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What I Learned From Having No Cellphone or Internet Access for a Few Days


For the last few days, I was at a lodge in Montana, mentoring participants at The Station Foundation, an amazing non-profit that helps retired special forces members transition into civilian careers. The lodge had no cell phone or internet access, which turned out to be a really nice experiment for the book that I’m currently working on. While I learned a lot from quitting social media for 5 days, having no access to the internet or cell service was unplugging at another level. Here are just a few of my takeaways.

1. A Greater Level of Presence

The first several hours were a bit uncomfortable. But after about 8 hours, the desire to mindlessly “check in” was gone. I put my phone in my backpack since it was effectively useless. I felt more present, focused, and clearer than I had been in a really long time. And as a convenient bonus, I slept like a baby.

2. More Deep and Meaningful Conversations

Perhaps the thing that I found most rewarding about being this unplugged was the depth of the conversations I got to have. Even though I was there as a mentor, I learned as much, if not more from the guys as they did from me.

When you’re completely disconnected there’s an intimacy that takes place in conversations that we’ve kind of lost in the modern world.

Personally, I think that if conferences really want to create a connection between the people who attend they should ban the use of laptops and smartphones. With technology out of the way, we’re able to connect as humans.

3. Increased Productivity

On one of the days, I needed to go to a coffeehouse in Bozeman so I could upload our latest episode of the Unmistakable Creative. Because I only had two hours to be online, I found that I was much more efficient. I also learned that I could easily go 2 days without checking email and the world wouldn’t end. Given that nobody ever changed the world by checking email that’s not really a surprise.

World War 3 will likely not erupt in your inbox. And unless you’re the president of the United States you probably don’t need to be checking your email every hour. In an episode of the Unmistakable Creative, Steven Kotler said “top executives in flow are 500% more productive than average. If you have a company policy that requires people to respond to email immediately you’re hosed.”

So, do you want to be somebody who is extremely responsive to email or 500% more productive?

As I’m writing this, I’m at the airport in Bozeman Montana where there is free wifi and my cell service has been restored. Before being forced to completely unplug, I was struggling to get through my 8-step daily routine. When I sat down in the airport restaurant, I opened up my distraction-free writing software, put on Focus@Will and have found it easier to get into flow than I have in quite some time.

Obviously, it would be a real pain in the ass, if you didn’t have internet access or cell service for weeks on end. But we can easily incorporate this into our daily lives. As I’ve written in a previous article, for success in life turn things off. And turning everything off is one of the easiest ways to unplug. Turn your phone and laptop off after a certain time each day. Ideally, do it a few hours before bed and you’ll get the benefit of better sleep. If you do this daily, what you’ll notice is that you’ll be more focused, get in flow more easily, and significantly increase your productivity. And as Cal Newport said in his book Deep Work, downtime aids insight.

After a few days of having no internet or cell phone access, I’m convinced we’d all be much better off if we experienced this on a regular basis. We were never meant to spend our lives with our faces buried in screens while avoiding human contact and genuine conversation.

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, check out my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.

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