I found it a really refreshing change to attend the Learning Live conference as a delegate – no exhibition stand to be tethered to, no presentations to prepare, just time to listen, think, learn, and network. I greatly enjoyed the conference, finding it to be a good mix of speakers, topics and delegates. Looking at the Twitter feed, I think this reflects the majority view.

The keynote speakers were excellent. Andy Cope of Art of Brilliance and the author of Being Brilliant books was a perfect choice as an after dinner speaker with his topic of ‘The Happiness Advantage’. I did overhear some in the audience making light-hearted, but slightly cynical comments before Andy spoke, as is often the case when ‘happiness’ is raised as a serious topic. When I previously worked at the University of East London, there was much publicity around our launch of a post-graduate programme in Positive Psychology, with media reporting quite scornfully on the ‘happiness degree’. However, anyone cynical at the outset was completely converted by the end of Andy’s engaging talk and it was clear that some of the stories he recounted struck a chord with many of us.

Going back to my opening sentence, my opportunity to be ‘just’ a delegate actually felt like a ‘guilty pleasure’ whereas of course there are very real benefits to be gained from taking a step back from the ‘busyness of business’ .

Taking time to reflect

Andy talked about the importance of ‘mindfulness’, being mindful of the moment. He used the illustration of reading bedtime stories to his son as a demonstration of the importance of ensuring whatever you are engaged in is the best experience it can be.

This made me reflect on my experiences during the business trip to South Africa from which I had only just returned. Due to the combination of my packed schedule and lack of connectivity while I was away, I had only limited times when I could log on to access email and social media.  I always find this frustrating since I am so used to being in an ‘always on’ mode. Reflecting on this in the light of Andy’s talk, I realised that I had actually benefited in some ways from this forced non-connected state. I recognised that, without the constant distraction of incoming emails, calls and updates, I was giving my full attention to the matters in hand. I am so used to multi-tasking that I haven’t really considered whether I work as effectively and efficiently as I could. Normally, I have a multitude of issues all competing for attention in my head at once, and so this enforced separation of activities actually reduced my normal levels of stress.

What is clear from attending the show and other events during the course of the year is that technology is changing both our working and social lives.  It brings a whole arrear of benefits and greater flexibility. I work for a US-based company, with a global base of clients, with a team located in different locations in the UK, and yet we can work seamlessly and easily thanks to technology. Technology enhances my family life enabling easy and frequent communications between us all despite busy lives in geographically dispersed areas.

I am now trying to apply some of the concepts Andy talked about. I don’t think I am alone in being more controlled by my mobile devices than in control of them.  So I am trying to instill in myself a more disciplined approach to how I use technology – giving my full focus to the conversation or task in hand rather than juggling multiple activities and see if I can take some of the ‘busyness out of business’.