How To: Remote Work When You Don’t Have Easy Internet Access

by | Feb 18, 2017 | Lifestyle

For a couple weeks, I was living in a house with no cell service and no wifi. Basically, it’s a terrible situation for someone who makes her living … writing things on the internet. But there weren’t many options since we were locked into the house and situation—coaching most of the time during the day—and we had to make the most of it. And really, with all the travel we do, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

It was made even trickier because we’re in California and most of our work is East Coast-based, so we were running into early morning deadlines, and having to get up at 5AM and seek out internet versus just booting up the computer was a lot more fatiguing. But on the bright side, I’m automatically waking up a lot earlier these days, and going to bed a lot earlier now that I didn’t have social media to scroll through in bed.

I’m writing this now that I’m back in the normal world of internet-ing, because not only did we survive the week, we learned a bunch about how to handle working without it. (And didn’t miss a single deadline.) Was it easy? Absolutely not. Am I going to get rid of my internet? Heck, no. But did we make it and did we meet all deadlines? Yep. And did I learn a few productive tricks? Of course.

To-Do Lists are Crucial

I always have a to-do list sorted out, but without internet, I had to really be careful to manage things properly: do all the non-internet writing in the non-internet area so I was ready to hop online when I got back into civilization. My to-do list got even more specific during this time, since some tasks that I would normally do as one thing now needed a research on the internet/write offline/upload component.

You Don’t Need Internet As Much As You Think

I think the most surprising thing I realized this week came when, after a long day on the bike and doing administrative stuff at the house, I finally was able to hop online again (I’d already hopped on to check news, upload a piece and handle my emails and social that morning in about 30 minutes), and I realized, after another quick inbox sweep, that there wasn’t really anything I needed to do online—I just had some offline work I was putting off in favor of “ooh, better check for new stuff!”

Write, Don’t Internet

Not having the ability to go online for anything was a pain when it came to fact checking, finding studies, linking, etc., but it was great for one thing: focused work. My writing vastly improved, and my writing speed was the best it’s been in a while. I smashed through a couple of longer term projects that needed my brain, not my researching abilities, and I probably got more done in two hours when I was cut off from the internet than I do in a normal day with internet. So I think, going forward, I might institute a couple hours a day of non-internet time, where I turn wifi off and just focus on doing the writing tasks.

Batch Tasks

This got easier and easier as time went on, because things naturally batched themselves: when you can only check email a couple times a day, you realize that you probably only need to check email a couple times a day. Same with checking newsfeeds and social media. I basically batched into a few online-focused categories by the end: email and social; learning (DuoLingo and the EdX course I’m going through right now); web stuff (for and my other sites); research and newsfeeds for Bicycling. The rest was mainly just uploading work that I had done offline (podcasts, all article writing, and work on the novel and a couple new projects). I did learn that I only have a certain amount of focus-time for writing in a day before I glaze over, but unfortunately, it varies from day to day.

Decide What It’s Worth

While the house we were in for 12 days had no cell reception, the Starbucks 15 minutes away had great reception and LTE data, but crappy internet most of the time. After a few frustrated days of not wanting to spend the $30 it costs me monthly to turn on my hotspot, I finally caved and switched it on. And I am so glad I did. The $30 was well worth saving my sanity, and the savings in time were equally monumental. I realized I had spent five days  aggravated—once literally bursting in to tears—when it was such a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things… Especially considering now that I hotspot-ed my phone, I could drive 10 minutes up the road and park and work in the van, versus paying for coffee every time I needed to get online. Lesson, learned.

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