Work Unplugged

I had no connection to the internet yesterday. A ghost in the machine of our router or some such gremlin. The technological details aren’t important. What is significant is how it shifted the activities of my day.

For instance, I could record my purchases and balance the bank accounts, but only up to a point – I couldn’t confirm anything on-line. I couldn’t pay any bills (rarely do I send a payment via a check in a stamped envelope anymore.)

I could write my blog entry, but not post it.

I could write up the meeting notes for a committee I volunteer with, but I couldn’t email those notes to the committee members.

I worked out. I did two loads of laundry. I cleaned smelly things out of the fridge.

And I got a lot of exercise going up an down the basement stairs to restart the routers over and over again in hope of being reconnected, all the while wondering what I was missing by not being able to check email. I mean, what if someone needed me? But the phone didn’t ring, so I was forced to conclude there probably weren’t any emergencies that needed handling…

It was a quiet day. It was a focused day. Sure, I might have been missing out on something important, but neither was I distracted. No newsletters, no blogs, no junk mail, no web surfing. Disconnected, I actually got a lot done.

And when my internet connection was restored around 8pm last night, I did finally check my email, curious and anxious to see what I might have missed. What I missed was over 150 junk messages, a few newsletters, and ONE non-urgent message from a client. It could have been different, but it wasn’t – and as much as my ego likes to feel needed, I suspect yesterday’s scenario would be repeated more often than not on the occasions I lose my internet connection in the future.

I was recently inspired to reset the preferences of my email program to stop automatically checking for new mail. In order to limit interruptions, I’ve been gradually weaning myself off this for some time – 30 seconds became one minute, then five minutes, then 30 minutes, then one hour. But now checking and replying to email is a specific task on my daily schedule (mid-morning and mid-afternoon, if you care to know), not an activity to be engaged in throughout the day – and so I check email manually only during those times I’ve set aside to do so. And yesterday’s experience just confirmed this is the right move.

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