What I Learned On My Internet Vacation

In case you haven’t been following along, I took last week off the Internet. My goal was to try to get some data on just how much time I waste on the Internet when I could be doing other things. The first thing I should admit is that I did peek once or twice at how much email had come in, but I didn’t actually look at any email. I also made use of the Internet for looking things up, but I made sure I only looked up the information I needed and then shut down. My goal was not to avoid the Internet for everything, just those places that I feel absorb a lot of my time: email, social networking sites, this blog, my RSS feeds, etc. Overall, I was very pleased with how much I was able to stay away and not be concerned about what I might be missing. In any case, here are some things I learned on my Internet Vacation:

  1. Not responding to an email message right away is perfectly okay. Or put another way, I don’t seem to receive email messages that require immediate responses. Each of the 240 legitimate emails that I had to look at post-vacation, could be answered or dealt with days after the fact.
  2. Turning off all notifications on my iPhone and iPad made it much easier to avoid the need to check my phone. Perhaps the biggest discovery I made is that a lot of my Internet browsing and checking is interrupt-driven. When I started by Internet Vacation, I turned off every alert on my iPhone and iPad, including badges and pop ups. It meant that (a) my phone never beeped or buzzed when I message came in. It also meant that I never saw an indication of how many emails, Tweets, Facebook messages, etc. I had waiting when I looked at my phone. Not having that interrupt made a huge difference for me.
  3. Blog stats were unaffected by my absence. I was concerned that being away from the blog and not responding immediately to comments would affect my overall stats. To my surprise, my weekly stats remained about the same as always, and a few days were surprisingly busy. Of course, I had pre-scheduled blog posts so that there would be content. Subscriptions via RSS went up a tiny fraction, which also surprised me. And during my vacation, the blog passed 200,000 direct visits for the year, and more than 336,000 visits on the year if you include RSS.
  4. I didn’t miss Facebook and Twitter nearly as much as I thought I might. It’s nice to keep up with friends and family, but spending hours a day can be time-consuming. And I was surprised by the fact that I didn’t really miss it. The downside, of course, is that I am so far behind on both Facebook and Twitter that I will never properly catch up.
  5. did miss my RSS feeds. I try to keep these lean, but I still had more than 740 posts to catch up on. That’s more than 100/day. I managed to skim through most of them yesterday and sent the most interesting ones to Instapaper. That said, I do look forward to reading blog posts and this was something that I missed, much more than Facebook and Twitter.
  6. I felt like I gained about 2 hours each evening on my Internet Vacation. This is time, after the kids are in bed, that I’d typically designate for “reading,” but which often gets sidelined for social networking, RSS reading, and other online activities. Without those things to do, I had a solid chunk of time to get a good deal of reading (or writing) done
  7. I definitely felt more productive during the day because I wasn’t being distracted by the Internet. There were not prompts when new email came in. No reminders to check blog stats. No notifications from Facebook or Twitter. I felt more focused during the day and felt like I completely more tasks in a timely fashion because I didn’t have the Internet to distract me.

All told, I think I bought back 2-3 hours/day by staying away from the Internet. So how will this experience change my behavior? Once I get caught up with everything (hopefully by the end of the day today) I plan to make a few changes to my daily routine, mostly to force myself to condense all of these tasks down into one hour in the evening, instead of many hours spread throughout the day. More on that as I work my way through it.


  1. It’s a very minor point, but one thing that has helped me immensely at work is turning off the pop-up window you see when a new email arrives. I use Outlook so I set it up to just display a tiny envelope in the task bar near the clock. It sounds like it would still be tempting to check your email but it really isn’t. The problem is the little window that pops up telling you who the email is from and what it’s about; that’s where you get into trouble!

    Glad to hear your internet vacation went swimmingly!


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