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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In 2020, I went from doing 75 in-person keynotes a year to zero in-person events thanks to Covid-19. My entire business model was based off speaking to people in person. I like being around people, and a major part of why I love my job is because of the people I get to meet, speak with before and after my keynotes, and the meals we share together.
I need and crave human connection. But how do we feel connected when we are locked in our house for a year and half? How do we feel connected when we go 100% virtual? How do we feel connected when others don’t want to meet in person either?
Like most entrepreneurs, when the pandemic hit, it looked like being in person was not an option, so we all had to get our Zoom accounts ready and ride the wave. Lately, I have felt more connected to others (and myself) than ever before.
Related: 5 Ways to Lead Effective Virtual Meetings With Your Remote Teams
Here are nine things I have done to feel more connected in this virtual world.
1. Stop multi-tasking on the phone
I still don’t know why we call them phones when clearly, we use them for way more than that. If you are like me, making actual calls is one of the last things you use your phone for. However, one of the things I have been doing to feel more connected when I am using the phone is making sure I am not multi-tasking when I am talking to someone. I am not on speakerphone cleaning the dishes, texting or scrolling through an article. Instead, I am present. I am listening and engaged. I am here for the other person and get way more out of the conversation. I feel more connected with him or her when the call is done.
2. Set the phone down
Speaking of being on the phone, when is the last time we left our phone at home when we ate dinner? When is the last time we left our phone in the car when we took a walk? When is the last time we even took a walk? Setting the phone down and enjoying the present moment without the distraction of a buzzing device has been a great way for me to connect with myself, nature and my close family members and friends in the moment.
3. Join and participate in a club or group
I am part of many groups, associations and clubs. However, while I might have been a “member,” I was not an active “player” in the group. Meaning, I paid my dues or signed up, but after I wrote the check or clicked on the button, I didn’t do much else. This past year, I have started getting more involved in my associations, and it is making me feel more connected to those that are also in my industry.
4. Take off the digital watch
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the digital watch when it is appropriate to use, but do we need it on all day? Do we need all the notifications? At some point, it gets too distracting. I bought myself one of those “old-school” watches that simply tells time, and now I use my Garmin exclusively when I am working out or taking a hike. I make sure to turn off all the notifications and do not connect it to my phone. I noticed the constant little distractions were taking me away from feeling connected to myself and my surroundings.
5. Write hand-written letters
When is the last time you got a hand-written letter? How did it make you feel? Most likely, it made you feel special. So let’s do that for someone else. As much as it feels good to receive one, I have noticed this past year it feels as good to write one. Putting pen to paper, slowing down and connecting with what I really wanted to say to a certain person allowed me to identify who really matters in my life and who I want to connect with on a deeper level.
Related: To Succeed in a Virtual Workforce Era, Effective Digital-Leadership Skills Are a Must
6. Volunteer in your community
There are so many ways now to volunteer without leaving your house. My aunt volunteers on a hotline three hours a week for a local pet shelter. My mom volunteers once a week to answer the phone lines for a woman’s shelter that they route to her cell phone. I personally volunteer with a local non-profit every week and never leave my home. Being more connected with my community and seeing what the actual needs are for people in my area have made me feel super connected to the people in my neighborhood.
7. Learn something new
When is the last time you spent time learning on a deeper level? I haven’t been in school for over a decade, yet there were so many things I wanted to learn. So, I started my master’s degree at Bellevue University online and started learning and feeling more motivated, and I was instantly connected to others who were interested in learning too. I talk to my cohort every week and am learning something that is deepening my connection to my industry and that will eventually allow me to help even more people. Go back to school, take a course and learn something new!
8. Invest in your mental health
Anyone in leadership or entrepreneurship understands it is a grueling and tough job. It is constant, and we must remember that although our bodies are the best machines on the planet, we must take care of the machine, which means we must rest and recharge often. My wife and I invested in our mental health by visiting our therapists more, meditating weekly, changing up our diet, and after almost 15 years of having the same mattress, finally investing in a new bed to get better sleep. Worth it.
9. Share a meal with a neighbor
If it was not for the pandemic, I would not have known my neighbors. We got to know each other by talking over the fence, sharing stories and eventually meals with each other. It’s powerful to share meals because you learn about other’s traditions and where they come from. What better way to get to know someone than through a meal?
For example, I am vegetarian. My neighbors are avid hunters and are constantly cooking meat they hunt or catch outside, and it brings them joy. I love learning about why she likes to hunt and what joy it brings her. It’s not for me, but it is for her. She asks me questions, and we both respect each other’s ways of eating. We both have shared meals with each other, and last week, she even brought me over some vegetarian sides she had left over that she thought my family would like. Now that is connection!
Covid has been a hard one for me. My sister got Covid, my aunt got Covid, and I lost some friends to Covid. It also nearly destroyed my business overnight. However, it also did some really great things for me, allowing me to realize how much I have in life and how connected I really am without actually having to be in person all the time. It helped me realize I can run my business from anywhere and add real value while still being at home. I feel more connected to myself and others because I tried these nine things, and I hope you do too.
Related: How Are Virtual Events Facilitating Community Building and Networking?