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How to Be More Productive in Life: Parkinson’s Law (48 Hours Offline)

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We wanted to increase our productivity. So we decided to work less. Now we take a full two days off every week. (Sometimes, even three…). Here's how you can be more productive in life too.

 

It's not that we work full time during the other days in the week. It's just that we don't do any work during our 48 hours offline.

How to be more productive in life

How to Be More Productive in Life

The idea of going offline for 48 hours might sound simple.

But if you've been running a blog or online business for any amount of time, you know it isn't.

The business will take over the amount of time you allow for it. While you will certainly need more than 4 hours a week (this book will help) you don't need to work every day – or even be available every day. Parkinson's Law offers an interesting perspective on this.

Parkinson's Law and Getting More Done

So, first of all, just what is Parkinson's Law?

Parkinson's Law states: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If you have ever worked on a short deadline, you know this is true. A project with a 2-month deadline will almost always take just that long. Take the same task and shorten the deadline to 2 weeks and you also finish it.

How is this possible? Because of increased focus. Surprisingly, the quality of work is often even better.

Recently, I have had some anxiety – it felt like I was always working and just didn't get a break. This was primarily due to always being available. I wanted to respond to email and blog comments quickly. I felt that I needed to constantly monitor our multiple sites and social networks.

While Pat Flynn's “be everywhere” concept is great, the alternative “always be available” is not.

I had made the goal over a year ago, to go offline every Saturday and Sunday. But things kept coming up, so I kept making exceptions. As a family, we are very connected. We all blog and we have more social network accounts than I care to count. We send lots of newsletters – one for each of our many sites. We have mobile devices, laptops, desktops, and game systems all online.

And in spite of all of this, we decided to go offline – as a family – for 48 hours each week.

Hacking Parkinsons' Law: Get More Done in Less Time

Our 48 Hours Offline

Earlier this month, we went offline for 48 hours. I know. It's hard to believe, isn't it?

But here's the thing: it has changed how we do business.

In this post, you'll learn:

  • why we decided to disconnect
  • what we did instead, and
  • why we are going to keep disconnecting

Why We Decided To Go Offline

We were on a work trip in the Galapagos – creating content for Red Mangrove Galapagos Lodges.

While there is internet in the lodges on the principal islands (Santa Cruz and Isabela) we knew we were going to be offline for a while when we returned to Floreana Island.

The last time we visited we were completely offline. There was no cell or internet signal. And just a couple of tv channels, although we didn't watch any.

During our brief (two days) stay on Floreana Island, we hiked and snorkeled. Floreana is the least populated of the populated islands – with just 120 inhabitants.

This time we stayed for parts of 3 days. After we arrived, we were told that there was no internet on the islands. But we decided to stay offline the whole time. We left Santa Cruz Island at 2 pm on Friday and we didn't connect again until we arrived on Isabela on Sunday afternoon around 2 pm. So we went a full 48 hours offline: no cell, internet, radio, or television.

Why Go Offline?

Being online tends to consume more time than it should. And social media isn't the only culprit.

There is always one-more-thing to do: a newsletter with a compelling article to read, comments to approve and respond to, or a report to send. Sometimes it feels like we never go offline.

What Did We Do During Our 48 Hours Offline?

We stayed really busy. Floreana is an amazing place.

As a family, we couldn't have been happier. We just focused on each other. Not that we don't usually, but working online (and from home) tends to be all-consuming. Disconnecting was so refreshing.

Here's what we did during our 48 hours offline:

  • traveled from Santa Cruz Island to Floreana Island by speedboat (and saw dolphins)
  • hiked to the pirate caves (yes, the “Arr, matey, do ye need more treasure?” kind) and saw the giant tortoises in the highlands of Floreana
  • snorkeled with sea turtles, sea lions, and thousands of fish
  • walked with marine iguanas (and watched them eat underwater)
  • ate amazing pizza (a real surprise to find a pizza shop on a tiny isolated island)
  • interviewed members of the Cruz family – the original Ecuadorian settlers on the island
  • traveled from Floreana to Isabela Island

And while these things are amazing on their own – it was even more special to share as a family.

Our 48 Hours Offline Video

Here is our video montage of what we did while we were offline.

How Did Our Business Do?

We actually didn't publish anything during this time, although we easily could have with the post scheduling option in WordPress.

Our blogs had more than 20 comments waiting to be approved. We received some offers (reviews and paid writing assignments).

Being in the Galapagos for a week and a half meant that we weren't online much at all. On our last full day in the Islands, we did the draw for the Baby Giants Contest that we produced for Red Mangrove. Filming, editing and sharing the video took almost 6 hours. Aside from this time, we didn't spend more than 4 hours online over the 11 days – and no time over our 48 hours on Floreana.

My online business site (About.com) actually posted its highest numbers yet. We made hundreds of dollars online while we literally did nothing. It is one of the things we love about our online business.

Just What Do We Do Online?

We aren't really typical internet users. We only use social media for work. In fact, we don't even use a personal Facebook profile. Because of using it for so many sites and clients we sort of suffer from social media fatigue and prefer to communicate via email or Skype with family and friends. Of course, in person is even better.

Here is what we do online:

  • post blogs
  • approve/respond to comments
  • respond to offers and inquiries
  • email (business and personal)
  • check business stats (traffic and affiliate earnings)
  • social media (limited, primarily for our blogs)

What We Learned

Even though we were working during this time, we realized how good it was for our family to go offline.

Because of running our own business, we feel that we need to always be available. Available to respond to comments, inquiries and to interact on social media.

But the fact is: it isn't necessary!

We were hardly online during our trip and nothing fell apart. In fact, our businesses continued to produce just as good as ever.

As a result, I have decided to go offline for 48 hours every week. 

Since returning from our trip, I have set aside 48 hours every week to go offline. I find that my stress level has gone down and I enjoy my family and our work even more. Parkinson's Law is powerful.

What Do 48 Hours Offline Really Mean?

For us, it means no internet. And no work. We might watch a movie or I'll listen to audio while I exercise. But no work-related email, social media or blogging.

By limiting the available time for work, we force ourselves to be productive in the time available. It allows me to relax and get away from work during a set period every week. While this isn't the same problem for employees – it affects every business owner I know.

This is not a rule – but a goal. Because we live abroad, we do regularly stay connected with family via email.

My Challenge to You

Go offline for 48 hours this weekend – and commit to a work-free weekend.

As bloggers, we are connected all the time. Sometimes we feel like we need to respond to comments, press inquiries, and social media immediately. But we don't.

Approving and responding to comments once a day is more than enough. Sometimes I approve/respond to comments every 2-3 days. No one gets upset and we still have a solid level of interaction. I am a blogger – not a contract worker. One of the things I love about having our own online business is that we get to call the shots.

We don't have to jump just because someone expects us to. In fact, sometimes we just delete pointless, attack, or imposing requests.

You get to choose how you will spend your time and your life. This is lifestyle design.

Ask yourself:

  • What would your life be like, if you literally unplugged for 48 consecutive hours every week?
  • If you have a family or significant other – what would that mean for your relationship?
  • If you are single, what would that mean for friendships?

Tell your spouse your plan and see what they say. When I told Dena and Drew what I had planned they were both thrilled. How many times have you had a meal with your family or friends and didn't really know what was going on because you were thinking about work? Or (even worse) maybe you were tapping away on your phone?

How to Go Offline: 2 Options

While there are two options, I recommend #2:

  1. Gradually wean yourself off. This might sound like a good idea but it probably won't work. It isn't hard to go 3 hours offline – we do it frequently during a meal or a long drive. Six hours are pretty easy too – we do that during sleep. You won't see the same benefits if you do it in small chunks of time.
  2. Go cold turkey. This is how I started. I actually went somewhere that I couldn't use the internet. I didn't think about it because I just couldn't use it. We had an amazing time as a family during my first 48 hours. Once you do it once, you'll want to do it again.

Go camping and leave your stuff behind. Rent a cabin or take a cruise. Go away so you are distracted and don't think about work or email or social media.

Imagine waking up one morning and knowing that you don't have to turn on your computer or check your phone. Just eat breakfast with your family. Read a book or volunteer your time. Don't forget the reason why you started blogging in the first place.

There is a clarity that comes with not being online. I find that I can focus better on what I'm doing when I'm not thinking about what's going on online.

And when you break your 48-hour internet fast you will feel in control and then you'll open an inbox full of activity. When I went back online after our Floreana trip, I had three emails from clients, advising of funds being deposited to our account.

So, why not try 48 hours offline? Life becomes more enjoyable with your priorities in order.

How to be more productive

Your Turn

How do you manage your time? Will you try 48 hours offline? I would love to hear in the comments below:

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Abigail

Saturday 6th of February 2016

Hi Bryan! My husband and I are just in the beginning stages of considering starting a blog for income. Would you mind sharing with us an approximate average of how much time you spent working when you first started the blog? Thank you so much for all your careful research and open advice.

Janice

Monday 26th of March 2018

This is really great advice Brian!

kully

Sunday 28th of December 2014

You have really challenged and inspired me! you are right as a PR agency owner it is incredibly difficult to unplug, but you have now set the challenge and I have genuinely forgotten what life was like pre the smartphone. Thankfully I do have an awesome team, and we are now also expanding as a business so looking for more talent to share the responsibility and grow through the process.

Christine

Saturday 8th of March 2014

What an interesting article! I learned quite a bit surprise media fast I took last month (which is on my site if you're interested). You can use the time to work, or to reconnect. I like that you bring up 2 methods to try for unplugging, as some people prefer going cold turkey, while others like to gradually wean themselves off of bad habits. That's been a concept that's been coming up in discussions recently, so it's good to figure out which type you are.

Rahul

Monday 12th of August 2013

I was planning to make some exiting changes in my life. My daily job is really boring but I have sat-Sunday off so I decided to try it. Thanks for nice idea.

James

Wednesday 31st of July 2013

One way I try to make myself efficient is to start the day with the worst possible task for that day. Eat that frog principle.

I like the book and I found out that by applying some few and easy tweaks you can increase your productivity crazy.

James

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