What I Learnt From Spending Time Away From the Internet
“Lizzie, do you really need to be on your phone at this time?”
“I’m emailing a client,” I replied to my mum who was sitting on the sofa next to me in our holiday cottage in Yorkshire.
It was almost 11pm and I was responding to a client offer after a day spent hiking, eating, and dodging the rain. I never worked this late at home, so why was I still tapping away on my tiny keypad as it was nearing midnight?
“I have to reply otherwise they might choose someone else for the job,” I heard myself say. Not really a justification, but more of a ‘this is unavoidable’ phrase.
Then I thought about it. Was my client even going to be online checking their email at this time? Highly unlikely. What difference would a few hours make? Or even a few days? Would they really choose someone else just because I was on holiday?
Freelancing was a huge draw for me because of the freedom it entails; the ability to choose you own hours and work from wherever. So yes, it was perfectly acceptable that I was working at 11pm, but I was on holiday. I was supposed to be having a break.
If you read my July recap or my post about getting your freelance focus back, you’ll know that I had a pretty bad month freelancing-wise last month. Clearly I was trying to catch up, sending out pitches and proposals left right and centre and hustling like a trooper.
But what I really needed was a break — to take time away from the internet.
Playing catch-up is exhausting and I’d had an illness in the family draining me for the past few weeks, too. I didn’t need to hustle. I needed to take a step back and enjoy the moment, to think (and worry) about other things besides work.
I needed to put down my phone and trust that my clients will understand. (Of course they did — they’re human after all and could probably do with a break, too).
This got me thinking about how we find it so difficult to take time away from the internet. In this day and age it’s almost impossible, what with our nifty phones that keep us on call for 24 hours a day and our constant need to be in-the-know about what’s going on with friends, family, and complete strangers.
Just because we have the world in the palm of our hands doesn’t mean we should be contactable at every hour of the night. Yes, the wonderful invention of the internet has meant I can work for whoever, wherever, but sometimes it can hold you back from really enjoying the moment.
Especially when you’re on holiday.
Towards the end of my week in Yorkshire I checked my phone less and less, ‘starring’ emails so that I could reply when I was back and in the right frame of mind — because, really, who’s ever in the right state of mind to be sending out quotes when they’ve hiked for 4 hours and just eaten a portion of bangers and mash served up INSIDE a Yorkie pud?
I began to realise that the time we have that’s “disconnected” is some of the most precious, both for inspiration, motivation, and our mental health. I began to trust that clients would receive my Out of Office message and make a note to reach out to me when I was back.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE TIME AWAY FROM THE INTERNET?
Get Yourself a Fresh Perspective
There’s nothing less motivating than spending day after day scrolling through Facebook or reading blog posts about amazing destinations all over the world. Keeping your brain on high-alert 24/7 is a sure-fire way to reach burnout in 0.5 seconds which does absolutely nothing for your motivation and inspiration.
Taking some time away from the internet in a place that’s peaceful on the brain and less taxing than daily life is perfect for coming at things with a fresh perspective.
I went away stuck for ideas for one client, having scraped Google dry for inspiration. Little did I know all I needed was to take some time away from the internet and spend a couple of days in the countryside to find the perfect angle, the perfect story. I came back firing on all cylinders and came up with my best idea so far.
So many people think inspiration is gleaned from others (and, to a certain extent it is) and is contagious if you spend enough time reading inspiring posts and chatting to so-called “gurus” online.
This just isn’t true.
There has to be a force that drives our inspiration and usually that catalyst has to be ourselves. No amount of copying or imitating others will get you where you want to be in life (because there’ll already be someone there, ahead of you).
Putting yourself out there (and I mean, really out there, like… outside) opens your eyes to loads more, allowing you to explore things from different perspectives and soak up new ideas (because ideas really are all around).
But there has to be some down-time, too. If only for your brain to make sense of ideas and to give yourself some space for inspiration to flourish — if you’re mind’s taken up with hilarious cat videos, tight deadlines, and the ever-present feeling that you’re a monumental failure, how will there be enough room for other, more important, things?
It Puts Things into Perspective
Not only does disconnecting and getting away from it all (whether metaphorically or physically speaking) help you see things from a new perspective, but it also helps put problems and other things into perspective.
I mentioned earlier that I came up with some great ideas for a client whilst I was away. Turned out I was overthinking it beforehand and I just needed to get some distance between me and the “problem”.
Spending time away from the internet, or from the eye of stress or whatever problem you’re having, gives you the space to assess it from another angle, one step removed. It’s like giving your friend advice or filling the gap between you and the issue with other, better things so it slowly moves further away.
It Will Be There Afterwards
… Unless of course it’s not. But let’s assume it is.
Not only will your clients, family, friends, whoever, understand that you need a break, but I’m sure they will actively encourage it (at least, the good’uns will, anyway).
And when you get back they’ll be waiting for you with open arms, excited at your new-found enthusiasm and motivation. Don’t you just want to get away from it all right now?!