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Turn the Internet Off: 5 Tips to Focus on Your Priorities

I’ve been free of email and twitter updates on my phone for the last few months and haven’t missed it. Why did I do this? To save money, focus on my art and end my email addiction.

A lot of folks have been talking about this topic lately and I think it’s a good thing. Technology rocks and I’m a huge proponent of using tech for good. My career depends on technology. It is a beautiful tool, yet the way we use our mobile devices and computers is out of balance with the rest of our lives.

Do we really need to surf, tweet and email from our phones/computers all the time? What happened to being focused on our friends, family and community?

I hope you’ll follow my lead and turn the internet off from your mobile device. If you can’t do that, then start limiting the time you spend online.

Below are a few things to think about and micro-actions to consider.

1. Use your time wisely.

Time is something we need to use wisely. I’ve stated this before but it bears repeating: time is a non-renewable resource and something we never get back. The way we use our time and what we trade it for (a.k.a money) should be considered with care.

If you’re checking email or twitter incessantly, you might reconsider how you’re using your time.

Micro-action: How many times a day do you check your email, twitter or facebook account? What could you be doing with your time instead?

2. The all consuming email addiction.

I have to admit, during the last week I’ve slipped back into my email addiction. Prior to my book launch, I checked my email 3 times a day. In the past week, I’ve checked WAY to much. I kept thinking, “What if someone has a question? What if there is a problem with the book distributor? What if I don’t sell any books?”

The “what if” scenarios were silly. The launch was crazy successful, people gave me a tremendous amount of positive feedback and there were no problems with the book distributor. But I was checking my email every 10 minutes earlier this week. I’m kicking myself now because I could have used that time to start outline ideas for my next book, be outside riding my bike or taking photographs.

We can have a healthy relationship with email. A number of bloggers have written amazing articles on this topic. For instance one of my blogging heroes, Leo from Zen Habits, came out with an amazing new manifesto called focus – a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction.

Micro-action: Read the focus manifesto and implement some of the tips Leo offers in your own life. You’ll be healthier, happier and less distracted.

3. Observe your behavior.

When I had email on my phone, I noticed that I would check email, twitter or surf the web when I was feeling uncomfortable, lonely, or bored. Rather than running from our emotions, I think it’s important to observe them, understand the cause, and devise a solution. In my experience distracting myself from a problem doesn’t solve anything, it just makes the issue worse.

Micro-action: Observe your behavior. When you decide to check your email or surf the web from your phone, why are you doing it? Is the behavior a necessity? Or are you feeling lonely or uncomfortable in a situation?

4. Focus on the important.

We are all artists but we can’t make art and ship it by multi-tasking. Distracting yourself from creating art will kill it. For example, I could not have finished Simply Car-free if I had been checking my email or twitter stream every 5 minutes.

Last year, Gwen Bell inspired me to write down a list of daily intentions. My daily intentions typically include from 1 to 3 creative items that I can accomplish everyday. I used to write out long to-do lists and the items were not accomplished. The list was too overwhelming! By narrowing down my list to a few specific creative tasks and living outside of my inbox, I’ve accomplished a lot!

Micro-action: Every morning write down 1 to 3 creative tasks you want to accomplish. And read The Indispensable Guide to Timejacking Your Way to Success

5. Unplug and get your creative groove on.

Getting your creative groove on doesn’t require an internet connection. It’s amazing what can happen when you step out from behind the computer screen or your mobile devise. Most of my killer ideas come to me when I’m taking a walk or cooking a meal. Everyone is creative and a lot of people tell me the same thing. Ideas come to them in odd moments. So make sure you keep a journal with you at all times. It’s a perfect way to log all of your cool ideas.

The past week has been exciting! I’m extremely grateful to everyone who purchased Simply Car-free and to all the folks who interviewed me about the book. I love the internet and all the cool folks I’ve meet through RowdyKittens and social networks.

However, it’s break time. No twitter, email or surfing the web for me. Bike riding, walking and finishing up a few science fiction novels are on the potential agenda. I’m going to go with the flow and see what each day brings.

Micro-action: Schedule 1 day a week where you are free from tech. Leave your gadgets at home and do something non-tech related. Go for a bike ride, make a beautiful dinner or volunteer at a non-profit. Do good and change the world.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chris O'Byrne March 5, 2010, 8:45 am

    Your timing is perfect! Excellent post and just what I needed today.

    • Tammy March 5, 2010, 8:51 am

      @Chris – Yay! I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂

  • Dr. Bernd Fischel March 5, 2010, 8:53 am

    I used to call myself “moneysavingman” or “moneyprotectionman”! Now I know I am a “minimalist”! It works for me!

  • heather w March 5, 2010, 9:28 am

    I don’t have internet-ability on my phone, but I definitely struggle with this anyway, and moreso when I’m stressed (which usually then becomes a vicious cycle of constantly checking email, not getting things done, getting stressed about my procrastinating, and checking email again to mask the stress). definitely helps to be reminded to turn it off now and then.

    ps: in the last paragraph of #2, above the micro-action, you have “hero’s” when it should be “heroes”.

  • Lisa March 5, 2010, 9:57 am

    Congratulations on your book and for choosing to take some down time. It feeds our souls! By the way, I love your photogenic cats!

    • Tammy March 7, 2010, 8:41 am

      @Lisa – thank you! 🙂 I appreciate the kind words. And I love my kittens too. They pose for the camera so well. 🙂

  • keeping up with the kozlowskis March 5, 2010, 10:12 am

    Hi tammy great post this is sonthingI have to work on I spend far too much time on the internet skyping and watching too much tv. Tbut I Love doing all the above.

  • Loganenator March 5, 2010, 10:50 am

    I just turned off the internet on my phone! I’m finally doing it! 🙂

    It is a bit odd though that my hands are shaky, I thought it was due to having too much coffee this morning but now I’m thinking its internet withdrawal DT’s kicking in! 😉

  • pete March 5, 2010, 10:54 am

    tammy, i am totally agree with this idea! i’d recommend a step 0: either communicate that you are planning to unplug or dwindle it down over a month or so to allow others to prepare for your change.

    zap.

    • Tammy March 5, 2010, 4:05 pm

      @Pete – That’s a great idea. I’m slower to respond to emails. But folks haven’t noticed. Responding to requests within 1 to 2 business days is standard.

      @Logan – Awesome! I’m proud of you.

      And thanks to all who left comments on this post. 🙂 Have an awesome weekend everyone. I’m officially unplugging.

  • Cali @caligater March 5, 2010, 1:03 pm

    I’ve been thinking on this quite a bit, lately. I like the idea of “micro actions.”

    Thanks, Tammy!

  • 2whls3spds March 7, 2010, 3:45 am

    Several years ago the company I work for hired an “efficiency” expert to observe, comment and to help people develop work plans. One mantra that he constantly preached was “Am I doing what I NEED to be doing right now” His point was that everything has importance but is the current task important enough to demand our attention right now or should you be doing something else.

    Internet is wonderful, but just like anything else too much of a good thing is too much.

    Aaron

  • Joe "lnxr0x" Stofko March 7, 2010, 9:58 am

    Hi Tammy,
    Wonderful post I completely agree !! I work in the tech support field and have a passion for technology but, I consider myself a techno-minimalist. I don’t have a “smart” phone, just pre-paid for emegancies. I rarely check sites like twitter or fb. I check email about 3 times a day (ok maybe a little more.) Great tips on using technology for productivity and not a time-sink !!

  • Rik March 12, 2010, 12:40 am

    Hey Tammy,

    Great post: I’ve been thinking lately to cut back on Internet/Mail/SocialNetwerk uses. This post is a great motivator!

    Greeting from the Netherlands!
    Rik

  • Sarita Li April 16, 2010, 4:17 pm

    I’m turning the internet off on my phone too! I’ve been trying to just not check it, but that isn’t working.
    🙂
    Unplugging for the weekend, too!

  • yaga August 11, 2010, 11:56 pm

    Hey Tammy,
    it’s funny I found this article, I just recently stumbled over a poem by Wendell Berry called ‘how to be a poet (to remind myself)’, and the second paragraph goes like this:

    Breathe with unconditional breath
    the unconditioned air.
    Shun electric wire.
    Communicate slowly. Live
    a three-dimensioned life;
    stay away from screens.
    Stay away from anything
    that obscures the place it is in.
    There are no unsacred places;
    there are only sacred places
    and desecrated places.

    All the things that bring us good we also have to learn how to use them correctly… :o)
    Love
    yaga

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