I make my living and support my family’s livelihood using “The Internet” yet have none of my own.
Getting rid of our internet connection at home, more than any other change we’ve made in our personal lives, has friends and family flabbergasted. The most common reaction we hear is “Wow! Wait, really?” followed by “Why?!”
I’m part of the Millennial generation that centers our lives around the internet. I do remember a world without the internet, but just barely—my early childhood memories include the thrilling sound of dialing up to the world wide web.
Today, 95% of the US population uses the internet on a regular basis (which is a mind-boggling number considering only 70% of Americans brush their teeth twice a day).
I wasn’t always internet-free. I, just like everyone else, got high-speed internet at home so I could enjoy Netflix, work in my PJs, and geek out on smart home technology.
But then, my wife and I canceled our internet in May of this year (2019).
Your Environment Determines Your Success (or Lack Thereof)
I haven’t read Benjamin Hardy’s Willpower Doesn’t Work yet, but the title rings true.
In a fascinating study of the eating habits of nutrition experts, Dr. Brian Wansink from Cornell University discovered that when given a larger spoon, they served themselves 31% more food.
In other words, even the experts who logically knew how much they should be eating accidentally started overeating because of one small factor in their environment.
How many small factors could be determining your own success, working against you without your knowledge? What tweaks can you make to your environment to ensure success and improve your productivity?
In Dr. Wansink’s case, he recommends eating with chopsticks. The practice sounds a bit unusual at first, but intentional inconvenience is an underrated practice for getting what you want.
In my case, the fact that I don’t have internet at home is the reason you’re reading this article right now.
For the bulk of two years, I’ve wanted to get back into writing on a regular basis. I had a few false starts, but I knew that writing was one of the most important habits for continuing my personal and professional growth.
It felt like I had no time, but we all have 24 hours in each day. I knew my time was going somewhere, and I had a hunch that mindless Netflix binges were part of the problem.
What Would You Do With An Extra Hour Each Day?
If I asked you to make a list of what you wish you did more of last year, I imagine it would look a lot like mine. I wish I did more:
- Spending quality time with friends
Do you notice how none of these habits require internet access?
I was inspired to rethink my own internet use after reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, but he does provide a careful warning on the consequences of a “digital declutter” (or detox):
You’re more likely to succeed in reducing the role of digital tools in your life if you cultivate high-quality alternatives to the easy distraction they provide. For many people, their compulsive phone use papers over a void created by a lack of a well-developed leisure life. Reducing the easy distraction without also filling the void can make life unpleasantly stale—an outcome likely to undermine any transition to minimalism.
My wife and I definitely found this to be the case when we canceled our internet. The first few weeks were a bit awkward, with odd gaps in our routine where we didn’t have Netflix or YouTube distractions, and we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves—but that didn’t last long.
We revisited our life plans together, planned more family adventures, and started talking daily about new ways to save money and pay off our remaining debt.
We saved a bit of money just by canceling internet, but then we sold our smart home devices. With a few budget adjustments, we doubled our weekly “squanderbucks” while still paying down nearly $2,000 per month in debt.
At our next quarterly retreat, we had a long list of wins. We both agreed this was our best quarter yet!
We ate better, slept more, and played more than any other time in the last several years, which paid off. We consistently kept a weekly coffee date (for planning) and date night (for fun), we doubled our net worth, and I started writing again.
I expected this lifestyle change to be difficult. I expected it to be inconvenient. Honestly? It’s been easier than my wife and I expected, and we can’t imagine going back.
Your environment determines your behavior. If you want to change any habits, start by looking around. See what you can do to make your desired behavior easier to obtain.
This is one small way you can systemize success in your personal life.
Here are a few questions for reflection to get you started:
- What does success look like? In other words, what do you wish you could do more of, or do better? Alternatively, what do you want to avoid, or do less of?
- What steps can you take to achieve that success?
- Is there anything in your environment that currently discourages your desired behavior?
- What could you add to your environment to encourage your desired behavior?
Question: How can you change your environment to make it easier for you to achieve your personal definition of success?