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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Killing the Internet at Home Is the Most Productive Thing I’ve Ever Done

Photo by Adam Dressler

Earlier this year I made the conscious decision to remove all internet service from my apartment. It ended up being the best decision I ever made with respect to productivity.

Why Kill the Internet?

Why did I get rid of the internet at home?

Well, there is one primary reason: I was not content with my productivity. I felt I could do more meaningful things than spend time on the internet—meaningful things like write, exercise, contribute to others, establish connections with new people, and strengthen existing relationships.

This doesn’t mean I think the internet is evil or bad or wrong (obviously it’s not). The internet is an amazing tool, one that has changed my life for the better. Also, I think it’s OK to watch the occasional funny video or spend some time on Facebook and Twitter (especially if you follow me on Twitter).

The internet is not evil, just like candy is not evil. But if your entire diet consists of candy, you get sick and fat fairly quickly. Thus, I don’t keep bags of candy at home, just like I don’t keep the internet at home anymore either.

How to Kill the Internet?

But you run a popular website, how could you possibly go without internet service at home?

I get that question a lot, especially in person. And people are genuinely shocked when they find out I don’t have an internet connection at home.

But my answer is an easy one: I plan my internet use. I don’t do so in an organized way—it’s not like I say, “OK, I’ll be on Twitter from 2pm to 4pm next Thursday.” Instead, if I see something I want to look up on the internet, I write it down (in my phone) and use that list when I have access to an internet connection (see additional tips below).

Now I’m forced to leave the house to access the internet. So I’ll go to the library or to a coffee shop or some other place with free public WiFi, and I’ll grab a cup of coffee or something to eat and do all the stuff I need to do online (publish writing, check email, read blogs, get on goofy websites, etc.). Additionally, because I’m out of the house and there are people around, I meet new people. I’ve met quite a few new friends this way (bonus!).

But I Can’t. I Need the Internet!

I know what you’re thinking, so let me address it now. You’re thinking: But you’re a writer, Joshua, and that’s why it made sense for you!

And you’re thinking: I need the internet for homework/work-work/Netflix/online dating/online gaming/updating my Facebook status/playing Farmville/surfing eBay for shit I don’t need/stalking my high school boyfriend/etc./etc.

But you don’t! And it’s time to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself.

Really, you don’t need the internet at home. Since I got rid of the internet, my life has been better. The time I wasted before is mine again—I was able to reclaim that time. No longer am I taking unconscious breaks from my life to watch YouTube videos or movie trailers or look at funny pictures on some random site.

Now, when I’m on the internet, it has a purpose—it is a tool I use to enhance my life. Sure, sometimes I get on to watch some funny videos or laugh at Damn You Autocorrect, but I go to the internet with the intention of doing these silly things, and sometimes I get value (i.e., I laugh) from some of those silly things.

Whenever I’m on the internet now, I use it in a very deliberate way, in a way that benefits me and my life, a way that adds value to my life.

Benefits of No Home Internet

When I got rid of the internet at home, I did it mostly so I could focus on writing without distractions. But I found so many extra benefits since I got rid of the internet:

  • My time at home is more peaceful now, as if my home is a sanctuary.
  • I do more meaningful things with my time.
  • I have more time to read.
  • I have more time to write.
  • I have more time to think.
  • I have more time for friends.
  • I have more time to exercise.
  • I have more time to walk.
  • I am less distracted.
  • I am less stressed.
  • My thoughts are clearer and less fragmented.
  • I no longer crave the internet like I once did.
  • My mind is more focused on meaningful things.
  • I don’t have an internet bill, and that saves me money.

Tips For More Deliberate Internet Use

To make this possible, here are some of my tips to help you use the internet in a deliberate, more productive way (this is what I do):

  • Check email two or three times per week (or no more than once a day).
  • Use your phone to update/check Twitter and Facebook.
  • “Favorite” things on Twitter for future viewing.
  • Use your phone to send short emails.
  • Keep a list of what you want to do on the internet (watch videos, listen to songs, stuff you want to read, etc.).
  • Subscribe to your favorite websites and blogs via email, so they come directly to your inbox. (You can subscribe to our website via email here.)
  • Give yourself one or two hours per week to just goof-off on the internet (make it a treat, like that piece of candy).

Trial — Just Do It!

You’re probably still thinking: that’s great for you, Joshua, but I could never do it!

So, to that I say, don’t kill your internet, but do this instead:

Do a 30-day trial. Take your modem and get it out of the house—take it to work, take it to a friend’s house, or do whatever you need to do get it out of the house for 30 days, just make sure you don’t have access to it.

You will hate it at first. You’ll want to get online to do something stupid and you won’t be able to. Then you’ll want to get online to do something “important” but you won’t be able to do that either. It’s just like quitting smoking, you’ll have a craving to get on the ‘net, and it will take a while to get rid of that craving (that’s why I recommend at least 30 days).

You will be frustrated at first—very, very frustrated at times—but you will live, and your life will be better without it, you will be able to do more meaningful things, and you will remove some of the discontent from your life.

Do the trial. What do you have to lose?