Work Unplugged: Going Off The Grid

“Inaction speaks louder than words.” – Mike Vardy

I’ve always wanted to quote myself. Call it self-adulation or self-indulgence if you will, but there’s a truth behind it: not making progress on something often can’t be saved by reasoning or excuses. You need to see things through to the end.

Let’s face it…we are getting inundated with email, RSS feeds and other types of information on a daily basis – it seems never ending. Because it is. The web has opened up a floodgate of pertinent and trivial news stories that come at us from all angles, memorandums and tasks arriving in our email inbox at breakneck speed and an endless stream of voice mails begging for us to respond to thanks to that blinking red light on our telephones. I’m feeling overwhelmed just writing about it.

All of this content can make a to do list end up being a “didn’t do” list. It’s not as if you’re able to write the tasks of the day off to reasons such as “had a ton of email” or “had a ton of phone calls to return.” Sure it would be nice if you could, but most offices don’t write days off due to information overload. You’ve got to cope with it all. Or do you?

I say shut it off. Shut it all off.

There’s no reason why everyone can’t go “off the grid” from time to time in order to boost productivity. There comes a time every day when you have to shut out the world in order to get things done. While I’m no expert at it – this article is almost a reminder for myself as well – I’d like to present a few elements on how to make it happen:

Steel Yourself

The only way you can go off the grid successfully is to prepare yourself accordingly. That means starting your day by going through your tasks and actionable items and making sure you can deal with the important and urgent ones that require being available. Returning correspondence – even just to let them know you’ll get back to them with some measurable results shortly – is crucial. You don’t want to be caught off guard when you return from your self-imposed (and much needed) exile. Putting all your ducks in a row will not only let others know that you’re working on something important (and you’ll likely do the same for them in the future) but will free your mind to put forth your best effort on the things you’re going to do while you’re offline.

Steal Yourself

You’ve prepared yourself and now it’s time to remove yourself from everyone else’s equation. Here’s what you need to do first:

  1. Close your email. Seriously. Don’t open it until you’re ready to go back online.
  2. Turn the ringer on your phone off. Cover the blinking light if you must.
  3. If you have a door to your office, close it. If you don’t, put headphones on. No music required.

There’s other things you can do, such as listen to music that will help you in your quest to get a ton of important stuff done while “removed from society.” Those are merely options and not requirements. I’d even suggest turning off your computer if it’s not needed. Just make sure you put yourself in the right state of mind and right environment to get done what you’ve set out to do.

Then do it.

Re: Returning

You’ve finished up the tasks you set out to do while you put yourself in “do not disturb” mode. Now it’s a matter of getting back to the real world…email and all. The best way to keep your productivity levels up is to ease back in – I find that by doing that you’ll find it much easier to go offline in the future. In fact, if you do ease back in to your normal routine, you’ll find that you can get more done when you’re online as a result.

When I started going off the grid, I discovered that I was able to better prioritize my day when I went back to my online world. I was able to gauge what mattered more at a particular time and checked my email far less often in order to maximize my time. After all, email initially replaced the office memo or regular post in that you don’t (or shouldn’t) have to give a response instantly. How we got to the point that we do just that seemed to occur by accident – and not a happy accident, either. Going off the grid will curtail your once insatiable need to reply to an email right away; you’ll temper your inbox-checking with more reasonable and rational uses of your time.

I challenge you to go off the grid for one hour this week. Take that hour and get something that is really important done. Then, up the ante to two hours. Then three. Ideally, you should be at a minimum of five hours a week where you are off the grid – that’s one hour per workweek. You’ll find yourself more focused, more relaxed and more aware of your priorities if you do.

As far as the weekend goes…well…that’s another story.

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Mike Vardy an editor on Work Awesome. We could tell you where his personal productivity parody site, Eventualism and all of his other projects reside on the web, but you'd be best served going to and following the trail of virtual bread crumbs from there.


  1. Nikki on the 5th February

    This is an awesome article. So true in so many ways.

  2. L on the 13th February

    I’ve done this. It showed me how few messages I had to read and how few people actually wondered where I was. Since I didn’t get frantic “why haven’t you answered” calls/emails, I realized that I was staying connected just in case people who weren’t looking for me were looking for me…..

    (then there was the “I have no friends who care” backlash feelings, but that’s not a work issue! 🙂 )

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