On Monday I wrote about what I learned in the week I removed myself from cyberspace and lost myself in the real world instead. Today I’m going to talk about some of the practicalities of doing that.
All right, it might not seem like a big deal to stay away from the internet for a week, but believe me, it’s so easy to convince yourself you need to access one little piece of information, and then discover you’ve been online for three hours. A little preparation will help you avoid the temptation.
1. Let other people know what you’re doing.
This could be the people you live with who share your internet account—the ones who’ll kick your butt when they see you trying to sneak a peek at the virtual world—or those friends and groups you communicate with regularly online. You may never have met them in real life, but it’s bad form to disappear for a week with no word. If anything’s expected from you during the week—a critique for a partner, for example—make sure you get it in beforehand or let the other person know when you’ll send it.
Make sure you let your blog followers know, so anyone who stumbles across your blog and leaves a comment will know why you don’t respond or make it live immediately. And let your Twitter followers know, too, for the same reason.
2. Organize your email.
Email isn’t really social media, and it can be really hard to avoid it for a week if it’s your main form of communication with business associates—editors, agents, or potential editors and agents. The thing is, you can give your phone number to just about anyone who would desperately need to get hold of you during your break. It might feel like the world will end if you don’t check your email for a week, but it won’t really.
There are a couple of ways you can make the break easier for yourself, though. First, many email systems let you set up an auto-reply, and to define who gets that reply so it doesn’t go to everyone who emails you. Use this with caution. I always appreciate getting a notification that someone will get back to me after a certain date, but other people find this annoying (I’ve read blogs by a few agents who hate them).
Second, minimize the number of emails you get during the week. Tell people you know well to call or text you if they have something quick to say. And if you’re part of email loops, change your settings so you get a daily digest of emails instead of hundreds of individual ones. This will make your inbox much more manageable when you return.
3. Print or save your research before taking a break.
Nothing draws me in to checking my profiles as quickly as going online for a bit of research. By planning what I’m going to write and determining what research I’ll need to do that, I can gather the most important bits and have them ready to access when I’m writing. If I get stuck, I add a comment in my manuscript with a brief note of what I need to check later.
4. Figure out what times of day you’re most likely to go online, and give yourself other projects to work on in that time.
Make a date. Go to a new yoga class. Work on the craft you never have time for. Write—darn it, write. Find something that requires your full focus, and do it during the time you usually surf. You’ll be shocked at how much you can get done, or how much fun you can have.
On Friday I’ll tell you about the project I took on—prepare yourselves to be amazed at the depths of my anal retentiveness.
5. Use a different phone, if you have to.
I don’t have this problem because I have the cheapest phone imaginable. But you might need to switch to a cheap cell phone when you’re on your social media break. Obviously I’m not suggesting you buy a new phone, but lots of people have old mobiles shoved in the back of a drawer after an upgrade.
Can you think of other things to add to my list? Would it be impossible for you to take a social media break, even if you made it coincide with being on vacation?