Last week our internet went down. I had no essential meetings or client calls, but naturally I had plans for work that “needed” to get done. I wasn’t sure how widespread the outage was, and whether my nearest library and coffee shops would have connectivity.
So instead of fighting the situation, by packing up my laptop, getting in the car, and hunting around for Wi-Fi, I decided to go with the flow. Maybe this decision was helped by the fact I’d already been for an early swim, which typically leaves me both upbeat and zen at the same time. Maybe I thought the interwebs would surely be back online in a couple of hours, and I’d just wait until then.
In everyday life, I use my phone an absolute minimum. I simply don’t enjoy the tiny interface. So, while I could still see incoming emails, I chose to respond only to 2-3 urgent messages. In theory I could have carried on surfing on my cellular plan, but I took social media apps off my phone a long time ago, and have no intention of putting them back.
What I did with my no-internet day
As well as the morning swim, I tackled some ironing, listened to (previously downloaded) podcasts, sealed some mischievous bathroom tiles, mended a skirt, and called a bookstore. I spent a couple of hours editing video and adding photos to my digital photo frame, so I wasn’t without screen time. (But it was focused screen time.) I took a nap, and did some reading.
Yet there was plenty I didn’t do. If I’d been forced to “fill” 3 internet-free days, I could have done so, easily. I didn’t run errands, or do any gardening, or decluttering. I didn’t plan recipes, or watch a favorite DVD. I’m not in the middle of a novel draft at the moment, or that would clearly have been on the agenda too.
What I noticed
This inconvenience that was imposed on me turned out to be one of my most productive, contented days in ages. For the 12 hours or so that I couldn’t use the internet, I absolutely loved it.
- I got masses done, many items completers instead of repeaters.
- I felt more relaxed, and time felt more expansive. I wouldn’t say the time dragged, but it definitely didn’t fly by in that typical where did the day go way. In her work on time management, Laura Vandkeram has noted that when we check email constantly, the total time we perceive we’re spending feels more than it actually is. I feel the same is true of other online activity: in my non-scientific study, I wasn’t losing chunks of time down the rabbit hole of the internet.
- Because I couldn’t check social media, the pressure to be present there was pleasantly absent. If someone left an interesting question in the Facebook group I moderate, well, it was simply too bad.
- Nagging offline tasks felt less burdensome. The bathroom tiles, the skirt, the ironing didn’t seem such a big deal, without the siren call of online distractions.
However, by the end of the day, I was extremely keen to get back online. Certain communications could be postponed for one day, but being unresponsive for two was troubling. And I realized how often I “look things up” online: everything from the phone number of that bookstore, to a url on my own website which I needed for my video.
As it turned out, our internet service was down for almost 24 hours and impacted a large number of homes and businesses. So I was glad I hadn’t gone haring off looking for wifi in nearby coffee shops. But the next morning, I was delighted to find my web pages loading as usual.
A single internet-free day was a wonderful gift to me of productivity, mindfulness and less frenzied working. I warmly recommend you nominate a day – or even a half day, to start with – and pretend your internet is down, too. Let me know how it goes.
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