached my usual stay-at place within twenty minutes. When it came to payment however, things were not going as smoothly. Despite my best attempts and the driver’s creative positioning of the card reader to support its connectivity, the machine was still refusing to work. “It’s been working all day” the lady explained apologetically, turning towards me from behind the wheel. “Maybe that’s why it’s not working now, it’s too tired” I joked awkwardly. Unknowingly however, my little remark has prompted an idea inside the driver’s head as she suddenly stated with a surprising decisiveness: “if it’s overworked, it needs a reboot!”. As we waited for the machine to come back to life we discussed how despite all the technological advancement the “try switching it off” still appears to be the best advice ever given for any technology related issues. But it got me thinking. Perhaps I too needed a bit of a reboot? I had been feeling lately like that overheated machine, that needed a tiny bit of a break in order to function well again. I had been working ridiculously long hours and weekend for a number of weeks and I started noticing the toll it was taking on me. My mind resembled the laptop I was working on – dozens of open sites, documents and emails as I tried to multitask and stay on top of the ceaseless workload. And just like a computer with too many tabs open, my mind too started to work at suboptimal speeds and experienced temporary glitches causing forcible system shut down. In theory I knew the best thing to do was to switch off – mentally and physically. But in the crazy haze of the impeding deadlines mixed with never-ending stream of requests, it somehow seemed easier to just keep on going.
We tend to ask of ourselves and others to work as if we’re machines, being non stop on, working 24/7. And yet if it was your laptop or mobile that were never switched off, continuously moving between running at full speed and charging for few hours so it can run some more, you would be soon noticing the deterioration of its functions, until another Microsoft update forcibly shuts the system down and allows it to reboot. If even our machines can’t work non stop, why do we expect that of ourselves? Why are we still in the habit of pushing ourselves and others beyond what our hardwiring can take, and then get surprised when the whole system breaks down? I sometimes think that we live in a funny world, where we take better care of our technology than we do of ourselves.
As I was thinking about it all, I heard the familiar sound of the accepted card payment. The driver smiled triumphantly and announced “see? I told you it just needed to switch off to work again”. I put the receipt to my pocket and walked to the hotel, but I couldn’t get out of my head the idea that sometimes the simplest solutions are still the best. I had colleagues trying to manage their work related stress with yoga, meditation and even colouring books, but they looked just as stressed and continued to send emails at 11 pm. We have travelled so much with the understanding of our minds and bodies, we developed a whole wellness industry designed to help us feel better, and yet it all seemed now like an overdone solution to a very simple problem. We were trying to spend hours with the equivalent of an IT Helpdesk, only to discover at the end of it all that what was needed was to “switch off and on again”.
And so today, instead of sending another email, I will be heading out for a walk and then warming up in a sauna. I cleared my messages, closed all documents, I am shutting down the laptop. My mind is in a pressing need of a system refresh and it’s time I gave my life the long awaited reboot.