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Why You Need To Go Offline For A Week

I find that I'm much more relaxed, more in the moment (rather than being distracted by my phone), more creative with ideas, and get clarity on various things that have been buzzing around my head previously.
08/11/2015 10:32am ET | Updated August 11, 2016
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old wooden pier on the lake.

I've just returned from a week's holiday in the mountains of the Czech Republic. Before I went, I'd already decided to have a full #digitaldetox as I did last year (read what I wrote about that at the time here). So what's a #digitadetox? Basically you go completely offline (no internet allowed at all) and off grid (so no phone calls, texts etc.) to have a complete break from technology and communication with anyone you're not physically with.

For someone who spends the majority of his time online, you may think that this must be hard -- going cold turkey. Last year I did really struggle for the first couple of days. I often found myself just pulling my phone out of my pocket for no reason at all in any spare moments. I also had a few times where I'd thought, "Oh that will be a good tweet" or, "I''ll just look that up on the internet," and had to stop myself from doing so.

The best way I've found of keeping myself offline was to simply use airplane mode. That way you don't have any comms and you don't have Internet -- simple! It does, however, still let you use your camera and other Apps such as Evernote and Kindle. This way you're still able to take lots of photos, make notes of things you don't want to forget, and read books. As well as my phone, the only other tech I took with me was an iPad Mini. The main reason for this was for reading (again, using the Kindle App) as I'd downloaded a stack of books ahead of going away. That was also put into Airplane mode for the same reasons as my phone.

This year I found it 100 times easier to do than last year. I wasn't tempted even once to "just Google that" and really enjoyed the peace and quiet of not being a slave to my own technology. I think the reason I found it so much easier was that I knew the benefits from last year. I find that I'm much more relaxed, more in the moment (rather than being distracted by my phone), more creative with ideas, and get clarity on various things that have been buzzing around my head previously.

After a full week offline then, I found that when I did go back online and start work again I was much more productive. I also realized just how many interruptions and distractions I usually have. Normally my phone will be pinging with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram Periscope etc. notifications that I can't resist looking at. My laptop will be pinging up messages from Skype and Slack and every so often I'll find myself just browsing Facebook or Twitter for no reason whatsoever! This can't be good for focus, and or for productivity. So I've already taken steps to change this. I've now switched off nearly all push notifications on my phone. I've also shutdown Skype and Slack (and Dropbox notifications) on my laptop, and just check them a couple of times a day.

It's funny, because a couple of years ago I made a radical change to the way I use email, and I only check this twice a day. The main reason for doing so was to eliminate distractions and not just be reactive all day, rather than actually doing the things I should be doing. This has been brilliant, but I realized a couple of days ago that over time things like social media have taken its place! Now that I've realized this, I've made the above changes, which should increase not just my efficiency, by also free up my time to do more. I hope it will also improve my effectiveness, by making sure that the things I'm doing are the right things, thanks to my enhanced focus, creativity and clarity.

So how am I going to see whether it's actually made an improvement? For the last couple of years I've measured my productivity (on my laptop at least) using some fantastic software called RescueTime (do check it out yourself here). This software basically sits in the background monitoring what you are doing and if it deems this to be productive (writing a document) or non-productive (watching cat videos on YouTube!). At the end of the week it emails you a report with the hours you've worked and how much was actually productive. It's actually really useful stuff to know, and by monitoring it you can see what things affect you. For example, using this I saw my productivity jump over 15 percent when I stopped working from home and started working at a desk at a co-working space. It's going to be interesting to compare my productivity over the next couple of weeks compared to the couple before my holiday.

So far I can see that I am being more productive, so let's see if this continues. I'd highly recommend you try going fully offline during a holiday yourself, and then minimizing day to day distractions when you return. I'd love to hear if you've tried either before and any of our own tips?

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