The Problem Of Being “Unplugged”

Last week I got back from an absolutely excellent four and a half week road trip across the USA.

Since I started online in 2010 it was the longest time I have (almost) completely “unplugged” from business by taking an extended period of time off.

This said, I did post Facebook photo updates on most days:

The first thing to say is that I feel very fortunate to be able to do something like this and I don’t take it for granted.

In the past it just wouldn’t have been possible to get my employer’s permission for such a trip and obviously then there’s the cost side of things, hotels, car rental, flights, meals and so on…

Running any kind of business can be pretty intensive experience and after a while it can be hard to make out the wood from the trees. In this respect, taking a break can be a great thing to do.

To me however, there is one significant downside, particularly if you go on a longer trip as I have just done.

It’s all to do with…  


The so-called “internet lifestyle” we are told, typically consists of things like this:

  • Fire your boss
  • Live life on your own terms
  • Passive income
  • No more 9-5 routine (Work only a few hours per week)

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you’ll know I’m always going on about the “time and effort” which is required to have a successful and profitable online experience.

The rewards can be fantastic but equally “the dream” peddled by a lot of the purveyors of “business opportunities” out there is, well really just that. It’s a bit of a mirage!

Specifically, leaving the 9-5 routine can be so appealing but the funny thing is we are actually creatures of habit.

This means that breaking away from routine too much can cause problems.

Unplugging and being away on the road trip has reminded me of how important this is.

After getting back everything seems harder! Here are some examples of what I’ve experienced during the last few days:

  • I recorded a short tutorial video for a client. Instead of doing this in one take (which is nearly always the case), I made simple mistakes and it took three takes.
  • Writing this blog post is taking probably 3-4 times longer than it normally would. And I’m finding writing more difficult.
  • My sense of overwhelm (stress?) in terms of getting stuck the new projects I want to is significantly greater. My brain is perceiving the challenges as larger mountains to climb.

Perhaps short breaks such as long weekends or maybe a week or two off are actually better. Certainly, I’ve found a big difference compared to taking 4+ weeks off.

Either way it’s certainly true that if you don’t use it you lose it.

I wanted to write about this because I feel these kinds of issues are rarely talked about. If you listen to most people you’d get the impression everything is simple and easy for them.

But of course, a lot of mistakes and difficulties are actually concealed!

The good news is that it doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things and “doing a little bit often” makes the world of difference to your progress.

But you’ve got to attack it, take regular action and expand your comfort zone.

I’ve seen this in other fields too. A long time ago when I used to teach guitar the students who did the best were the ones who did 20 minutes practice per day. These people always made much faster progress than those who did nothing all week and then blitzed a 6 hour session on a Saturday.

So by all means break that 9-5 work habit.

I did and it’s so liberating.

But equally remember that we are all creatures of habit so you’ll make your goals so much easier to attain if you persist with consistent and steady action.

In short, routine is good!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on this. As always, it’s fine to agree or disagree! Please LIKE/TWEET if you found this useful and drop a comment below… 🙂

34 Responses to The Problem Of Being “Unplugged”

  1. Graham Bray May 12, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Hi Rob,

    Glad you’re back safe and sound. Where did those extra 12 pounds come from?

    I totally agree with you about routines. Occasionally I get time at home when I can spend a day working on my internet stuff (the luxuries of half-term!). I know that if I don’t get a good early start and structure my day then I won’t be as productive as I could have been. On the other hand, I do find that with a well structured day at home I know that I can achieve far more than I ever do in my day job (please don’t tell my boss).

    Best wishes,


    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Hi Graham,

      Good to hear from you and thanks for your thoughts on this – I completely concur with what you say.

      The 12 pounds was generally from eating out pretty much all the time and (I’m afraid to say) too many snacks whilst driving… It’s starting to come off already though I’m pleased to say 🙂

      Cheers, Rob.

  2. Richard Rodriquez May 12, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Hi Rob and Welcome back I really hoped that you enjoyed your trip.
    The thing with breaks long or short if your mind and body needs it then go for it.
    However it should never be a complete break. ie you should always have access to your business and contacts. partly because your mind try’s to fill in the gaps.
    Even On a long trip as long as you are able to switch off for a day or two and then resume.
    However number two If the motive is complete reassessment then try and forget it for much longer periods and make a note of how you are feeling every time your business pops into your mind.
    Any way I am glad that you have had a well earned rest.

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

      Thank you for your thoughts Richard, much appreciated and very wise words.

      I think you are absolutely right, it does depend upon what you want to achieve. At the end of the day we all need a break from time to time and, if you can do it, extended ones are well worth taking even if it’s a little tricky getting back into the groove when you return.

      All the best, Rob

  3. James May 12, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    I agree – whether internet business owners or not, one of the shared characteristics of the most successful people in any field is adherence to their routine. Discipline and consistent action will always win out. It’s like the old fable of the tortoise and the hare – the tortoise always wins.

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

      Excellent comment James and I 100% agree! Slow but steady wins in the medium to long term. It’s also easy to get over excited and burn out in shorter time frames too.

      Thanks for sharing 🙂 Rob

  4. Michael Gorman May 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Hi Rob,
    glad to hear you made it back safe from your American road odyssey! Not sure if you noticed, but I left a comment on nearly each one of your posted photos, I found them quite inspiring actually-such a wonderful country. Yes, the skills we develop with this online virtual workplace are quite ‘high brained’ in the sense they take a lot of focus and concentration-so when you are away from them the shine goes off your skills quite quickly I find-but as you say it does not take long to get them back. I’d be interested to hear which aspects of your business yielded the most financial security for you-the software sales, blog, membership, other IM products? This would be helpful if you don’t mind doing it?
    Cheers and thanks

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment here and also the ones on Facebook 🙂

      That’s an excellent question on financial security. I didn’t actively promote anything while I was away so I was purely relying on passive income from things that I had already set up. Broadly speaking these are:

      – New sales from my existing products I have published around the web
      – Membership site
      – Recurring affiliate products (e.g., Aweber, LeadPages, Hosting etc)

      Promoting products and services which have a recurring billing structure can set you up very nicely if you want to unplug for while. You won’t get the income spikes you can get by promoting new stuff regularly but there’s a lot to be said for “multiple passive recurring income streams”. You’ve given me an idea for another blog post with this!

      Cheers, Rob.

  5. Jo May 12, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Rob, I think you are correct in stating that if a habit is broken it needs to be relearned to get back up to the same amount of time it took when a person was doing the thing religiously. It must have been a great holiday though, probobly worth the amount of time it takes to relearn stuff!


    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Definitely Jo, well worth it and I don’t think it should take many days before I’m back up to full speed (fingers crossed!).

      “Relearning habits” is an excellent way of putting it I think. Pity the bad habits are much easier to learn than the good ones though 🙂

      Cheers, Rob

  6. Jo Macdonald May 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    Welcome Home Rob.
    Sounds like the trip was incredible, treasured memories and well earnt too may I add. I have just returned from 12 nights in Crete, for me it has been hard to get back into the swing of things too and not anywhere the length of time you have been away. I will be starting a plan of action in the morning giving myself the required breaks and action.

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      Sounds lovely Jo!

      I’ve never been to Crete but would love to go in the future. Time for me to settle back into work for a while before that though…

      Good luck with the planning and implementation going forward 🙂

      Cheers, Rob.

  7. Kwesi Ackah May 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Hi Rob
    I’m glad to know you’re back and no doubt refreshed despite the weight gain!
    Many, many thanks for finding the time while away to respond to my various queries and promptly resolve them. Your dedication to customer care is, in my opinion, one in a million.

    Due to several technical and domestic issues, my progress towards getting my website up and running has been rather slow. I’m now ready to spend more time on your comprehensive video tutorials and I confidently look forward to all the help and assistance you can give me as and when I need them.

    Welcome back and God bless.


    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words Kewsi, I appreciate that 🙂

      Keep going on the site, small and consistent action is definitely the way to go!

      Cheers, Rob

  8. Trevor May 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi Rob
    Good to see you back in one piece did you do that on your own rob I
    Did post a few messages on Facebook and those places look really
    Exciting and I no what you mean little and often if you stay on computer for a long time it kind of does your head in but am looking
    Forward to more good stuff
    Cheers rob

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

      Hi Trevor,

      Thanks for your comment and always good to see you here on the blog.

      Definitely got more good stuff coming soon too 😉

      Cheers, Rob

  9. Howard Lee Harkness May 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    I have been on 20 cruises since I started with a low-carb, high-fat diet. On each of those cruises (except the last), I have remained weight-stable, or lost a few lbs. On the last cruise, I ate significantly less than I usually do on a cruise, and gained a couple of lbs. The difference is that I’m experimenting with eating a bit more raw root veggies for the “resistant starch” (mostly carrots & onions this time around, but also a small amount of cold rice), and a slight weight gain is an expected temporary effect. I was also having a problem with some mysterious swelling (possible contact dermatitis) in my face and ears, and was a bit “off my feed” for a few days.

    How do I manage to stay weight-stable or lose while cruising? Trivially easy: No wheat, no sweet. And I eat all the fat (especially butter), protein (especially eggs), and green veggies (mostly asparagus and broccoli) I want. And mostly concern myself about other things besides my diet.

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Wow – 20 cruises Howard! That’s amazing, I hope they give you some kind of “frequent sailor” points?

      That’s very interesting on the food side of things. I wish I’d heard your advice before I went away now (thought of writing an eBook?!). It shouldn’t be a problem though, it will fall off over the next week or three once I get back to regular eating! Er.. Hopefully…

      Thanks for your comment 🙂 Cheers, Rob.

  10. Donna May 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Hey Rob, great road trip. You went to many of my favorite places. Glad you drove up the California coast and made it to San Francisco. This is where I get to spend time every day. Wishing you fast and easy weight loss and easy transition back to work. Personally, I think it’s a great idea to get away for a long period of time. Who cares if it takes a few days or a week to get back into the routine.

    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you 🙂 You are very lucky on that, such a brilliant city and the coast is fantastic. I’ve driven it before but this time I paced myself a little more to taken in the wildlife. It’s raining here in London as I type this so missing the California sunshine already!

      Cheers, Rob

  11. Kim May 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Welcome home Rob

    Looking forward to meeting up again


    • Rob May 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks Kim! Hope all is well with you 🙂


  12. Mike Hardy May 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    HiYa Rob

    I did wonder where you were? Eloped perhaps, sold up and emigrated, been kidnapped by the CIA or just took a one way ticket!

    Glad you a good time and to hell with the weight gain – stress will knock that on the head.

    I guess with any business, you really should have been able to delegate the important stuff like looking after client queries, replying emails and taking messages. You could have hired an remote office PA?

    You will soon recover as reality hits you – like bills to pay and moaning clients. But having said that as you are now able to take time out as you wish – you only live once and life is short. You never know what is around the corner!!

    Good to know that you are back………..

    Cheers – Mike

    • Rob May 13, 2014 at 7:25 am #

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment, always great to hear from you on the blog 🙂

      Outsourcing client support is something I’ve considered but to be honest I don’t find it too time consuming as I have lots of FAQ documents and videos set up plus it helps to keep in touch with what’s going on too. Perhaps in the future though…

      Cheers, Rob.

  13. Alison May 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    Hi Rob, glad to get your emails in the in-box once again 🙂 and as usual with honesty and full disclosure – you are soo right about routine etc and many people hold up a bit if a myth or embellishment about reality. What works for us as small business owners our entire life and also committed travelers is we find taking 2/3 weeks several times a year works best. This means every 3 months we have a break and travel. And yes living in Australia means we will even travel all the way to Europe for just 2weeks – last year 2 weeks in Ireland, rented an apartment in Berlin for 2 weeks year before and of course somewhere in Asia & Australia every year for 2 weeks etc. this recharges the batteries while not becoming too disconnected from running our business.
    Ps totally agree with all Mike above says – don’t worry about the weight gain – it was all for a good cause:)

    • Rob May 13, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      Hi Alison,

      That’s a great plan – I really like the sound of that!

      Good to hear from you and thanks for your reassurance on the weight gain! I’m not really too concerned and like you say, it was definitely well worth it 🙂

      Cheers, Rob

  14. Alex May 13, 2014 at 3:50 am #

    Great advice Rob. Just like you said, something that people rarely talked about but is equally important in achieving results consistently.

    • Rob May 13, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks for your comment and thoughts Alex 🙂 Cheers, Rob

  15. igor Griffiths May 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Well hello Rob, love this post because I know only too well if I am left to my own devices very little gets done.

    From the age of 4 or 5 we are placed into a lifestyle of routine so its really impossible to imagine that we can unpick all that love of routine overnight whilst doing the Internet lifestyle and still getting stuff done.

    We all need routine the difference is that the Internet lifestyle gives us the freedom to pick a routine set by our own values and principles.


    • Rob May 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Igor,

      Excellent points!

      I didn’t begin to tackle the reason why this happens in this post but I think you are absolutely right, it becomes hard wired into us from a very early age.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      Cheers, Rob

  16. Tony May 14, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Hey Rob,

    glad you had a good time. In general agree with what you say and in general is what it applies to, as most of us in some shape or form fall into the “in general” bucket as they say. I’ve been fortunate over the years (since the internet started in anger) in that I’ve had more than a few breaks of 4 weeks or longer where I have not missed it at all after the first few days of yearning for it… it’s a bit like jet lag, once I get over it, I’m over it. Whilst away I still look at email and check up on what’s going on back home etc… but from a work perspective I’m out of it. Your analogy about routine and not doing it of course is true…. I find myself in that position constantly throughout the years and in particular with going to the gym and swimming. I can build up a routine of going 4 or 5 days a week and then either through illness (flu/cold etc…) or going away for a couple of weeks it would probably take me at least 2-3 months before I would even go back again so I guess personally I fight against routine. Horses for courses as they say.

    That said your point about the “mirage” of the online lifestyle and the freedom it will afford you/your family is all very true and sadly for some people they buy the “dream” and further down the line get very frustrated/bitter about it all. From your perspective at least you paint the “eyes wide open” approach rather than many of the “Online Guru’s” who engulf the “eyes wide shut” audience to fulfill their own bank balance…. Still we all live and learn…..after all thats the routine isn’t it!!

    • Rob May 19, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      Hi Tony,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      The gym comparison is very good. I’ve had that myself as well 🙂

      Kind regards,


  17. kingshouse May 15, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Good to have you back to the sunny/rainy climes of England.

    It’s always nice to take time off and be ‘unplugged’

    Looking forward to some new ideas 😉



    • Rob May 19, 2014 at 10:48 am #

      Thanks Kingshouse!

      Definitely a lot more ideas to come in 2014 so stay tuned 🙂

      Cheers, Rob

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