Chris is the founder & CEO of UnPlug where he works to help people take control of their technology use. Chris spoke to Taragh Loughrey-Grant on The LifeStyle Show, you can listen to the podcast above.
What is Unplug?
Unplug helps individuals and organisations to take control of their technology instead of their technology controlling them. We offer a range of solutions for attention management and learning to recharge and delivering new insights on how you can develop positive tech habits on a day to day basis.
Your background is in technology - what prompted your career change?
I've always loved technology and I loved the corporate world and so I, interestingly, used to work in big data analytics and data mining which is very close to, what we would now call, machine learning. And in my fifteen years of working in the corporate sector, I was also working with some charity projects and I think over that time, despite loving the corporate world, I felt a stronger purpose in helping people and social change.
There was also, having come from seeing the positives of technology and being a very heavy user of technology, I also recognised that I started to suffer from some of the negative impacts of my own productivity and well being from the overuse of technology.
You've travelled extensively - what were the key things that you experienced that lead to Unplug?
I've lived out of a backpack for about four years of my life; three of those were in developing countries where I was working on a number of charity projects with no electricity or running water.
Travel has definitely made me who I am and I feel very privileged for having had the opportunity to do it but it's also given me a perspective for enjoying the simpler things and the importance of having balance in life.
I'm no nourished in my personal life by doing what I love and travelling when I have the opportunity as opposed to before when I was just focused on having adventures all the time. For me, it's all about being balanced in life.
What three simple changes to you recommend that would be life changing along the lines of Unplug's philosophy?
There is no silver bullet, we are all different and we are all very different in how we use technology. However, some really high-level tips we recommend are:
1. Awareness. I think it's key to note that whenever we make a change in our life, let's say we're going on a diet; the key thing to do is to essentially capture what you might call an 'as is' so a measure of where you are to get an idea of what your relationship is with food or sport or technology. Until you know that, it's very unlikely you'll make a change.
2. Boundaries. If we think about the most important parts of our lives that nourish us from a well-being point of view; sleep, connectivity and relationships.
So for sleep, trying to keep technology out of the bedroom. For relationships and connection, trying to minimise our use of technology when we're with our loved ones during precious times such as meal times or reading bedtime stories.
3. Lead by example. We find, quite often, that when we work with younger people, they're often saying to us that it is their parents that won't get off technology. And there's a real balance there because I run a company, where quite often I have to be online before and after working hours but I'm very careful that I create very specific boundaries where I do only what I absolutely have to do during that time, I don't get hooked in to lower priority things.
How does your day look?
As a caveat on this, just to mention, I am quite extreme. I have had quite a strong focus on my personal well-being for a long time so I don't see myself as the role model for everybody to follow. I am also sleeping differently with my injury [Chris recently dislocated his shoulder].
I wake up typically between 5:00am and 5:30am and the first thing I do is make hot lemon every day and I just really enjoy that, so I'm very much focused on that as, kind of, a mindful practice. I then meditate for twenty minutes, I have a number of stretches that I do which just comes with age.
I then do a gratitude diary every day, so I actually have a gratitude journal from Ali Canavan and I find that having a really beautiful journal to write in motivates me to write in it.
I then have a dance to typically eighties cheese for a minute and a half or two minutes, just jumping up and down. Then I rotate every day, either yoga or cardio. So if it's nice weather, I'll go out on the bike or otherwise I'll spin or do yoga.
I then switch my body right on to full charge by having a cold shower. I then focus on my nutrition so I have a very healthy, homemade breakfast and then I start work. And up until that time, I make sure I'm not checking technology so it's very much about being present in the moment.
And then when I do start my work in the morning, the first thing I do is plan the day. That's really important to me because we always have high priority things that can come in an e-mail and take over from things that are actually even more important.
During the day, I actually have boundaries around the technology so my technology is 'managed'. I can only use social media for a limited amount of time during working hours and then out of working hours, my work tools switch off.
So, I do that six days a week. I am human so sometimes I take a day off if I have a date or a night out with friends but typically it's six days a week that I do that. However, the one things I do regardless of schedule is that I meditate every day, twice a day.