Finding meaning through the busy routines of work and life is not easy. Our daily routine often lacks a sense of purpose and appears to serve no apparent end.

We need to reboot our operating systems to see beneath the surface to the place where we know not with the mind but with the heart. There are steps we can take to enhance our ability to reboot. This article suggests one radical step that will help you reboot and overcome hurry sickness.

But first, lets look at the cost of hurry sickness.

The Problem: Hurry Sickness

Often when I reflect upon the necessity for reflection in my workshops, I get the response, “Who has the time? I’m too busy!” That is the precise problem. Hurry Sickness—always going somewhere, never being anywhere—is numbing our conscious awareness of what is happening in and to our lives. Our very sense of humanity—our full presence in our own lives—is being hijacked by busyness.

This was brought home clearly in a provocative YouTube video sent to me recently, “No Time to Think,” by David Levy, a professor in the Information School at the University of Washington. The video offers a disturbing wake-up call, showing how American society has become enslaved to an ethic of “more-better-faster” and is losing touch with the capacity for reflection and presence.

Levy’s research focuses on why the technological devices (such as my Blackberry!) that are designed to connect us also seem to disconnect us. Twitter may be the next level of connection, but surely there is something strange and ironic about the acceleration of twittering as our human moments of presence dwindle.

Instead of connecting us, our devices are isolating us. Isolation is becoming the norm. E-mail, voicemail, instant messaging, cell phone, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and of course the World Wide Web all serve useful roles. But these tools for connecting also crowd out deeper “purpose moments” in our relationships.

According to Thomas Eriksen of the University of Oslo, author of Tyranny of the Moment, the digital environment favors “fast-time” activities—those that require instant, urgent responses. Such activities tend to take precedence over and shut out “slow-time” activities, such as reflection, play, and “courageous (deep) conversations.” The right-now is trumping the timeless—high tech is hijacking high-touch. And to boot, we are becoming numb and fatigued in the process. Deep, down behind the eyeballs, fatigued.

The Solution: Reboot

Being focused and present requires regular rebooting of our internal operating systems. One important way to reboot from hurry sickness is to take a 12-hour “media fast”—a time during which you turn off all technology. When we take a media fast, we unmask illusions. We confront what parts of our busyness are expressions of our real purpose.

When we lose touch with our core, we lose our purpose perspective. We gain back our perspective by turning off technology and by letting our intuitive voice guide us.

Sometimes we are open to rebooting; at other times we are not. When crises drop into our lives, we are forced to reboot. At times when things seem to be going smoothly, we may not sense the need at all. The truth is pay now or pay later.

Taking a media fast may seem strange, yet it can help us pay now. So, how do we reboot?

How to Reboot

When we’re connected to everyone, we don’t really know anyone. In order to know people, we have to listen to their stories. We live in an age when we rarely have the time to hear each other’s stories. So, we live on assumptions. We’re busy people, after all, and we want our friendships easy and stress-free.

Take the “purpose test”—go without media or gadgets for 12 hours! No cell phone, computer, TV or radio for 12 hours—a “media fast.”

A break from techno-busyness forces us to confront core questions about life. “Do I see friends more often?” “Do I really know their stories?” “Am I accessible to them?”

In the morning, get up a little earlier. Before you get involved in anything, just sit quietly for ten minutes and take three deep breaths. Breath one–present. Breath two–grateful. Breath three–on purpose. Then envision your next twelve hours. Picture the activities of the day without technology. Picture the potential “purpose moments”—times where you will have face time with people.

Turn off technology and choose one friend (or a colleague) and get to know their story. Throughout the day, look for purpose moments—opportunities to connect with people through a question, a kind word, an extended hand. In the purpose moments, ask people what they are truly excited about, passionate about, a learning adventure that was exciting for them—and listen.

What is the mood of these purpose moments? My hunch is that you’ll sense the mood that most of us yearn for—someone in our lives who “gets us.” We want someone to push the pause button on technology and listen to our stories. We’re hungry for deep connection.

The essence of rebooting was captured clearly by William Deresiewicz in an essay entitled Faux Friendship: “Exchanging stories is like making love. It is mutual. It is intimate. It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill—and it teaches those qualities too.”

Rebooting our operating systems is powerful. It slows us down to the speed of story. It teaches us that patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill and sharing are fundamental qualities to finding meaning in a stressed out world.