I run not just one, but two online businesses. Yet I spend a lot of time offline on airplanes and expedition ships, and I take road trips frequently. It might seem strange for someone who makes their living online to constantly espouse the importance of consistency in being offline for stretches of time...but it’s quite the blessing in disguise.
Because being online all the time can distract you from tapping into some serious creativity.
Rather than seeing my offline time as time that I’m away from my business, I treat it as my creative getaway time to write, write, write, or to generate ideas without all the noise of the internet getting in the way.
Here’s how I leverage my offline time best:
Prepare for offline time
Making the most of your time offline means preparing for it before it happens. Here are a few ways I recommend you do that:
1. Clear enough space on your smartphone to capture some voice recordings and/or photos if the opportunity comes up and inspiration strikes.
2. Make sure you have the right software/apps on your phone and/or laptop so you can do some distraction-free work offline (see the apps section below for my recommendations) or go old school and have a journal at hand for your journey.
3. If you’ve already written up outlines or brainstorms for your business (or have other materials, like emails, that you need to reference), make sure you’ve synced them from wherever they are onto your laptop hard drive and can access them during your offline time.
4. Pay extra attention that you have all the chargers and adaptors you need for your electronics. I keep all of mine in one large pencil-case style holder in my laptop bag. I also have a multi-adaptor for working in different countries and a tiny portable battery pack so I can recharge my iPhone twice if I’m remote for a few days.
Enjoy distraction-free writing
During your time offline, write like your life depends on it.
Being on trains or planes or in automobiles is hands down where I get the most writing done. It's easy to be lazy and stare out the window or watch movies. But sister, plug in those earphones and write like your life depends on it. It can be blog post content, detailed to-do lists, the framework for your next course, random Facebook rants you want to share on a topic that's important to you...just write.
Hash it out, verbally
If you're traveling with a partner or friend, talk through concepts, projects, or ideas that you've been incubating. I often talk through blog post ideas or even course content with my husband while on road trips, and not only do I get clearer on the language I want to use, but he asks me great questions for clarification.
I’ve come up with some of my most powerful creative ideas and content during a verbal brainstorm. It helps if the person you’re hashing things out with isn’t an online entrepreneur, because they can give you an unbiased perspective. Take notes as you go (Richard Branson does this on his hand) or, even better, record it with your smartphone and transcribe the good bits later on.
Strategically re-enter the online sphere
It’s all-too-easy to write drafts or capture ideas while offline and then come back to have them languish out of sight and out of mind. Don’t let this happen! If you’ve written some great stuff, use Google Keep to set yourself a to-do related to each specific piece. (More on Google Keep, below.) Maybe it’s a blog post you want to polish up, or a chapter of your next book you’ve drafted that needs an edit. Set a due date and reminder to hold yourself accountable for following up and getting it out into the world.
On another note, got photos of magnificence you want to share? Instagram doesn’t always have to be instant. Go ahead and post some images for us to see or batch schedule an “offline series” through Later so that your followers feel like they’ve come along on the journey with you.
Apps I use and love
Here are the apps I use to make the above possible, and why they're awesome:
- Dragon Dictate - I love Dragon Dictate because it transcribes my recordings for me, saving a lot of time. It’s a one-time, upfront investment but it’ll pay off for years if you’re the type of person who likes to think out loud.
- Evernote - Evernote is everything to me. I keep blog post ideas, recipes, resources I plan on referencing, household budget stuff, and everything you can imagine in there. It’s such a great repository because you can add the web clipper to your browser and clip items from the internet into Evernote for later reference. What?! Awesome. I even write my blog posts in Evernote and then use the Share function to send them to my virtual assistant.
- Later (formerly Latergramme) - I love Later because while I usually use Instagram in real time, I have oodles of great images from years past that I want to use for my brand’s visual storytelling. I spend a couple of hours each month loading those images into Later and scheduling them out for the month, so that my content is varied.
- Google Keep - For someone like me, who’s online then offline then online and offline again, I desperately needed a place where I could keep to-do’s that would auto-sync in the cloud with my other devices. Google Keep is fantastic and it’s more dynamic than a simple to-do list. You can set reminders, add images or files to the to-do, and even color code the to-do item. It’s just cool. Try it. (Editor’s note: Asana makes a great alternative, as well.)
And now, for a final alternative: Don't do anything related to your business
For real. Sometimes, I decide to completely unplug and read things that feed my creative and critical brain, like re-reading one of Russell Brand's autobiographies or listening to This American Life. A great lesson I’ve learned in my six years as a content creator is that the more great quality content you consume, the better a content creator you’ll become.
How do you leverage your offline time best? I’d love to hear your additions to my list.