Organise

What You Should Do When Your Internet's Out

It’s going to be a long wait for the NBN, and even if that eventually makes the Internet faster, there’s still going to be the odd occasion when you can’t get connected We’ve got suggestions for the best uses of time when a disconnection happens.

Photo by adactio.

Take the 20,000-foot look at your to-dos

This is terminology used specifically in some productivity systems, but we’re using it in an almost literal sense. When the work’s stacked up so high on your desk that you can’t see over it (literally or figuratively), it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, unable to plot a clear path through it all, and, mostly, despondent over how little of it has moved. Imagine, though, if you could float out of your chair and move your piles around from overhead, simply by waving your hands.

When your net connection’s gone down, you’ve got a pre-ordained excuse to stop sighing at your tasks and take that floating, telekinetic look. What’s hanging around your someday/maybe list and needs attention? What two-minute tasks are blocked only by your mental hang-ups, and which items could be moved forward with a quick “Whaddya think?” email? What can actually be done, delegated, or deferred in the next week? Are you slavishly labeling things as high-priority that are merely pressing?

Go ahead, stop working (or worrying about work) and take the time to plan your attack. You might dig it enough to rotate a 10-minute Wi-Fi/LAN-breaking session into your schedule every so often.

Clean up and organise your (computer) files and folders

When the firehose is turned off, it’s a good time to clean up and sandbag your file space against the next onslaught. Yes, we had to stretch a little to carry that metaphor through, but it’s true—the sheer amount of files, pictures, MP3s, programs, and other data we grab off the net and let sit wherever can be staggering when you’re allowed to take a look at it.

Having a place to put them all is key, so check out Gina’s guide to organizing My Documents, which also works for your home folder in Linux or Mac. We expanded on the concept with 10 ways to declutter your digital life. The real way out, though, is to set up rules that make sense and enforce themselves, which we can recommend two apps for: Adam’s own free Belvedere for Windows, and Hazel for Macs (free 14-day trial, $US22 after that). Both watch the spaces where you drop your downloads, then sort or wipe out whatever’s messing up the place.

Do some distraction-free, actual work

Essayist and programmer Paul Graham can tell you, and blogger and novelist Cory Doctorow agrees: Having the internet constantly one tab away can be the worst kind of productivity killer. It presents itself as an instant-access research tool, but far too often provides endless rabbit holes to fall down. Before you know it, it’s 4:52pm, and you’re still making your way through the Kinks’ discography on All Music Guide.

Which is why losing your net connection can be an unintentional blessing. You, your simple text editor, and a self-imposed time limit—like, say, until your net connection comes back—can get a lot done. Looking for a text editor that physically blocks distractions? Try JDarkRoom, a cross-platform, screen-shielding text editor that looks like a Unix terminal by default—in a good, stop-surfing-stop-writing kinda way.

What do you do when the net’s not available? Tell us how you use your time, or get around a net dependence, in the comments.


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