It's no secret to those who know me that I do a lot of work on the internet. Between my shop, my blog, keeping up with long distance friends, and all the other little things that seems to constantly be more and more dependent of the internet now, it seems like there is always a reason to be sitting in front of a screen. It's honestly exhausting, although I never realize just how exhausting until I have taken a bit of a break and notice how much more I am enjoying everything happening around me.
The truth is, the internet is not a bad thing - but distractions and interruptions can be time consuming and bombarding.
Think about it. You go to start supper. Your recipe is on your phone or laptop. You open your phone to retrieve the recipe from your inbox, and end up checking email first. Then you pull up the recipe and start to work. You get a text message and since it's right there, you just answer it really quickly. Then the conversation changes to something that you don't know too much about, but sounds intriguing, and so you might pull up a research page to read while you cook... and soon every thing is taking twice as long and you haven't enjoyed the experience of making a meal.
It happens to me all the time - or some other variation of that might. When I look for a pattern, or when I start looking for things for a blog post or a graphic. Nothing I am doing is wrong; but it may be the wrong time. And so I try to multi-task, but I'm not nearly as efficient at it as I may think (or, more likely, just as efficient as I feel, and that's not a good thing).
I first started taking "internet breaks" about 3 years ago, and I can't tell you what a difference even 1 day fully offline can make in my sanity level. Back then I could take a whole week off at a time... I admit that I miss that. Haha! Nowadays, it's much harder; the last break I took, I scheduled days to come back to check email, so I could stay on top of my etsy shop, and the length ended up being cut short, because I had some work that came up that took a couple of days to complete, and by then I was out of time. But that doesn't change the fact that it was wonderful to be off, even for just a few days (and partially for a few more). I honestly don't do it enough!
The thing is, though, that you really can't just ditch the internet, even for just a couple days (I do ditch it on Sunday frequently, though, so, I guess one day is usually possible ;)...). It takes quite a bit of planning beforehand, and over the years I have gotten into a pattern of what I need to do before I leave for a week - and I am actually not missed at all, truthfully. It also doesn't hurt my shop stats - this is the first fear of all small online business owners.
The way I do this? Work like crazy for two days beforehand (lol!) doing a lot of scheduling, for the most part.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive to do extra work so that you can do less work; but trust me, it's not. When you sit down with an agenda once, I am pretty sure there is 75% less distraction and time spent than you get when you sit down to do the same thing in small batches 5 or 6 times in a week. Or at least it feels like it. I mean, for me, just opening photoshop on my computer can take a couple minutes sometimes. I could open photoshop once and edit all my pictures/make graphics/templates all in one sitting, or in little chunks through my week, which could add ten minutes opening time to my week. It's not much; but that's just photoshop! The same thing applies to each website, browser, or program I open.
Over time, I have put together a check list that I go through every time I feel like I need a bit of a break from the constant pull, and I thought I'd share it here with you today! Your list will look different depending on what demands you have, and how much of a perfectionist you are (I literally organize my desktop photos before I get offline...). But I find it helpful to be given ideas that I might not think of ahead of time, and the more prepared you are, the better your efforts will be!
Schedule. Schedule your blog posts for the week. Schedule business page updates for the week. Schedule as far out as you can - schedule through your intended break, and, if possible, the day after, so you have time to catch up afterwards, as well. I try to draft any Etsy listings that need to go up, too. Unfortunately, you can't schedule listings, but if I have done every thing but hit publish, it usually takes five minutes to scan my inbox for urgent emails and post the listing, which lately I have been doing about every 2 days, given my shipping estimates.
Print patterns and recipes. Neglecting to do this is usually the only thing that messes up my plans - usually because I forget what all I need. So it's helpful to have a plan for your week off before you take it. What new foods do you want to try? What project are you going to work on with your extra free time during the week? I almost always end up crocheting, so I try to decide what I want to crochet ahead of time, so that I can print the patterns I might need. I also make and print any templates I want to use to make a new canvas design.
Think long and hard about what little things typically take you extra time because you forgot it during your work time. For me this is things like updating my Etsy announcements, cleaning off my camera card (so that I can take pictures without having to open my laptop and getting distracted), placing orders, sending links I promised someone... cleaning my desk top so that I know it's done, even though I tend to just deal with it if I know that I'll be opening my computer again within 12 hours... it doesn't make much sense, but it's nice to have done when I come back!
Answer emails. I might go weeks without answering an email, but for some reason I can not know that I am leaving for a week and leave people unanswered. It's rather handy... if my email gets too full, I make myself get ready to leave, hahaha. Here's a little tip: I like to draft emails as I answer them, and then send them all at once when I finish the last one - it may sound silly, but it's much better if your goal is to have a clean inbox when you are done. Nobody can reply before you get through answering the 5 other friends, if they haven't received your email yet ;).
At this point, I can be all set to ignore everything for the week, if I like. Typically, though, I do things like make a couple of graphics for KBR, post on Instagram, and catch up on any blogs I haven't been keeping up with - things that I don't have a set time for, and could easily skip for a week, but like to have done as recently as possible, just so that it's not a temptation/nag on my mind as having not done it for a while. I also answer texts, if I plan to take a break from my phone as well. Usually I don't count texts as online time (although I try to answer them just once a day, it possible, when I'm on an internet break), but sometimes my reasoning for not touching my devices is not that my brain needs a break, but that my wrist does... haha. That will change things a bit, because texting is actually more of an issue than typing for me at that point, so I might ditch my phone as much as possible, too ;).
My suggestion? The first internet break you take needs to be short, just a day or two. This will help you identify where your unexpected need-to-plan-aheads are, without making you feel like you failed the first time. After ironing out those, it's much easier to take a longer one!
And if there are things you truly can't leave, schedule when you will check up on them, and for how long! For me, last time, I checked email + my business page replies once every 2 days, and responded to my texts for the day immediately afterwards, then got directly back offline :).
Do you try to schedule regular time offline? What tips do you have?
Rejoicing in Hope,