How Disconnecting Makes You More Connected

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How Disconnecting Makes You More Connected

Today’s guest contributor is Natalie Sisson. Natalie is the “Suitcase Entrepreneur” – traveling the world living out of her suitcase and running her business. She blogs about it at WomanzWorld where a tribe of women entrepreneurs gather who want to create freedom in business and adventure in life.

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Like most of you, when Jonathan spent his month in Bali earlier this year, I was a little envious and also curious to see how he would handle creating great works of art and being a fantastic consultant while traveling.

I was particularly intrigued at all the camera and video gear he laid out in a video on the floor that he was packing up to report back to use with. About the same time I embarked on my own adventure. I had just one Nikon Camera, two lenses, my laptop and an iPod.

Landing in Prague, Czech Republic, I was primed and ready to compete at the World Club Ultimate Frisbee Championships. Yes Ultimate is a sport; it’s also addictive and one of my passions along with travel and entrepreneurship.

I have never known a sport that allows me to travel the world and hang out with an amazing community of like-minded, free-spirited intellectuals who love to have fun.

However the week long tournament made me realize that my aspirations of traveling and working on my blog and business products were going to be far more challenging than I thought. I was relieved to read that even someone as accomplished as Jonathan had a tough time in Bali.

I found out all too soon that second rate Wi-Fi in a sweltering second dingy hotel lobby is not conducive to creating great work. I could barely focus on writing for my blog or engaging with my community of women entrepreneurs, let alone focus on beating the rest of the world with a Frisbee!

Once the tournament was over though things started to take on a new light. I realized that somewhere in the midst of infrequent internet access I had the beauty of real freedom.

I could work anywhere, not only in cafes and restaurants but on trains, buses, hydrofoils, park benches and town squares! I became a pro at using my offline time to really focus and achieve. I would write to my heart content, inspired by my surroundings, the culture, languages, history and ever-changing landscape.

Thanks to a tip by Chris Guillebeau I set up gmail offline which was a life savior. I could reply to each and every person, take time to read through emails and give thoughtful responses and then know that when I connected up it would all be sent.

People thought I was crazy emailing at 5am – but little did they know that was 8pm in Croatia, Slovakia or Slovenia and I was living in a totally different part of the world to them.

If anything the traveling element helped me to work smarter. I would steal bits of time during my traveling days to work on one project only.

It gave rise to great experimentation – what if I didn’t tweet for a while, what if I wrote several blog posts in a row, scheduled them out and let my systems do the distribution work?

One day I spent 12 hours in a row building my community then left it for a weekend to play a fun tournament and on Monday things had exploded. All that effort had paid off.

This constant need I’d developed back at home for checking in `just one more time’, for analyzing updates to numbers and figures and insights was really not necessary.

Sure you need to keep a handle on whether what you’re doing is effective and measure and track results on whether you’re providing insight, intelligence and inspiration, but it benefits you to step away and to let your garden grow after you’ve tended to it.

You need to allow room in your mind for creativity and expansion and to use the places you travel to – even if only locally, as the mechanism to achieve that flow.

My travels proved to me that the North American lifestyle I had got caught up in was not one that was doing me any good. Doing away with my iPhone and being offline more was one of the best moves I have ever made.
Instead I got to read fiction novels, write, listen to music, reflect, have animated discussions about other peoples’ lives, their history, their traditions and language, and learn so that I could in turn teach.

I quickly learned that many Europeans have a great attitude to leading a balanced life. Shorter work hours and a singular focus on their role. Afternoons and evenings spent with loved ones and friends, plus plenty of recreational time and a pace of life. Life just seemed easier.

The creative time I made for myself each day while travelling is such a wonderful cycle to adopt into your everyday life. Whether you’re travelling or not, that time you make for yourself is more important than I could have ever imagined.

Disconnecting, unplugging and being at one with your own thoughts is the best investment you can make in your day.

Try it now.

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Natalie Sisson. Natalie is the “Suitcase Entrepreneur” – traveling the world living out of her suitcase and running her business. She blogs about it at WomanzWorld

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26 responses

26 Responses to “How Disconnecting Makes You More Connected”

  1. Ligia Buzan says:

    Briliant! Absolutely needed! Thanks Jonathan and Natalie! Everytime I disconnect and and re-learn to walk in balance clients come, I am energetic and creative. And the opposite happens when I think I have to carry the word on my shoulders.

  2. John Sherry says:

    Superb Natalie, switching off helps us switch off and switch on something more fun, productive and inspiring instead. So what’s your new office address Natalie Sissons, World, The Universe, Cyber Space? If so, I like it. Blessings on your travels and Godspeed.

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  4. Melissa Kinkaid says:

    Love it. Thank you. Yesterday my disconnect was a mid-day drive through the country. I came back to the office fired up and ready to go.

  5. Amber J. says:

    Very inspiring. I can’t wait until the day when I am writing about my business while I am in some far away land. I’m declaring it to be so!

  6. Gi Baccarin says:

    Been thinking a lot about disconnecting and more focused work later, so I loved the post…

  7. Barbara says:

    I found this successful groove two years ago when I traveled around Europe for a month, working remotely the entire time. It was wonderful, and I came back to the states super refreshed and with an entirely new outlook on how to approach my work, client, everything.

    Then, without noticing because it was so subtle, I started to fall back into the trap of checking emails a ton, putting up with constant phone call interruptions, the works. my stress level went back up, and it’s been frustrating to realize that I let myself fall back into an overly-connected manner.

    thanks for the reminder of how important it is!

  8. Alex says:

    A lot of my best work comes from being “off-line.”

    • Same here. I find that, as much as all the online tools are wonderfully handy and wide-reaching, I still like to go back to the blank white piece of paper and pencil in a quiet space. What W. Clement Stone liked to call “thinking time”. And, of course, it’s vital to occasionally not think.

  9. Wow thanks Jonathan, so honoured to be featured here and share my story.

    Was almost too excited to come and take a look!

    John I hadn’t thought about a business card address but I like #1 Adventure Road, The Universe

    Amber just do it – seriously. There’s nothing stopping you, in fact there’s everything helping you to go to that faraway land.

    Natalie

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey N, my pleasure being able to share your wonderful insights with our tribe. Love your energy and message. So, thanks back ya!

    • John Sherry says:

      Great idea Natalie – forget a domain name that’s a Universal one. I’ll look out for you out there on the adventure highway!

  10. Great post and thanks to you Jonathan, I have found Natalie myself (thanks for being the connector). I live a very similar lifestyle and I get the same reactions when I tell people that I don’t live anywhere. It’s truly freeing and I find my life to be an adventure. I have incredible stories of my life on the road across the United States! Who says you can’t live your passion….live it everyday and enjoy for life is way to precious to waste!
    Nancy

  11. Jonathan: Thx for having Natalie on your blog today & for sharing your Bali adventure with us all, learned so much from that.

    Natalie: Yeesh did you hit the nail on the head with this: “My travels proved to me that the North American lifestyle I had got caught up in was not one that was doing me any good.” For type A entrepreneurial woman think this is THE key block to get past when building a business. Loved hearing your insights & would be fascinated to read a part two 3-4 months from now on whether you still think a more balanced pace can truly be sustainable in the US. Fingers crossed the answer will be YES :)

  12. Hi Natalie,

    I am huge on disconnecting frequently. All of my creating: blog posts, articles, videos, etc, happens when offline.

    We sometimes fail to recognize all of our best creating occurs when silent. Sure, interaction plays a chief role in running a business of living a life, for that matter but it’s only when one can tune in to the small, still voice that magical things happen.

    Whenever I go offline for extended periods I’m usually hit by a deluge of creative ideas and circumstances that conform to my vision. This is the result of getting out of the way and allowing the universe to do what it does best.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  13. I know I’m one of the people who needs to turn it off every once in a while. Thanks for posting this inspiring story!

  14. So I’m confused. Should I be commenting and saying thank you for this inspiring, thoughtful post? Or should I be unplugged and creating? (totally joking, thank you for sharing your experience!)

  15. Tom Bentley says:

    Natalie, I love how traveling can nudge you off routines and tilt your eyes to new perspectives. I spent a year in Micronesia (with the s-l-o-w-e-s-t dialup net access you can imagine), and my time there gave me such an expanded sense of perspective and balance. EVERYTHING there was slowed down, maddening to me at times, refreshing at others. I think you and Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits have some thoughts in common.

    Thanks for a nice post. By the way, I actually took a class in Frisbee (not Ultimate, but freestyle) in college years ago. Now there’s an education…

  16. very good reminder Natalie! I travel abroad at times myself, and have found there is a much slower pace in Europe, for example. It taught me a great deal about pausing at the local bakery for a cappuccino and what great things you can observe & people you can meet! I too was able to ‘catch up’ being in another time zone and still found time to enjoy the beauty around me :) Trips on the autobahn were great for catching up on reading and pausing for reflection too! I savor my down time a lot more these days and realize that disconnecting really does create an effective result after all!

  17. Steven says:

    Hey Natalie, I think a lot of us have an unhealthy addiction to the internet and technology. I’m glad to hear you got to spend time away and still be productive in the process.

    I should really take a retreat of my own, or limit my computer time to maybe an hour or two a day. It’s difficult because I love having the whole world at my finger tips. My laptop is like my baby, it’s where all my work takes place.

    Thanks for sharing your story,
    Steven

  18. Great ideas abound here!

    What I aim to do is take all the nutritious, fluid ideas from people like you, Natalie, Jonathan, and all you great commenters, and enjoy the process of turning them over in my mind OFFLINE in a dynamic or silent place, then coming back online to create my own work having just emerged from the real life re-charge.

    Thanks, everybody!

    Peter

  19. Natalie, I love your statement; ‘I realized that somewhere in the midst of infrequent internet access I had the beauty of real freedom.’

    I recently worked with a bunch of women on reviewing their days and considering what activities generated happiness and which generated stress. So many said that trying to work through their inbox made them more stressed than anything else!

  20. Hey Natalie,
    Just want to say that you got me there.Whew!
    I’m a person who is really a workaholic and restless when it comes to my undone work. Though I love my work, there are times that I am burned out because of too much work, and no play, not even a simple relaxation where I can sip and enjoy my coffee. My friends often advised me to take a break or a vacation and now upon stumbling on your post, I can’t help to think over their advise. Thanks for the post, eh.

  21. [...] stumbled across her site from reading her interview with Winnie Lai (attended the same alma mater), her guest post on Jonathan Fields’s site, and comments on numerous sites I read. We have less time than we think (or rather we’re overly [...]

  22. [...] You need at least a 12 hour period of rest, relaxation and disconnecting. I wrote about the benefits of that over on Awake at the Wheel. [...]