Note: This is a guest post from Jess Chua of Optimal Living Daily.
My boyfriend and I moved into a new home earlier this year.
The water and electric utilities had been set up. The internet, however, was scheduled to be connected the following day.
For disclosure purposes, I don’t own a smartphone. Living without a smartphone isn’t as big of a deal to me as going without a wifi connection.
As a work from home writer, I’ve always considered high-speed internet to be a vital necessity. It keeps me connected to what’s going on in the world and in my network. Above all, it allows me to have a location independent career.
Since I knew I wasn’t going to have internet access for a couple of days and that would be a unique situation for me, I took some steps to prepare my “offline” workload for those days.
I expected to feel antsy and out of sorts. In reality, I was pleasantly surprised to undergo a thoroughly different experience. Instead of feeling lost, I managed to get a lot done and feel a deep sense of calm and satisfaction at the end of the work day.
Here are some things I learned from having temporarily limited internet access:
1. Planning doesn’t need to be complicated.
My preparation for working offline included downloading the documents I needed to refer to or edit onto a thumbdrive. I packed my work laptop and charger the night before so I wouldn’t need to rush or look for items in the morning. This helped me to start the day off on a refreshing and positive note.
2. Eliminating distractions is the key to sharpening focus.
I initially envisioned being irritated without internet access, because my mind wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else (which sounds like a classic case of withdrawal symptoms). However, I found my ability to focus was greatly enhanced in the absence of information at my fingertips.
Instead of obsessively researching and sifting through an endless plethora of data, I focused on each task at hand with undivided attention.
3. Technology shouldn’t replace nature.
I sometimes listen to instrumental music while writing or blogging. The music depends on my mood. On this day sans internet, I did my work to more natural sounds like birds chirping in the morning and leaves rustling in the afternoon breeze. During my lunch break, I watched some beautiful red cardinals and blue jays from my kitchen window.
Instead of getting caught up in digital news feeds and sensational headlines, I felt more calm observing and feeling connected to the natural world. We might tell ourselves that what’s on a virtual screen “isn’t real,” but its effects on us certainly are real.
4. You can be calm and productive at the same time.
I managed to check off the items on my to-do list with less mental stress than usual. Instead of trying to do too much while multitasking, I got what needed to be done through simplifying the day’s routine and streamlining my efforts under technologically limited circumstances.
If unplugging from the internet or other forms of technology is something you’ve never done before, the change from your daily routine can be scary to consider, but the rewards outweigh the risks. I’m almost ashamed to admit it took a delayed installer to open my eyes to it.
Thinking about dipping your toes into digital minimalism?
Try some of these tips to experience the benefits while limiting your reliance on technology.
● Get organized. Set aside a bit of time in the morning for organizing your thoughts and goals. If you check your phone or somehow connect to technology within the first five minutes of waking up, stop! How you spend the first few minutes upon waking up has a big impact on the rest of your day.
● Reduce distractions. Before the era of smartphones and social media, surfing the internet was mostly limited to using a desktop computer. Research has shown that smartphones may actually be rewiring our brains. Social media alone could be costing some of us almost fifty hours per month.
Whether you choose to unfollow, mute, or resort to more drastic measures like entering a phone rehab program, be mindful with which of your digital notifications act as distractions more than anything else.
● Appreciate nature every day. What are some of the things you like about nature? Maybe it’s the sunrise, the seasons, or rainy weather that you’ve always felt drawn to. Simply observing nature often has a calming or humbling effect as it reminds us of the rhythm and continuity of life. Admiring the power and beauty of nature will make you feel more aware and connected to life away from a digital screen.
● Prioritize rest. Trying to do too much at once often leaves us frazzled. Prioritize rest so that you’re able to improve your productivity levels. This means winding down at least thirty to sixty minutes before you head off to sleep. Not using your phone or computer during this time helps you to optimize your sleep environment — and your health.
● Ask yourself what you can do without. Going on a technology detox will help you think about what else you can give up. Apply this to different areas in your life. For example, things you could do without may include Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), frivolous spending habits, a negative mindset, toxic colleagues, or a cluttered workstation. Think about how “less is more” in these areas, and take small steps towards making your desired life a reality.
Remember that there are many important reasons to unplug.
The last thing you want to do with your phone or digital devices is wonder how much of your life you’ve frittered away on mindless scrolling.
Be conscious of how you use technology and you’ll find your quality of life improve in fascinating ways.
Jess Chua is passionate about mindful living. She writes and edits content for the Optimal Living Daily Podcast, which features content from various blogs.
Very very true n practicsl
Jess Chua says
@Mary: I love people-watching at cafes. Great tip about a watch or standalone digital alarm clock! Gets the job done effectively first thing in the morning.
@Valerie: Yes to the habit forming…it’s sad when a phone takes over a person’s life :(
@Linda: Mm, libraries…it is harder to disconnect when you primarily make your income online. I guess being conscious of it still helps, so that you’re able to step back before it takes a bigger toll on your physical or mental health. I try to exercise a little bit every day to offset the effects of being seated at a screen for many hours.
@Connie: I know what you mean! Have you read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman? There’s a chapter about quality time and it may mean different things to different people. I find books like that helpful when it comes to potentially difficult conversations regarding someone else’s habits :)
Thank you for this! I felt anxious moving in to a new home and realizing I wouldn’t have internet for a few days. Because I needed internet, I went to a few new cafes downtown, which was so eye-opening! I even found one with wifi hours, so customers could have some time to shut down their screens. So neat!
Also, to any readers: I highly suggest charging your phone overnight in another room. If you have an Apple Watch, a smartwatch, or any watch or a good ol’ alarm clock, USE IT instead! I swear it helps me get up and out of bed each morning.
Valerie Rogers says
I guess we need to remind folks what is natural and normal – listening to birds and being attuned to mother earth as opposed to what is an unnatural distraction – technology. Cell phones are assumed a natural part of life, but the affect on the population is way sinister; too convenient and habit forming.
Linda Willis says
I remember when our internet went down and I had to go to a library for internet service, just to get new internet service. While I was waiting for the new internet service I cleaned and decluttered the house. Sometimes you get a lot done without the distractions. Unfortunately, I am one of those that earn money online.
I wish I could get my husband into a phone detox program. He is so addicted to his phone that Consumer Cellular keeps upgrading our data plan. Not LOL. In the evenings after work, he literally has the tv on YouTube and his head in his phone. It drives me crazy. The sad part is that’s the only quality time we have together. Again, not LOL. I almost forgot to mention that once hes in bed, he’s still got the phone in his hand. Thanks for a great post.
Very true and good info on how much time is wasted on phones and other digital media. I know I have the problem and am trying to make at least small changes.
Jess Chua says
Hi Becky–I thought you might like this proverb on small changes :)
“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”