I know that there was a time not so long ago when the Internet didn’t exist. And then the Internet did exist, but it was a luxury. And then it came to our homes in dial-up, then cable, then… well, you see where this is going. We’ve come a long way since Al Gore invented the Internet and today we live in a world in which a great majority of our ideas, products and services are exchanged “in the cloud.”
I make my living entirely online. I don’t have an office and every product I make or service I deliver is digital. And yet, I am currently living without reliable Internet for the first time in almost 15 years.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. My workload is nearly the same as what it was when I was living in a house with 24/7 wifi service, but I’m getting it done in three days a week instead of five or six.
Ironically, a lack of Internet has made me more productive.
First of all, I’ve had to schedule my work ahead of time and stick to that schedule. I know exactly what I’m doing on my workdays before I ever take off in search of free wifi. I used to attempt to schedule my work ahead of time, but I was very forgiving about what I’d let interrupt that schedule.
I’ve had to learn how to force myself to work when it’s work time. This was a bit of a struggle at first as I found my work times weren’t jiving with my creative clock. I can’t just walk away from a project and tell myself I’ll come back to it when I’m “feeling it”. As someone who is not normally very self-disciplined, I’m actually pretty impressed with how well (and how quickly) I’ve made the adjustment.
In addition to working within specific time frames, I’ve also had to adjust to working in different environments. Today I’m working outside a ranger station on a picnic table. It’s hot and humid and I’ve had to douse myself in bug spray, but the scenery is incredible. Last week I spent several hours in a public library and another day working in a Starbucks. Starbucks has offered the best internet connection thus far, but it also cost me more in terms of expensive coffee and snacks I felt obligated to buy while taking up a table. I think I actually prefer the hot and muggy ranger station with the random deer and colorful birds.
Naturally, I’ve had less time for playing around on the Internet. Most of my Twitter and Facebook time is reserved for the spotty 3G reception on my iPhone. One could argue that alone has made me more productive, but I certainly could be using my free wifi for social media if I wanted to.
I’m reminded of the many ways previous employers have tried to make me (and my co-workers) more productive. I’ve been asked to do more paperwork to account for my time and called into after-hour meetings to strategize off the clock. I’ve been monitored, not monitored and recorded for training purposes. It seems getting more production from the American worker is a constant battle for the American employer.
Perhaps the secret to getting us to do more work is simply to give us less time to get it done.