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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

The Internet is Toxic, Email is Evil & Other Things I Learned on Sabbatical

Written By: Carol Roth | 10 Comments

I am back after a couple of weeks off and it was truly amazing (and necessary).  I planned to spend time on both strategy and “R&R”, but listened to my body and knew that I needed to spend more time on the rest & relaxation side.

Amidst my doing very little, I actually learned a lot.  I wanted to share some of the revelations I learned and lessons that were reinforced while I took the time to recharge my battery:

The Internet is Toxic: It’s amazing how much information that you read online can put you in a bad mood.  While I intended to be mostly “unplugged”, I did go online from time to time, and often found what I was reading putting me into a questionable mental state.  As my friend Tim Sanders says, be aware of your brain diet.  What goes into your head can have a profound effect on your state of mind and your work output.  Shut it off if you need to.

Fortunately I have decent self control and am going to be making it a priority to actually shut down my browsers for a good part of my work day, because if they are up, it’s too tempting to “go surfing”.  If you can’t trust yourself, Barry Moltz told me about the “Self Control app” that blocks access to emails and selected websites (like Twitter and Facebook) for a pre-determined amount of time.

Email is Evil: I am sure you have heard about how much time is wasted on email ad nauseum, but I really didn’t appreciate it fully until this week.  I took the time to unsubscribe from sources that I am not interested in and those I am but never get around to reading.  I also was amazed that when I told folks I wasn’t available, my daily email decreased around 75%.  That’s powerful.

I use Outlook for my calendar, so I can’t shut it down like I can browser.  However, I have changed the frequency of when it checks for messages to just a few times a day.

Some People Don’t Care: No matter what you tell other people (i.e. I am not available), some people are pushy and just don’t care.  If you are a people pleaser, you need to recognize that you need to stick to your systems every day and not let others get in the way.  If they don’t want to respect your rules, don’t let that knock you off track.  They’ll be there when you are ready to get to them or they are not worth it.

Blocking Tasks: When I write, I tend to do it prolifically. The same goes for other tasks.  You will get so much more done if you schedule out chunks of time for a specific activity (for example, I tend to write 10 or more blog posts in one sitting).  Then, when you are done, you can take a break to go on Twitter, make a phone call or do whatever else it is that you need to do.  Try to carve out longer chunks of time to focus- you will be amazed at how much you get done versus moving back and forth quickly between tasks.

Setting Limits: There are a number of activities that I do that are important to my platform and business, but that take up quite a bit of time and are longer-term in nature (code for does not produce immediate revenue).  These are things like meeting new people via phone or in person, media interviews, etc.   I have decided to set even more strict limits on these activities than before.  That means only a couple of each per week, no matter what.  Once the quota is filled, it’s filled.  This will ensure that I keep a balance between short-term and long-term efforts in my business.  If you have tasks that are taking up far too much time, but are still important, try to set some limits.

I hope you can take away some good tips from my experience and stay tuned for a listing from the community next week on ways to recharge your own battery.

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
  • Huge deal! Glad you had some real renewal time Carol. I totally agree that that the web can massively interrupt your brain from functioning well.. and can definitely influence moods. Keeping control of that stuff is huge. I actually take 20-30 minute unplug breaks in the middle of the day to just… stop firing off mental missiles.

    This post reminded me a lot of Tim Ferriss 😉 ! Glad you’re back.

  • I couldn’t wait for this post. Knew it’d have some shiny nuggets and indeed it does. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  • After reading Tony Schwartz’s book “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working”, I now work in 90-minute chunks of time. It has so helped me to become more focused.

    I’m more creative before noon, so I push all my writing to the early morning hours (well, I actually use Dragon Naturally Speaking to crank out content). Then, like interval training, I go hard for 90-mins, blocking out everything, then “rest” for 30-mins. Rest could be checking email, reading blogs, twittering. Or, it could mean actual rest, such as praying, napping, whatever.

    Since changing my schedule to work in 90-min blocks, I’ve published one book, cranked out the manuscript for 2 more and finished 2 homestudy programs. It’s all about removing distractions and I’ve finally found a way to do so.

  • So glad you took time off Carol. You’ve been working so hard! Since I have moved to the farm and been almost totally disconnected, I cannot believe what’s shifting – notably, a reconnection and awareness of what really matters. It is making it more difficult for me to keep up w/ social media, email and my blog, so I still have to figure out that piece. Welcome back!

  • Greg Hartle

    Glad to have a well-rested, energetic, boisterous, and brilliant Carol back with us! Thanks for sharing.

  • AMEN – what a great post! Glad you took a break, Carol — glad you’re back, and I’ll be watching for that next post on best ways to recharge our batteries!

  • Yes! So worth learning (again and again). Thanks for the reminder!

  • This was a lesson I had to learn a while back. Because I can consume a lot of info in a short amount of time, I found myself subscribed to over 150 email newsletters (and yes, I was reading them). But then I recognized how much info I was taking in, and how little of it I really needed. I’m blessed to have very smart friends, so I took a page from Einstein’s book and stopped worrying about “remembering my phone number”.

    Now, I’m reading only the stuff that’s applicable to where I’m at right now. And yes, that means a lot of current events stuff slides off my plate – but my smart, connected friends have a knack for keeping me in the loop on the mission critical stuff.

    Like Leesa, i work in chunks – albeit mine are usually about half as long as Leesa’s, since I’ve got the 5yo under foot most days. I do make a plan for one or two “marathon” days each month where it’s just me, no distractions. Amazing what can be done in uninterrupted time.

    And yes, R&R. I’ve had to make it a daily practice or I lose my noodle. 15-20 mins every morning, and another 20 mins every evening. When I skip it, it shows. Ask my family. 🙂

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