Planning and outlining
It's likely there are a number of projects on your plate, either at home or work, that could use some additional forethought before you jump right in. The details of a home renovation, or a big project at work, could both benefit from some additional planning. Even if you're without the web for research, there is still plenty you can do. Evernote, for Mac, iOS and Android, offers offline note taking, with great features like checklists, or bulleted lists for organizing your ideas. Create a point form task list for your project, or an ordered bullet list of materials and resources you need, so when you're back online you're ready to jump right in. Before you leave home, use Evernote to clip articles or online catalogs needed for planning your project. Since you're offline it won't be as easy to get distracted by all those links to click through, letting you focus on the details at hand.
Sometimes we feel like we have all the parameters of a big project all figured out in our head, but it's always helpful to jot down lists, to make sure we're considering all angles. Plus if you're as obsessive about organization as I am, knowing you have an outline ready for Monday will help you relax and enjoy the weekend more.
Feel like staying away from you gadgets altogether? Pickup a moleskin notebook, and get back to basics. Though I prefer to keep my notes digitized for easy recovery from all my devices, as a designer I do like to keep a pad of Bristol board and some markers packed with me so if inspiration strikes and I don't feel like touching technology, I can still sketch out design ideas while I'm away from my laptop.
Focus on learning and cultivating inspiration
Often we get away to relax, and so sometimes we're looking for a more passive way to feel productive while we're away from the web. Consider picking up a learning resource like a magazine, instructional guide, or some non-fiction related to a personal or professional interest. There are thousands of magazines and learning resources available on the iPad, but you might consider actually picking up a physical magazine for a change.
With digital media, and blogs, we often read so much in a day that sometimes content feels a bit disposable. Being offline offers an opportunity to really read and retain what's in front of you. Perhaps you're updating your home decor, and so you might bring along a few catalogs or some decor magazines to find inspiration or plan your purchases. You may work in a field like web design, IT, or maybe you even run a small business, in which case there is always reason to learn more and stay apprised of what's going on in your field.
Just because we're getting away doesn't mean we're looking for an escape from our professional or personal goals, so keep on track by bringing reading materials on your next trip that offer insight into what you do, or what you would like to do. Personally, I find some time away from the daily grind offers a great opportunity to let my mind process new ideas at its own pace. Without the endless hyperlinking of the web, I get a lot more out of whatever reading material I have at my disposal.
Organization and backup
For those rainy days trapped inside the screen porch, there is really nothing better than playing a board game with friends or family. Sitting around playing Scrabble, waiting for the sun to come out? Now is a good time to set up your laptop for that scheduled backup you've been putting off for all too long. Bring along a portable hard drive, and archive all those files that have been building up on your limited Macbook Air hard drive (I will be doing this while away this weekend).
Time offline is also a great opportunity to go through and organize your files. Have an unruly music collection you've been meaning to pare down? Old project files piling up on your desktop that need sorting? Take a couple of hours to put everything away where it belongs. Sometimes during the week I have so many different projects going on that I end up saving everything to the desktop. It's not ideal, and after a while, It becomes pretty distracting to deal with. Next time your vacation plans get rained out, take a couple of hours to sort out your files, and Monday morning you'll feel uncluttered and ready to attack the week.
I know what you're thinking — "I'm on vacation! I just want to relax!", and I agree. It's important to step back from what you're doing from time to time. That said, just because you're relaxing doesn't mean you can't feel like you've accomplished something. Come Monday, after a weekend escape, there's the inevitable feeling that you've fallen behind. Spend a few hours this weekend thinking about a project, touching base with related resources, or organizing your digital workflow, and you may just ease back into the week a bit more softly, bringing a bit of that relaxed cottage air back with you.
(Image: Sean Rioux)