What going off the grid taught me about my job

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 19

Last week was awesome: it was our annual family summer vacation and this year we not only took along Kate’s son, but also Kate’s brother to a week-long trek through Door County, Wisconsin. As we normally do, we rented a house for the week and used it as a base to truck around the county — one that has the third largest amount of shoreline in the United States.

There is a catch, of course, for all that great vacation time: AT&T’s network in the county sucks. I mean seriously sucks. If you are fortunate to get a signal, you get the “E” extended network, not the “3G” fast network. You know those Verizon commercials where they say their 3G network blows AT&T’s 3G network coverage away? Well it is true: AT&T countering with 97% coverage of the US is not equal to 97% of coverage for the 3G network. No.

In effect, I was off the grid for a week, save one trip to Kick’s Coffee to do a little money transferring for some caffeinated brew. Here’s what I learned:

Off the grid is loss of information

First, there is the whole issue of just getting news. When it takes four minutes to load one screen on an iPhone just to get the weather, it isn’t like you will be going out and surfing the Internet instead of Lake Michigan. Since I get almost all my news via the Internet, it was a complete withdrawal. I didn’t even know BP capped the oil leak in the Gulf until I got home. That is how out of touch I was with anything outside of the here and now of vacation.

I liked that a lot!

But it also highlighted how much Kate and I use the Internet to stay in touch with people — e-mail, Facebook and other social media can’t really be used when the connections are so horrible. I took along my iPad that has wireless network connectivity, but only used it for Kindle reading (great application…) because there was no WiFi in the house we were staying and buying wireless on the AT&T Extended network would be like dealing with a 1200 baud modem.

Off the grid means a big backlog back at work

Returning to the work world on Monday means there is a huge backlog of e-mail, comments here on the site, and total lack of focus while I process all of the stuff and get it in the right places to take action.

It shows you really need to have a system for recovering after a vacation so you don’t totally stress out the first day back at work and lose all that vacation goodness in the first two hours of returning to work.

Off the grid provides gains in perspective

The big work takeaway from the vacation, though, was a lot of things have settled in my head about the direction to take on a bunch of projects I’m working on right now that have been stuck. Do I really want to do this? Or should I do that? Is this more important than this other thing? Or should I throw them both out for something later? What is it, exactly, that I want to do and how do I set up systems to do it?

When you have a hundred things to do and nothing on the hundred things to do list look inspiring, you need some perspective. And that, I got.

In leaving Door County and turning in the keys to the house for the agency, the person behind the counter noted that this week the owner was putting in DirecTV, compared to the single channel we got on the analog TV with the digital tuner — which we only watched for the weather and the radar for storms.

I’d prefer WiFi. Would you?