I have been told probably a million times to “think outside of the box.” The old idiom has merit in encouraging creativity, allowing your mind to wander outside set limits, and return with something truly wonderful. It has brought us great inventors such as Thomas Edison and innovative thinkers such as Erwin Shrödinger. I encourage everyone to work on developing this level of ingenuity, but I want to see if we can redefine the meaning of this old saying for our lives at the current. Can we instead think outside of the four corners of our laptop screens?
Our education, social events, and work rely heavily on technology, especially right now, but not completely. Our tasks are inadvertently influenced by our surroundings, and the choices we make outside of the four corners of our screens can make a big impact. Imagine this day-to-day example: you are tasked with watching an asynchronous lecture video for one of your Honors classes. The assignment only requires that you are focused on the screen and listening to the class material, but what else are you doing? Have you opened another tab to work on an assignment due later in the day? Are you studying for an exam or scrolling through social media? What is your setting? Are you sitting at your desk, at the kitchen table, or laying in bed? Think about where you are happiest attending meetings. Where can you best focus? I for one know that I enjoy meetings that I am able to take outside way more than meetings where I am sitting at my desk, and I tend to score higher on exams when I have a quiet space to work.
Okay, easy enough! Let’s say you are now watching your lecture from the front porch and enjoying the weather, or answering your emails at the kitchen table for a change. This is a great start! But not only can we pay attention to where we are attending digital events, but we can also be conscious about what is available to us outside of them. Increased digitization comes with increased flexibility, and we can also be mindful to use the resources around us to our advantage. The perfect example of this comes from a friend of mine who was making a beach-themed diorama for her theatre class. After assembling miniature palm trees, and painting tiny blue waves, all that was left was the sand. Instead of shopping for the sand or ordering it online, she set out on a hike and collected the sand herself! Yes, she could have easily driven to the nearest Michaels store, but the day spent outside was definitely much more fun!
All of this is to say: choose opportunities outside of the classroom or the workplace that add to your experience. Find even the smallest chances to add some variety to your day. I have a feeling that over time, those small choices will start to add up. Sometimes, the little changes or last-minute actions are what we end up remembering and what truly make an impact–even if we were originally only hoping to remember the information from that asynchronous lecture. It is so tempting to keep on working and never look up from our phones or our laptops, but once in a while, making more intentional choices when we do take a step back makes all the difference.