Recently I experienced a total connection shutdown! No telephone, no Internet, not communication besides my cellular phone!

For this reason, I’d like to apologize to my readers for my delay in posting this article.

The problem was large and caused by a road repairing crew, that damage the telephone’s infrastructure in the area. This situation cause me to skip the posting of one post (specifically the previous one!) and gave me some food of thought!

I’m so accustom to having an Internet access anywhere I go, that its absence creates a lot of problems. Today is one of those “off-the-grid” days! I was working normally, trying to do some infrastructure work, when, all off a sudden, everything went still! At first, I didn’t realize what happened and thought that I had a problem with my computer. After a while though, I realize that telephone and Internet were off. Not phone, no Internet, no web, no value added service! Complete silence!

A Day Off The Grid

A Day Off The Grid Gained Time!

Good, you would say; more time for thought and long range goal settings. More time for a reboot, reviewing and designing! Isn’t so? Well is not exactly as that! It is different when you have the option to be off the grid and focus on what you pay attention at the moment, and different when you lack the ability to do something you have to do! The former is a choice, the later though is a problem desperately needs for a solution!

At the moment, I felt very frustrated because I had scheduled a lot of tasks with the tag “online” for the day. Obviously nothing would going to be completed; I should reschedule all that tasks in a more convenient date! I also felt, angry, because I felt powerless against events, I would not have any control and had not paid too much thought on what I would do, in the event they would occur! My fault.

A Day Off The Grid Problems!

A day off the grid, it may be a lot of things. It may become one of the most productive days ever, or a source of constant problems. It is a matter of handling! When you have foreseen such events and have a small contingency plan in place you are not frustrated too much. Because you can choose to implement some one or more from the numerous tasks, can be done without an internet connection. The problem usually comes, when you have time-critical tasks, no susceptible to delays. You know the tasks, I’m talking about; they usually have strict deadlines and demand much attention in doing them. These are the tasks that suffer more from a power surge, failure or a lack of internet connection.

The absence of an internet connection today means that you cannot:

  • send your article, post, paper to its destination on time,
  • browse for find or verify resources,
  • search for case studies of interest
  • cross-reference approaches, ideas, tools,
  • communicate properly with your associates and collaborators in different companies,
  • code or develop a piece of software, material or anything else without the protection of the source repository or of the content management system (if you do not like to do the same job twice!),
  • collaborate online with the other partners of a project,
  • work together on the same resources,
  • etc

All these tasks seem normal today, but 15-20 years ago were not! The Internet usage was not so widespread and its usage was either for finding some (limited) resources, for browsing, and for downloading some stuff! People were more accustomed to working on stand-alone computers without internet access! Today a computer without network and internet capability considered as a low-low-tech equipment! Most of our work today happen in the web or aided by that! That’s why we have many problems, today, to work without the internet!

A Day Off The Grid BDA Plan!

The day off the grid make me consider a small “what-if” (contingency!) personal plan (or a personal crisis management plan, if you like) for the next time I would have a problem with all my internet access. My small exercise comprised of 3 parts; the pre- and online activities; the during the day off the grid activities; and the after the day off the grid tasks. I call it BDA (as you would notice, I love acronyms!). In essence, it consists of 3 phases:

Before (pre- and online activities)

  • Start to think strategically in every situation (especially in the face of limited or none existed resources) and turn your losses in gains, by improvisation, innovation, and creativity! Foster a mindset that permit you to operate in “difficult” situations,
  • Decide to act pro-actively rather than reactively and make it a habit,
  • Analyze what have to be change in your workflow in order to be efficient on all situations,
  • Implement supportive schemes, if needed! For example you are going to need a more strict usage of the labels “online” and “offline” when organizing your tasks, for better and quicker filtering; how to handle the time critical tasks; where to find internet access when you need one in a short period of time, etc
  • Design a small, flexible and solid personal “Day Off The Grid” plan
  • Draft it and test it in virtual situations (test it as if you experience a “Day off the Grid“, selecting for implementation and doing only the tasks from your work-list do no require internet access)
  • Evaluate & refine it
  • Documented it, print it and keep it handy either electronically or/and physically!

During “the day off the grid” activities

  • Shift focus and operation mode from dual mode (online & offline) to single mode (offline only),
  • For the offline tasks
    • Organize and prioritize the offline tasks
    • Reschedule the not important ones
    • Focus on the urgent offline tasks and start doing them accordingly,
    • Follow through your task list until your connection is restored!
    • Evaluate your progress against your time schedule
    • Re-schedule if necessary
  • For the time critical online tasks
    • Allocate critical time for accomplishing the offline part of the task (i.e. to do the draft, the report required, the memo, the code, the design, or any other item!); schedule more marginal time (perhaps for commuting to a friend or to an internet cafe for sending your work to its destination!) to compensate the time lost due to the lack of internet connection; add it to the task completion time and draft a small “time budget” for the certain task! Schedule accordingly and in relation to the other tasks should be performed.
    • Start doing it with high priority, especially when it has a time tag on it and respecting the existing deadlines.
    • Prepare offline all the supporting items would needed for accomplishing the tasks (i.e. images, logos, introduction or cover page, etc)
    • (when all the material – main and supportive – completed) do the action you have schedule for sending your work on time to its recipients.
  • After the day off the grid tasks
    • Review the process you done and find the possible errors or bottlenecks in the workflow
    • Refine it, finding better alternative or ways of implementation (i.e. consider to use templates and shortcuts for faster implementation of some offline tasks, without losing quality)
    • Tweak the process and try to enhance it if possible
    • Document it again, inserting all the new elements and print it again (version it, if needed!).

Question: How would you handle a day off the grid? What would you do in  a day off the grid in order to accomplish your goals?