Making time to go offline is never easy. There’s almost never a “right time” to do it; you might lose opportunities or even business while disconnecting.

And yet, if you don’t actively look for ways to disconnect, it’s not very likely to happen by itself.

We have all accepted that eating well and exercising are important to be in great physical shape. We’re now also starting to take better care of our minds by managing our attention.

Our own attention is a scarce commodity. Where we focus our attention is how we feed our minds.

Going offline helps to clear things up a bit more for me. So in 2015, I completed my second transatlantic sailing trip.

I sailed across the North Atlantic ocean for 21 days from St Martin (Caribbean) to Horta (Azores Island). I would love to share what I learned through going offline.

Firing myself for a month

I was lucky to be able to take a month of vacation (Buffer generously offers unlimited vacation time) to go offline and have my brother and business partner cover all my other commitments. My friend Arthur, a fellow crew member for this sailing trip, was on sabbatical (another great way to disconnect). Going offline felt like “firing myself” for a month. And it was great! It’s a brilliant exercise to step back and reflect on what I do. Here are the questions I asked myself when I went offline:

  • What activities do I enjoy the most?
  • What impact does my involvement have on my business — i.e. can I delegate?
  • If I stop showing up tomorrow, what impact does it have for the team and for users?

Asking those questions can be scary, but it’s all about finding out where your efforts will be the most valuable—both for you and your company. If someone else can do that task better than you, then that’s awesome! If you particularly like doing this other task, then it’s probably a good idea to keep doing it. Being honest with yourself will help you focus on what’s most important upon your return, and help you find what you are most passionate about.

Being intentional about my offline time

At home or on the road, I’m almost always connected—and it’s invaluable, especially as a frequent traveler. We’re now able to fly to any country and stay plugged into the global grid. Most places we visit have WiFi/4G. We’re connected at all times.

#hammock #remotework back home during my weekly @buffer #mastermind with @msanroman :)

A photo posted by Rodolphe Dutel (@rodolphedutel) on


I’m grateful for this, and yet in some ways the internet is so ubiquitous that going offline can be tricky. I still wish to be able to sometimes step away from it all to cultivate my own learnings and discoveries — as well as serendipity.

I chose to be on a boat — for you, it might be on a mountain or in a jungle.

Whatever you choose, I’ve found that it’s key to be intentional about going offline. When the internet is one tap or app away, it’s tricky not to default to it! For instance, Outsite.co offers camps to get away and disconnect in California.

Outsite

If my environment did not have me fully, physically disconnected, I would probably have “checked on things” online after a few days.

Disengaging with your current mindset and existing habits, such as checking our phones, takes time — it took me 3 to 5 days to start feeling disconnected from my day-to-day activities, even with the sailing keeping us crazy busy.

At the end of the sailing trip, we reached the island of Horta and then I flew back to Paris, my hometown, and fell asleep around 1 a.m.

A few hours later, a familiar sound woke me up — raindrops were falling on my Velux window.

Before I opened my eyes, a few thoughts crossed my mind:

“Rain… it’s too bad that the cockpit is going to be wet during my watch… I wonder if they have changed the sails just yet?”

Moments later, I opened my eyes and realized that I wasn’t on a boat anymore — I was back in Paris, in the safety of my flat.

It’s amazing to see how fast we adapt to both hardship and convenience, and how our behavior changes accordingly—our environment influences our actions.

Taking my learnings back online

Rodolphe sailing
The following day, I was fully back to the city life and I started thinking about my attention span: When I wake up in the morning, how long before I grab my phone?

“79% of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every morning.” — Nir Eyal

Going offline trains your attention by allowing you to only react to the information you currently have — with no addition from the external world. It’s the opposite of getting notifications.

Going back to work after a month-long disconnected trip is something I’m very grateful for: It felt amazing and refreshing. The experience helped me have a gut-check of how everything felt to me and identify what projects and activities excites me most.

When I got back, I made sure to start focusing on tasks that I enjoyed more, and on which I could have the most impact.

Going offline was also great for my creativity. On most mornings, around 5 a.m., we would use our headlamps to write thoughts and ideas on paper — it helped me come up with new thoughts and business ideas.

As a result, I’m now trying to nap or meditate every day and I have started writing a book, journaling more and play with coloring books. Picking up a new skill or practicing an activity helps me being fully present.

As I was finishing this article, I sat on a Paris-New York flight and looked out the window: Looking at the Atlantic Ocean brought back many memories!

Then, the cabin crew announced that we would be one hour behind schedule. I couldn’t help but smile when I realized that that’s a good 20 days faster than our last Atlantic crossing!

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Written by Rodolphe Dutel

As a Buffer Product Specialist, Rodolphe spreads the good word about Buffer to current and future users! He is also the founder at Remotive.

  • Paul Tucker

    Such a great read, @Rodolphe! What changes did you make once you got back to dry land? Do you find yourself doing anything differently now?

  • http://www.youniqueexpression.net Jennifer Self

    Wow… how refreshing/ rejuvenating it would be to walk away from all of the distractions of life. Most of us do not have that opportunity, but I can see that it would be beneficial mentally and spiritually. Thank you for sharing your experience. ~Jennifer

  • Teresa wolf

    This post hits very close to my heart. I am a sailor as well, and the thought of crossing such a large body of water is so daunting to me! I have such respect for you on taking on this challenge for so many reasons. Disconnecting from the Internet would be such a great reset as well. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. The more Posts I read from Buffer, the more I ponder my current situation with work and life. Sitting at my desk staring out the window, all I can think about is there has to be a better fit out there for me. Keep up the great work… Love reading posts like this!

  • Terlihat & Ditemukan

    Another Buffer Team Experience that make me to Jump there as a Team from Indonesia ;)

    Anyway, Disconnect is The REAL Connect.

    Nice to Read kind of this for my Soul ;)
    Thanks, Rodophe

  • https://www.testlauncher.com Jason Hamilton-Mascioli

    Focus is something that needs to be nurtured

  • http://www.mikekim.tv/ Mike Kim

    Thank you for this post, Rodolphe. I was recently fortunate enough to leave my day job and run my own business online. I couldn’t wait for all the extra time to think, travel, and yes, sleep. Before long I was busier than I was at my day job. I’m reminded of something Jony Ive mentioned … Steve Jobs would often ask him “What did you say NO to today?”

    Thanks again, and I will now work towards firing myself for 3 weeks!

  • http://www.adomasbaltagalvis.com/ Adomas Baltagalvis

    That’s a great article, thanks Rodolphe!

    Regarding your journaling, could you share a little bit about it? Is it just the simple ‘mind dump’ of ideas, or do you use some questions that would guide you?

  • http://www.socialstrategies.net.au/ Matt Crawford

    Great article. I did that trip (sailed from St Martin to the Azores) in 1992 and it was the 1st time I’d seen GPS, so there was definitely no internet.

  • http://www.omkarmishra.com Omkar Mishra

    Thanks for sharing your experience Rodolphe. I am trying to do something similar :)

  • Sylvia

    What an amazing adventure! What do you miss most about it?

    I’ve had this feeling of wanting to unplug and get away, and to reconnect with my own desires and goals. I don’t think I’m in a position to right now, but reading this has made me start to dream a bit about how I’d “fire myself.” Thanks for sharing, Rodolphe!

  • http://sarahannehayes.com/ Sarah Anne Hayes

    Thanks for sharing this, Rodolphe! I love those times when I’m able to get totally away, but unfortunately don’t get them nearly as much as I’d like. I love what you said about how disconnecting helped your creativity. I’ve found the same to be true for myself! :)

  • http://www.michellefondin.com Michelle

    Your article was so inspiring! Even one day a week of disconnecting can have an amazing impact on mental clarity, creativity and tranquility. I was writing an article for the Chopra Center and I mentioned that when I was a kid, I used to lie in the grass and watch clouds for hours. I don’t think my kids have ever done that. I also think when possible we should go to a place where our cell phones don’t work and where it’s difficult to connect to the Internet. We all need to get in touch with who we really are on a consistent basis.