We've all been there. You're working from home, when all of a sudden the WiFi cuts out. You're about to step into the subway or take off in a plane, when you realize you forgot your book and don't have anything to do on your trip. You're at the office, totally on a roll working on a project and out of nowhere ... EVERYTHING STOPS LOADING.
Cue minor panic attack.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we can sometimes feel a little ... lost or panicked when we don't have access to the internet -- especially if it's unplanned. We spend a lot of time on the internet these days: 21% of Americans say they're online "almost constantly," according to a Pew Research Center survey.
We're so accustomed to our hyperconnected world that being separated from the internet can stress us out. Seems counterintuitive, doesn't it?
But believe it or not, there are ways to stay productive without internet access. Whether you're at home, at the office, or traveling, here are a few ideas for what you can do without an internet connection. (You may want to print this one out.)
12 Ways to Stay Productive Without Internet
1) Read articles offline.
Most of the time, when we read articles, we're browsing through them online. But there are a lot of ways you can read the articles you want without an internet connection -- it just takes a little bit of preparation ahead of time.
Pocket is my favorite free app for saving all the articles I stumble on when I don't have time to read them. This allows me to easily catch up on them later -- like when I don't have internet. The app lets you save articles, videos, and images either from your browser or from over 1,500 apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite. When you find yourself with some time to read, you can open the app and browse the articles you've saved at your leisure -- even without an internet connection.
The Google Play Newsstand app, which is available for both iOS and Android, is another good app for downloading newspapers and magazines, which you can then go back and read even when you don't have an internet connection. Instead of saving individual articles, it saves entire publications and downloads new content as it comes in when you do have internet. In other words, it's a single place where you can keep all of your free and paid subscriptions. Most importantly for our purposes, the RSS feeds, magazines, and newspapers on the app can be downloaded for offline reading later.
2) Listen to podcasts offline.
When you have the luxury of a good internet connection and you want to listen to a podcast, you can always stream it so it won't be stored on your device. But if you don't have an internet connection, you can still listen to podcast episodes -- again, it just takes a little preparation.
On Apple's Podcasts app (which you can download from iTunes if it's not already on your iOS device), you can download (or "save") individual podcast episodes to listen to later. This'll store them directly on your device so you can listen to them whether or not you have an internet connection. So, to prepare for your commute or other times when you won't have internet, we recommend saving a bunch of podcast episodes ahead of time.
To save an episode in the Podcast app: Find the podcast episode you're looking for, and click the three dots to the right of the podcast's title. Choose "Save episode" in the menu that appears. This will prompt the download to begin, which could take up to a few minutes to complete. Once the podcast is downloaded, you'll be able to access it on or offline under the "My Podcasts" tab.
If you have an Android device, there are a few different ways to listen to podcasts online and offline. Our favorite is the Stitcher app. In what they call "offline mode," you can listen to previously downloaded podcast episodes without an internet connection. You can either download these episodes individually, or you can set Stitcher to download new episodes of podcasts you're subscribed to when you do have internet. (Read this blog post to learn more about how to subscribe to podcasts using the Podcast and Stitcher apps.)
3) Do a "brain dump" writing exercise.
It can be difficult to find time in our busy lives for creativity exercises that seem "extra" -- like a brain dump. But times when the internet isn't there to distract you can be the perfect excuse to spend some time digging in to your subconscious and letting that creativity flow freely.
What exactly is a brain dump, you ask? Here's how it works: Open up a new document on your computer or even a good ol' notebook, and start writing down anything that's on your mind. You can do a focused brain dump where you pick a specific topic and run with it, or you can do a general brain dump where you literally write down anything that's on your mind and see where it leads you. Don't worry if your ideas are all over the place -- that's the whole point. Just let it out. No structure necessary.
Once you reach a good breaking point, take a look at what you've written and see if you can start to group your thoughts together by category, and pick out which ideas could be actionable. Then, you can start prioritizing them, making a to-do list, and thinking about who could execute on each item.
4) Come up with a few weeks' worth of blog topics.
While you won't be able to do any keyword research without an internet connection, it's still a great time to brainstorm and get creative with blog post topics. You can always do keyword research later.
My colleague Ginny Soskey wrote a great blog post about how to come up with a year's worth of blog post topics in an hour. In her post, she suggests starting off with one topic, and then iterating on it by changing the topic scope, the time frame, and the audience. You can also introduce new formats to that first topic -- so a title like "The Ultimate Guide to Twitter Marketing" could easily become "The Ultimate Twitter Marketing Checklist" or "The Ultimate Guide to Twitter Marketing [Infographic]".
You can also come up with blog post topics by listing out questions your buyer personas might ask. If you're at the office when your internet goes out, you could even swing by the desks of your colleagues in Sales or Services to ask them which questions customers and prospects ask them.
5) Interact with other humans.
What a concept! One of the best things about not having internet is having the excuse to look up from your computer, your phone, or your other devices and spend quality time with the people around you.
Of course, how you interact with the people around you depends entirely on where you are when you don't have internet. If you're on a subway or an airplane, you may not feel comfortable striking up a conversation with a stranger. (Although I've actually made some great connections with people who were, at one point, strangers sitting next to me on my flight.)
But if the internet goes out at work, why not take advantage of the downtime by spending some time with your coworkers? After all, according to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report, strong social connections at the office can make you happier and more productive -- and can even make you feel more passionate about your work and less likely to quit. You might also benefit from more professional development support and better feedback. (Check out this infographic from Officevibe for more statistics on why workplace friendships matter.)
Whether you use the time to grab coffee with a coworker for fun or chat with someone about your latest idea, a little human-to-human interaction can go a long way.
6) Hold an impromptu staff meeting.
Did your internet go out while everyone's at the office? If you like the idea of interacting with other humans but want to keep things work-focused, then an internet outage could be the perfect time to get the team together to brainstorm, catch up on the status of everyone's projects, or discuss schedules or issues that you may not normally have time to catch up on.
7) Take some time to relax.
When you don't have internet ... why not use the time to take a break and relax? It may not seem like a productive use of time now, but taking breaks has actually been proven to improve your productivity later by increasing alertness, concentration, and work speed.
Take a walk, take a nap, or grab coffee with a coworker and talk about things other than work. Meditating is also a great way to spend a break: We recommend the free app Headspace (available for iOS and Android), which will guide you through the basics of meditation in only ten minutes. (Read this blog post for more ideas on how to do your best work by unplugging.)
8) Make some phone calls.
Think about all the calls you need to make but just haven't been able to prioritize. Need to schedule a haircut appointment? A doctor's appointment? A vet checkup for your dog? For goodness sake, when was the last time you called your mom? If your internet is down but you still have cell reception, take some time to check a few of these calls off the list.
9) Make a playlist.
A lot of people out there listen to music while they work because it helps them stay "in the zone." This works because when we listen to music we like, the part of our brains called the nucleus accumbent activates, which releases dopamine: the motivation and pleasure chemical.
Depending on how you listen to music, you may not be able to access the songs themselves when you're offline -- but in many cases, you can still make a playlist without an internet connection. If you use iTunes and have already downloaded the music you want to select from, you can make a new playlist at any time, whether or not you're offline. If you use Spotify, the "offline mode" feature is only available to premium subscribers. If you're a premium subscriber, you can make and listen to playlists offline -- but the catch is that you do need to go onto the internet at least once every thirty days to maintain your offline music settings.
Not sure which songs to put into your new playlist? Get started by reading this blog post that lists six psychology-backed playlists for improving your productivity.
10) Play around with Photoshop.
Every marketer should have at least a base level of design knowledge. While mastering an eye for design is one thing, marketers would be wise to invest time in mastering the software applications needed to do the actual design work. But software applications like Photoshop (or Illustrator, or InDesign) can be scary. And just getting started is easier said than done.
If you don't have internet and already have one or more of these software applications downloaded on your computer, you might as well spend some time playing around with them. Online tutorials like our Photoshop tutorial are certainly helpful when you're learning, but there's plenty you can teach yourself -- and it's actually pretty easy to teach yourself once you let go of the fear and intimidation you might feel in the face of learning a brand new program.
11) Write a few thank-you notes.
While you're unplugged, why not take some time to handwrite a few thank-you notes to people who have made a difference? It's a way to distinguish yourself in our increasingly informal, digital world.
Even if you don't have any stationary handy, the hardest part about writing a thank-you note is that you don't know what to write. Write a draft on a piece of paper, which you can transcribe onto a nicer piece of stationary when you get your hands on some. Here's a thank-you note template from Hallmark to help you get started.
12) Read a book.
I couldn't write a blog post about how to be productive without internet without including a section on reading a book. You already know that reading books is a great way to learn new things and be productive -- it's just a matter of finding the time.
And "deep reading" is different from the often superficial reading we do when we read online articles. According to TIME Magazine, "deep reading -- slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity -- is a distinctive experience, different in kind from the mere decoding of words. Although deep reading does not, strictly speaking, require a conventional book, the built-in limits of the printed page are uniquely conducive to the deep reading experience. A book’s lack of hyperlinks, for example, frees the reader from making decisions -- Should I click on this link or not? -- allowing her to remain fully immersed in the narrative."
So whether you're on an airplane that doesn't have WiFi or your internet goes out unexpectedly, spend some time doing some "deep reading" if you have a book handy.
How else do you stay productive without internet? Share with us in the comments.