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How Dial Up Made Me a More Productive Blogger

Posted By Darren Rowse 13th of December 2007 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

ProductivityThis week I’ve been without a permanent broadband connection – but I’ve become a more productive blogger.

While I wait for my ISP to transfer my broadband connection from our old home to our new one I’ve been relying upon a mobile broadband connection (with limited monthly bandwidth) and dialup (my goodness how I’ve come to take broadband for granted).

While this initially seemed like a problem it’s actually made me a more productive blogger as it has forced me to become more focused and to prioritize my tasks each day.

Here’s what I’m doing less of:

  • Checking stats less – checking blog metrics can be useful – but it can also be a waste of time when you do it all day.
  • Reading other blogs less – the unread items in my RSS feed have mounted up this week – but I’ve continued to read those blogs that I truly value and it’s the less useful ones that I’ve seen less of.
  • Checking email less often – instead of checking email every 15 minutes I’m now doing it every 5 or so hours. This means less interruptions during other work.
  • Less time on IM – similarly there have been less interruptions with IM (although this has been challenging in connecting with b5 work mates).

The lesson that I’ve learned is that while I normally spend a lot of time on these activities – the world hasn’t come crashing down when I’ve done them less. In fact my world has probably improved as I’ve made room for other things.

Here’s what I’m doing more of:

  • More time off line writing – with less interruptions and time wasted doing tasks that are not as important – I’ve freed up more time to actually write content. I also suspect it’s a higher quality content as I’m more focused.
  • More strategic thinking – it’s amazing how little I’d been thinking about my blog’s directions and strategy as a result of the ‘busyness’ I’d created for myself with a lot of ultimately unimportant things. This week has enabled me to step back a little and think about 2008 and beyond.
  • More time with family – this has been the big winner this week – and it needed to be. With moving house, a sick wife and an unsettled little one there have been a few more personal demands in the last few weeks than normal and I’m glad to be able to spend more time focusing upon them.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m looking forward to getting a permanent broadband connection – but this out of the ordinary week has taught me a thing or two (or at least has helped me to relearn a lesson or two that I’ve already been taught) which I hope will help when life returns a little more to normal.

Image by Shadphotos

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. These types of situations make me lean back and think about how lucky I really am.

    It makes me appreciate the items I’m without for a short time even more.

    Hang in there, My vote is spend more time with the family.

  2. This is a pretty interesting post. It is very important to prioritize what you really need to do. Too much unnecessary time spent online makes you incredibly unproductive.

    Some of my goals over the next few months is to cut down on the number of RSS feeds that I read, spend more time with my family, and spend less time in front of the computer.

    Becoming more productive and spending less time doing things that are unnecessary are things that everyone needs to learn to become better bloggers.

    Great post Darren!

  3. I’m sorry – but I need a selfish moment here, and I have to say that I cannot WAIT for you to be able to get back on high speed! LOL You already know this, of course… but if it didn’t cost me $15 a minute to call Australia, I’d have been on the phone with you by now!

    Seriously though, I’m glad you’re getting to spend more time with the family and be more productive. I’ve been wanting to just grab the laptop and go somewhere WITHOUT wi-fi for a few hours myself. Sure, I could unplug, but then when the urge hit, I’d just plug back in to the wonderful world of the internet and it would be all over.

    I have noticed though, lately I’ve been away from my office/home more often (the holidays and a relationship kept me busy) and in two months’ time I’ve lost 17 pounds. That’s pretty amazing considering that my eating habits haven’t changed much, but rather I’ve just been off my duff doing other things. However come the first of the year I’m hoping to be spending MORE time at the computer… ;)

  4. This is very interesting. I’m always thinking, “what if I don’t do this?” “What if I don’t do that?”. A few days ago, there were some small things I was just unable to do. I was just overwhelmed and couldn’t do them. I just said to myself, “Whatever will be, will be. I just can’t” I didn’t do them and guess what — it was okay. There is great value in your post. It’s good to stop; just for a moment; and get clarity. I’m glad you did.

    As for those small things I used to do… I don’t care about them anywmore and I do other things.

    At the end of the day, those small things weren’t as important as I thought they were.

    Great post. We need to be reminded.

  5. Its true. Dial-up really sucks. I used to have it, then we got DSL and it was like. Wow, google loads in less than a minute.

  6. My first dial up connection was a 90 baud acoustically couple modem and I remembered when I moved up to 9600 baud I thought it was light speed. Not going back to dial up is painful for me, I feel like pulling my hair out.
    However when ever I move there is that transition period of being on dial up. Sometimes it can be a good thing because it forces you to streamline your work flow. But man will you ever like it when you have broadband back.

  7. Darren – I am hearing comments like this more and more, and have been experiencing it myself. I think we have become conditioned to feel as though we are achieving if we respond rapidly to others – be it via email, IM or simply checking RSS feeds.

    But this does not always create anything of value, and can simply be short-term ego boosters.

    For your audience, I think it is a particularly important lesson. No one wants to admit that they are a part of the echo chamber, yet we find ourselves more an more connected all the time.

    When you take a step back and unplug, you lose connections, but sometimes gain perspective.
    Have a great day.

  8. Every now and again I award myself a day or so off from the internet connection altogether. It makes me a bit twitchy at first, wondering what’s falling apart while I’m not looking, but I do seem to get more done and definitely feel loads better for it afterwards. I don’t think I’d like to go back to dial-up though – even after after five years plus of broadband, the sight of the expression ‘dial-up’ in your title had me wondering for a split second ‘Eek! How long have I been on here and how much is it costing me?!’ :)

    I hope your wife feels better quickly and everything soon settles down for you all.

  9. Agree. I can say that it lessens the distractions. I have an experience of it myself. Because of it, I become more productive and not a multitasker

  10. funny to see that a tip which Darren used to tell his readers over and over again will now atlast be used by Darren. I remember one day somewhere in this blog Darren wrote how if people spend less time on there IMs than they can save lot os time..

    Good do see that you will be saving some good time.

    Since I stopped using IM while blogging my blogging speed has increased very well and I am loving it. Even though my friends keep guessing what I do when I am offline..

    checking less stats is very necessary. Checking stats again and again brings in nothing. It just forces you to think again and again as to how well traffic is coming. Nothing useful.

    And I guess you need to spend more time on your mail box Darren as I am sure there are many emails which are deleted without any replies being sent. I hope you will utilize your new free time in checking and replying for your emails.

  11. Yes a shot of the dark ages will make you realize how we all have taken broadband for granted. Who remembers the takes an hour to download one mp3 days? Now we complain if Google takes more than 3 seconds to load.

  12. That’s really a very interesting experiment – having to choose specifically which activities you need to focus on with limited internet capability. Probably not a bad thing to do every so often anyway (without having to resort to switching to dial-up, of course!).

  13. Darren,

    I am glad your move is proving enlightening. I suffer from the same symptoms of distractions when sitting in front of the computer. While when you check stats, you analyse the effects of your online strategies, I check to will (wish) that more people have visited our blog! I’m afraid that wishing will not do it, and that I will have to roll up my sleeves and put all of your advice into practice on various fronts.

    Thank you for your continually informative posts.

  14. While we think that if we don’t do this or don’t do that, the world is going to come to an end, the reality is that ‘everything’ can wait.

  15. Congratulations on discovering the key to true productivity! I have an always-on connection at my office which I can’t unplug because it also connects me to network drives that I need. When I have to be really productive (like earlier this week), I use Leechblock to turn block all sites!

  16. I like this post and am glad to see that you’ve been forced to prioritize. Sometimes it takes a bit of forcing. I hope that your wife is feeling better soon and the little one settles down (fat chance).

    Thanks for reminding me of MY time wasters.

  17. This is quite a new thing for you guys out there. But here in the asian countries, still we have to rely on the good old dial-up connections. The cable more away the broadband and other high speed connections are only for the rich and the wealthy.

    Its good Darren, that you also have understood what it is like to surf the dial-up way.


  18. That’s very surprising and interesting that you became more productive. After a brief pause to think about it, I can see why. It is so easy to get distracted and head into a million different paths when you are actually online.

  19. richard says: 12/13/2007 at 2:46 am

    I have been living in South Africa for 4 years, and there is one story I really need to tell you that shocked me.

    I was talking about the slowness of ADSL (1 Mb/s download was the fasted we could get for $100 per month), and then she told me that we were lucky. Her parents were living in the Northern part of South Africa on a farm and they still had an OPERATOR. Can you believe it … they were sharing 1 telephone line with approx 10 other people.

    Just imagine …


  20. I’m glad it’s working for you but I would eventually just smash my computer in frustration!

  21. I came to this same conclusion just yesterday. I go to lunch at an Internet hotspot and spend so much time finding power, connecting, mailing, IM’ing, and so on, that hour of writing I’d hoped to accomplish is down to ten minutes. Ten minutes? What’s the point? Yet another lunch hour frittered away. I am going to flip the wireless switch off today and if i need some research, I’ll record it on my notepad for later action and keep writing.

  22. Good to hear you found being stuck with dial up so productive! I think I would go insane after about five minutes, personally. ;)


  23. My parents have dial-up, since they don’t use the Internet often, and whenever I go home for a visit, I’m stuck using it as well for a few days…so I feel your pain!

    It does help me focus though, since I can’t sign on and off whenever I want. I have to log on, get it done, and log off so I’m not tying up the phone line (yeah, they only have one!).

  24. Cindy says: 12/13/2007 at 5:20 am

    So there is life without high speed – amazing.

    I wish I could be so … zen about a loss of speed. A slow connection just shatters my focus and I end up doing something totally useless while I wait – like baking cookies for instance.

    If I sit by the screen while I wait I spend all the time ranting and raising my blood pressure. Between the high blood pressure and the cookies – well, lets just say that death by dial-up is not how I want to go. Long live high speed!

  25. Sometimes being forced into a different situation (maybe difficult one too) that you can start to relook into things, do things differently (adapt), get new perspective.

    Basically, it is like moving from a driver seat to a co-driver seat in a car going for holiday. You will not only start to enjoy the scenery but also realise how you should be driving to make the best use of the driving holiday.

  26. Abhijeet Mukherjee says: 12/13/2007 at 5:30 am

    Darren…I used to think that blogging consistently without broadband is almost impossible…but this post has forced me to change my views

  27. I just went through something quite similar. My dad was cool enough to buy me a new Thinkpad. My router, however – was a piece. Completely worthless. So I was having loads of trouble getting, and staying, connected to the internet – especially if I wanted to *gasp!* leave the room in which the router was!

    I’ve been so thrilled to finally have a laptop, though, and I really wanted to work in bed, and also out on the balcony. And the funny thing was, having a computer without internet access – made me get a LOT more work done! It was very focused time, without all the bells and whistles of the interwebwonderworld calling out to me! Ha!

    I am, however, now connected with a good router. It’s back to ‘Entrepeneur’s ADD’ for me. ;)

  28. Having been forced to use dial up for the last 6 months I can tell you that the productivity boost is temporary. Eventually, you need to stimulation of the outside blogs and emails and news.

    I truly miss the little things like being able to see video blogs or youtube. Ah well, I have learned to filter my email and no longer download anything over 50k automatically. Most of the junk mail gets deleted without being read.

    LOL. And I am sitting in the only restaurant within 60 miles that offers free wi fi. Woooo Hooo…. I feel like I am at Disney land.

    I feel for you though. It drove me crazy for a month.

  29. All very recognizable. I do my best work at my mothers house, behind her computer instead of behind my own at my desk with al the stuff that distracts me. Getting out of my comfort zone and setting a time frame within which I need to write my articles helps me very much.

  30. I tend to be an email junky. I seriously check email every time I touch my computer. I know for a fact if I had dial-up again I would be checking a whole lot less. It is really amazing how we take the internet for granted. I remember the good ol’ days when 26.6 was fast!

  31. I always find myself checking my google analytics stats at least 10 times a day among other things. Feedburner stats are fun to look at too. Sometimes, less can be more!

  32. I still use dialup every day at home – we can’t get wireless and satellite highspeed is prohibitively expensive.

    It’s no big deal – just wait longer to view things. People should make an effort to acquire more patience.

  33. And saving the time spent to read those lengthy comments and no headache to reply them too!

  34. I still use dial-up pretty often, and it definitely makes you use your time more efficiently (plus you can’t play as many mindless flash games). I really appreciate a broadband connection when I get to use one.

  35. It’s funny to hear you say that. I live rurally and I have been using only dial up for 12mths. Hoping to have sattelite on in the next month or so.

  36. All the things you listed as sometimes taking away from your productivity are things I’m often guilty of, and in the back of my mind I know that it can take away from my productivity. When I want to get work done, I go on a computer where I don’t have an Internet connection, because when I think and work offline, I have less distraction.

    Discipline for Internet junkies like myself is often tested. Recently, the major Internet provider in Trinidad just released broadband to many areas that did not previously have, and had to struggle with dial-up, especially after an easy day of hi-speed in the office. I’ll be happy when I get the broadband installed, but also know that I have to work on my will ;)

  37. If I really want to get some work done I shut down my IM, otherwise half my day is wasted (shouldn’t say wasted really) gabbing instead of working.

    As for off line writing, what do you use, pen and paper, laptop or that new fly writing device? My wife has seen the commercials for it and thinks it would do me a world of good since a lot of my ideas come to me at night while I am in bed reading.

    I think I know what I will be getting for Christmas this year ;)

    Ron Killian

  38. What a great reminder of time management. When writing on my own blogs, whether AspireNow or ARRiiVE (http://arriive.blogspot.com), I find it tempting to check stats – although I’ve gotten to the point where I really only want to check these every two days. Any more than that is really a waste of time.

    Email – we really should only check email every 4 hours – but it is so easy when a pop-up window says “you’ve got mail!”

    Thanks for sharing how this time AWAY from technology helped you rebalance your life! At AspireNow, life balance is something I coach about and it’s always good to see someone in the real world struggling — and finding balance through surprising means.

    Scott (http://aspirenow.blogspot.com)

  39. This’s why I refuse to get internet on my phone. Sometimes I dream about the usefulness of web access on my cell, but I’d be so disconnected from the real world. BTW, do a quick search on “addiction” and see if it’s what you have. :-) I’ll admit that during my undergrad years, I was addicted and had withdrawal symptoms whenever DSL was down.
    Dr J

  40. April says: 12/15/2007 at 5:42 pm

    the image….slow down those fingers… its disconnecting, not disconectning!!! ;)

  41. communicators like im or icq can be very time consuming same as forums. Its good to plan your work each and every day, really an save TONS of time!

  42. My life is so plugged in to the net right now it’s hard to imagine being totally cut off. I’ve got problems for sure. Heck, I even sold my old iPod so that I could afford to buy a new iTouch solely for the Wi-Fi capability (it totally rocks by the way).

    I’m going on vacation soon and I’m not even going to be able to disconnect then. I’ll be taking my laptop, iPod, digital camera, and video camera. I fear I may be to busy filming and taking pictures to really enjoy myself.

    Maybe I’ll take your advice Darren and do without. I’m certain I need it.

  43. It’s amazing how much extra time not opening IM, not checking stats, and not surfing all day can get you. With that said… you’d have to pry my 10 megabit connection from my cold-dead hands – it ain’t going anywhere. It is a godsend to have when sending alpha and beta software to people ;)

  44. what is dial up?……

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