Blog Post

Establishing Internet-free Zones

Last Wednesday I woke up to find that my Internet connection wasn’t working. While I have an alternative 3G connection, I get charged by the half-hour so a consistent connection that way wasn’t an option. Working with only occasional Internet access was extremely frustrating at first, and it made me realize how dependent I am on the web.

However, after the initial adjustment, I found that I was actually more productive when I wasn’t connected to the Internet. This happens every time my connection goes out, which is more often than I’d like. If this is the case, maybe I should consciously disconnect myself from time to time? Especially since many other bloggers have recommended it.


Why Disconnect?

One observable benefit of disconnecting from the Internet for a time is that it allows you to better rank tasks according to importance, and even drop tasks that aren’t necessary after all. Many online workers might be able to work like this all the time, but I’m not one of them. Luckily, one hour without Internet access seems to help.

Limiting my time on the web also seems to help prevent me from taking too much time with random surfing. Additionally, if I complement Internet-free time with computer-free time and use pen and paper instead, it’s much easier on the eyes.

Time-based Zones

One way to do routine disconnection is by specifying a block of time without Internet access. I’ve decided to disconnect from the Internet for one hour each workday. I’ve set this hour at 1:00 pm, after I’ve eaten my lunch. This allows me to take a nap for half an hour and then use the remaining time to brainstorm using a paper and a pen, so that I’ll be ready when I get back to writing.

You could also schedule an no-Internet day each week. For me, this is harder to implement simply because I always need to look up something, whether it’s a recipe for chicken enchiladas or a map to a place with which I’m not familiar. Still, I prefer to use the Internet less during weekends, unless I’m scheduled to work on a project.

Here are some alternative ways to schedule Internet-free time:

  • 10-15 minutes in between timeboxing tasks (usually in 15-30 minute blocks of non-stop work);
  • An hour or more before going to bed, which you can spend on relaxing tasks such as reading a book, talking to your family, or writing letters; or
  • A half-day in the middle of the week to check how far along you are with your weekly goals or to take a break from hectic projects.

Location-based Zones

It’s also useful to have physical zones where you shouldn’t be online. For me, this includes the dining table and the bedroom. When I’m sitting in front of the dining table, the only thing I should be doing is eating and talking to my partner. In my house, meals are meant to be quality time spent with the family. Doing work tasks during meals — no matter how urgent they may seem — tends to get in the way of that. As for the bedroom, I find that I sleep much better if I don’t access my email or do random browsing directly before I go to bed.

If you’re going to implement these Internet-free zones in your work, remember that you should always do what works for you. While some readers out there are probably less prone to impulsive web surfing, those who find the need for more drastic measures should consider disconnecting. Disconnecting from the Internet from time to time could allow you to connect with new processes and ideas that you wouldn’t have come across online.

Do you decrease or restrict your Internet access to improve productivity? Does it work for you?

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10 Responses to “Establishing Internet-free Zones”

  1. This is one of the reasons why employers choose to install internet filters on computers within their companies: to increase productivity and avoid Internet browsing for personal use.

  2. You are right celine!
    I also realised the same thing!
    Its always better to have some time off the screen. It enables you to have better planning of your work and allocation of time to different tasks too. In short this works for me!

  3. I can relate to this comment because my internet connection is actually down as I type up this comment.. It goes down more often that I would like to. Like you I have a backup in the form of using JoikuSpot which I installed on my mobile which turns it into a Wireless HotSpot.

    I do have additional notes which is related to internet-free zones — I actually implement meeting free zones as a means of improving my productivity. In my line of work – people tend to just invite me to every meeting possible. This can lead to important tasks not being completed. What I do is I block off time in my Outlook calendar as Busy — I do that to approximately 20% of my week. That’s a total of eight hours in a week – spread out. If an emergency or important meeting does come up — I free up the time. But most of the time — I ask the other person to schedule it for a time that shows that I am free in my calendar.