I’m in the process of creating a new blog, Offlining, which will deal with my experiments in “offlining” (yep, a new neologism) — the practice of disconnecting from some or all of the network in order to increase productivity and life satisfaction while maintaining the killer connectivity which has enriched all our lives.

Offlining isn’t merely the luddite response of removing the Network from swaths of your life. I continue to believe the Network-with-a-capital-N will save the world, and has the power to transform our politics, enrich our lives, improve our standard of living, and generally save the planet.

But the Network can also be an incredibly destructive thing. It makes tasks jump queue, it lets ambient information draw you away from important goals, and gives precedence to event-driven information over more static forms of understanding.

Offlining seeks to maximize the strengths of the network while reducing its horrors. And it does that by being smarter about technology rather than avoiding it altogether.

Examples? It’s learning to take notes on your qwerty cellphone at the library so that you don’t get sucked into laptop world. It’s setting a hard rule that you don’t read email before you have accomplished at least one significant thing in the morning. It’s letting friends know they have to email you by six if they want to make evening plans so that you’re not constantly looking at your cell phone to see if there is something better to do.

In short, it’s an umbrella term for those lifehacks we’ve all been developing for the past couple of years to help us engage with the Network on our own terms rather than be swallowed by it.

I think the idea is related to the PLE concept, so I will cross-post much of my experiments with offlining here, but the main action will be at the Offlining Site.

Let me know if I’m crazy in the comments.

And yes, I am starting this project not to convert people to a way of life I live, but to experiment with changes to my life — I am one of the worst of the online lot.

3 thoughts on “Offlining

  1. Mike, not sure I totally love the word itself (I’ll get over it) but the concept itself is right on the money. I see this a lot right now; people who deeply get the network and its potential looking for ways to keep perspective and balance, as you say, not in a Luddite way but in a way that uses the technology well instead of it using them badly.

    And I think connecting it to the PLE is absolutely right as well; to do a PLE well you do need to have put in the work to cultivate a network, and yet for it to work for you, you also need to keep focused on what you need to do. Just like the PLE, you could organize your ‘offlining’ tips both around specific technologies but also more generally, for just as with the PLE, there is not one single technology where this practice is important but across one’s entire experience. Look forward to reading more about this, cheers, Scott

  2. Yeah, the term is a mixed bag. The original term was Offline Thinking, which I discussed about a year ago here. But I started to think — well, it’s more about an approach than a way of thinking… we’ll see. Maybe I’m too flush from the success of Edupunk 😉

    I see this in so many places in the past couple of years, from Ferris’s 4-hour work week, to the “email bankruptcy” discussions, to the proliferation of lifehacks that get you away from the keyboard to the more grating commentary by Nick Carr (although I have not read the Google article yet). I think you’ve expressed precisely what is important in this discussion which is that we keep it a conversation about how to structure technology use rather than the “Internet Scary. Kids can’t focus. Civilization doomed.” argument (an argument that finds it’s interlocutor in the equally ignorant “let’s worship all millennial habits” crowd).

    There’s just so many places where this comes up — after years of training myself not to print (I now use probably one package of paper a year, and only because of needing meeting agendas and the like) is it time to reconsider printing something out and getting a coffee somewhere with it? Or is the smart move to mail it to your Kindle and take that to Dunkin Donuts?

    I’m going to start playing around with the idea, try some experiments. If you or anyone else wants to pursue experiments of your own, let me know and we’ll cross-link or multi-blog or something.

  3. Mike, I like this concept of offlining! I’m going to keep thinking about it and see what experiments I can up with and report back on.
    I fall down the rabbit hole pretty often when I’m online…you come across one brilliant person doing interesting stuff with social media and there goes the whole morning watching their YouTube videos, exploring their bookmarks, trying to figure out to use the neat stuff they’re working with (Michael Wesch and Howard Rheingold are recent culprits). I’m trying to learn that there’s no such thing as just a quick check of my email before I do less interesting stuff. There’s always one more thing to look up or respond to, and it’s best if, as you note, some of the significant offline work gets done before I go to the computer.

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