TIME career

How to Fight for Your Right to Leave Work by 6 PM

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Give yourself a break

Question: I leave work every day at 6:30 PM — because I come in at 8:30 AM, and working for 10 hours is enough for one day and one brain. I meet deadlines, and I don’t leave anything undone that can’t wait until the next day. But, sometimes it seems like there’s an unspoken competition at work over “who stayed the latest.” Every morning, other women are like, “OMG, I was here till 9!” or “I was here till 11 PM.” I always respond with something like, “I can’t believe you stayed so late! You’re crazy!” — which I guess just encourages them. How do I keep my regular work hours without feeling like I’m in last place in the who-stayed-the-latest race? I worry that everyone around me will think I’m a slacker for wanting to head out on time.

Answer: In the halcyon days of my youth, I attended a fancy-schmancy Liberal Arts College — the kind with no frats and a tuition that I’m still pimping my Etsy page to pay off. (There’s a strong market for throw pillows.) Before you roll your eyes and close this window, there’s a reason why I’m telling you this.

Each year, at finals time at said fancy school, there was a contingent of students who basically moved into the library. Now, studious and stressed-out college students wouldn’t normally draw my ire, except these Poindexters reveled in their misery. They would prominently display their piles of comically oversized tomes and Red Bull cans, shuffle around the Harry Potter-esque grandeur in slippers and clouds of anxiety, loudly bleat about how long they have gone without a shower. At first, I assumed that these students had incredibly rigorous course loads, that I was “doing college wrong.” But, as I began to recognize certain drowsy faces as people from my classes, classes I was preparing for while still showering and sleeping fairly regularly, I realized that the library was a place of performance. These students wanted to be seen: They loved to gripe about surviving on cigarettes and coffee for three days, just to see the combination of awe and pity flutter across our faces. Being busy and stressed was more than just a state of being — it was a declaration of worth.

MORE Is Cards Against Humanity Actually Racist — Or Just Joke Racist?

I have a hunch something similar is going on with your coworkers. If they are routinely staying in the office that late and their responsibilities don’t differ that much from yours, either they aren’t being productive during the work day or they’re just staying late to stay late. Whether consciously or not, we use busyness as a way to show our significance and importance: I’m needed, I’m necessary, I toil selflessly for the good of the company.

And while I’m being hard on these 11-PM-ers, it’s not exactly their fault. It’s capitalism’s fault. (Can’t you tell that I listened to punk rock in high school?) The economy is sluggish, the job market is tough, and everyone who’s managed to stay steadily employed feels lucky. And so we Assistant Assistants to the Junior Head Marketing Manager take on ever-growing amounts of responsibility, check our emails 24/7, and allow the boundaries between public and private and day and night to blur. But, by doing that, we’re inadvertently helping to perpetuate the problem: If everyone answers emails at 11 PM, people start to expect prompt replies to the emails they send at 11 PM. By remaining plugged in and accessible even after the after-shows have aired, your coworkers are creating a new, unattractive standard. It’s no surprise that you’re feeling the pressure.

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So, what to do? Keep resisting! As long as your boss hasn’t said anything about your work schedule, don’t give in to the crazy. Opt out. Take a lesson from the woman who taught you to grab life by the rhinestones, Dolly Parton. As she sings in “9 to 5” (which is just a jangly, countrified version of The Communist Manifesto, if you ask me), “It’s enough to drive you crazy, if you let it…” And, she’s just talking about an eight-hour day — imagine what Comrade Dolly would say about staying past dinnertime!

And, if you’re one of the many chronic 11-PM-ers, whispering, “I wish I could quit you” to your computer: Give yourself a break. There are other ways to show your value than staying hyperconnected. In fact, unplugging and getting a good night’s rest will undoubtedly increase your productivity and present-mindedness during normal work hours. Boost your work-life balance by giving yourself a firm curfew and turning off your phone at the same time each night. Inform your boss, colleagues, and clients of this new cutoff point and, I assure you, they’ll adapt. Train yourself: Just because you see an email notification doesn’t mean you have to take care of it right away. Unless it’s time-sensitive or you truly have a ton of work to do, fight the urge to shoot off a quick reply or burn the midnight oil. Surely, the overnight janitor won’t miss your sighs and manic stare that much.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME career

6 Tips for Writing Better Emails

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Learn to perfect your email writing skills

Email is a double-edged sword. It’s fast and convenient, but your words are permanent and could potentially come back to haunt you. Here are 6 things you need to know about writing emails in a professional setting.

1. Be comprehensive, yet direct.

If you address loose ends from previous emails and anticipate the information the recipient needs/wants to know, you’ll eliminate the need for multiple emails. To be comprehensive, think of the who, what, when, where, why, and how for each point you want to make.

Use bullet points, lists, or separate short paragraphs to highlight information in a digestible format, and remember to include attachments mentioned in the body of the email.

2. Be accurate and specific.

This tip applies to the body of the email and the subject line, which should never be blank and always complement the current email you’re writing.

Include and double-check dates, times, and names. Make sure the day of the week matches the calendar date, and clarify time zones. If you are scheduling a telephone call, identify in your initial communication who’s to initiate the call.

MORE Subject Lines That Will Get Your Emails Read

3. Be free of grammatical errors.

Don’t rely only on the spelling and autocorrect function. Read the email to check for spelling, grammar, and word usage errors. Then re-read your email.

4. Use the proper tone.

Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient, and read your email again. Are you being too demanding, inflexible, accusatory, judgmental, formal or informal, or apologetic? All of these tones can be off-putting. Women, in particular, are sometimes too apologetic; say “sorry” once and move on so as not to undermine your authority.

Finding the right tone can be tricky, but it is achievable. Here are a few examples:

When asking for a deliverable to be due by a certain date:

BAD: I need the document by close of business tomorrow. (Too demanding)

GOOD: I would appreciate you emailing me the document by X date. Please let me know if you have any concerns.

In a work environment, you’re on a team. Being too demanding can backfire, causing your reports to lose respect for and resent you.

When you’re starting your email:

BAD: How’s it goin’?! (Too informal)

GOOD: I hope you’re doing well.

Being too informal in your language might detract from your authority. At the same time, being too formal can make it difficult for the recipient to find a human or emotional connection with you.

5. Focus on the recipient.

Be clear about why you are emailing this person; briefly state it at the beginning and end of the correspondence. At the end of the email, also let them know that you’re available to be of help to them. Here’s an example:

BEGINNING: I’m inquiring about partnership opportunities between Company A and Company B.

END: I look forward to exploring with you the possibility of Company A partnering with Company B. Let me know how I can be of help.

MORE 5 Email Secrets That May Change Your Life

6. Consider context and world events.

To ensure a personal connection and show some humanity, don’t isolate you and your recipient from the greater picture. If you learned that your recipient won an award, congratulate them. If you are emailing someone in December who you know celebrates the same holidays, include “Happy Holidays!” at the end of the note.

Finally and before you press “Send,” if you have any concerns putting your thoughts in writing or believe another mode of communication would be more efficient, pick-up the phone or meet with the individual in-person. Words have tremendous meaning, and you do not want to run the risk of having your words misinterpreted.

For more tips on professional writing, see “Your Crash Course on Professional Writing.” Make it your goal this year to send quality e-mails.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Your Email Is Killing You: 9 Ways to Survive

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Here's what to try instead

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Question: If you believe that email can be a productivity killer for your employees, what strategies have you implemented as a manager to make sure that your people do not get bogged down from accomplishing “real” work?

Standardize Subject Lines

“Client requests often come in at all hours of the day, and in order to ensure we can work on projects and not just respond to email all day, we like to use “URGENT” and “FYI” in our subject lines. This helps identify issues that need to be addressed immediately and notifies us of emails that can wait until a more convenient time.” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

Kill Long Threads

“If an email thread goes past three replies, then I prohibit continued back-and-forth nonsense. Pick up the phone and have a conversation instead of wasting time on paragraphs of spell-checked pontification. Keep email actionable, brief whenever possible and easy to read.” — Seth Talbott, CEO and Startup Advisor

Use P2 Instead

“P2 is a WordPress theme we use internally for all communication. Instead of sending an email, just make a post to P2. It cuts out on long email threads. It’s searchable and indexable for later. And it’s way more transparent.” — Wade Foster, Zapier

Implement a 5-Minute Limit

“You cannot let emails accumulate. So, if you can answer the email in fewer than five minutes, you should answer it immediately, and stop procrastinating.” — Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

Create Mailboxes For Tasks

“We have established a ticket system, and we are gradually moving away from using emails because it is a productivity killer. In the meantime, we have created new mailboxes where scheduled daily tasks are delivered to keep our general email accounts clean. We also ask our employees to immediately unsubscribe from emails that are distracting.” — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

Hang Out on Google

“We leverage Google Hangouts a lot in our work. We can set up immediate, unplanned chats where we can talk things through and move on, rather than cluttering inboxes with hundreds of messages that may be misinterpreted and take much longer to respond to in writing. Just talk to each other, and drive on with business!” — Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Track the Productivity Metrics

“At our company, we track all the productivity metrics of our employees. One particular metric we track is the amount of time spent on email. So, as an example, I spent 16 percent of my workday on email. As a general rule, we try to keep email use under 20 percent, and if it’s at anything over that, we look at what that person is doing.” — Liam Martin, Staff.com

Unplug

“Spend 60 minutes offline. At Lemonly, we have a mandatory hour in the day offline. No email, no Skype and no browsing. This is the most productive hour of the day for most of our team, and people focus on larger projects.” — John Meyer, Lemonly

Set Up Your Space For In-Person Collaboration

“We encourage our team to talk to each other to quickly resolve issues instead of waiting on an email answer. This means being respectful of your team and not interrupting unless the question is really worth the interruption. We have found that this helps us remove obstacles more quickly than using email, and it keeps communication flowing internally.” — Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s How You Can Answer ‘Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?’

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Either make the final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Sometimes you can tell when you’re making a really good impression during an interview. But, let’s not get cocky. We both know that as you’re wrapping up, full of confidence and eager to move forward in the process, you’ll get hit with something out of the blue, like, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?”

“Only that you should hire me—immediately!” is, unfortunately, not usually what interviewers are looking for. So, what are they seeking when they toss this your way? A couple things, actually.

Really—Is There Anything Else?

Good news! Interviewers aren’t actually out to get you with trick questions—or at least most of them aren’t. Usually, they really are interested in what you think your strengths are or how you handle failure. Given that, your interviewer very likely just wants to give you a chance to mention anything that he or she has neglected to ask you. After all, most hiring managers are not expert interviewers. They’re experts at whatever their actual job is.

This means that you should take this question as an invitation to mention anything relevant that you didn’t get a chance to. Try starting with, “We’ve definitely covered a lot already, but I do want to mention my experience with…” This last thing might be a relevant experience that’s a bit older or a skill that you’ve honed that was never brought up in conversation. If this goes into a longer discussion, that’s great. If not, conclude with something like, “And, of course, I just want to reiterate how excited I am about the position.”

Can You Summarize Your Qualifications for Me?

Okay, your interviewers might not be consciously thinking this when they ask you if there’s anything else you want to share, but they’ll definitely appreciate it. Plus, summarizing your qualifications for your interviewer means you won’t have to be that person who says, “Nope, there’s nothing else to know.”

Begin your response with, “I think we’ve covered most of it, but just to summarize, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can really hit the ground running. And with my previous experience [enumerate experience here], I think I’d be a great fit.” The key here is to not go into to much detail since, ideally, you’ve covered it all already. After you’ve made your case for being a good fit, finish up by pointing out your enthusiasm for the company—this is a great way to wrap up an interview, and it just never hurts.

Whether you do have something else to bring up or not, use the “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?” question as your invitation to finish strong. Either make that final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position. Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

More from The Muse:

TIME Travel

What You Need to Know About Traveling to Cuba

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American flag with signboard of Cuba Southernmost Point, Key West, Fla. © F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy

There are 12 types of travel that are permitted, including family visits, journalistic activities, professional research and meetings

It’s happening, people. Travel to Cuba just got as little easier, thanks to a new set of regulations that take effect today and expand on President Obama’s recent policy changes.

The Department of Treasury dropped the amended regulations on the lap of tour operators and others with a stake in travel to Cuba yesterday morning. Just how quickly these changes can and will be implemented remains foggy—as do some of the particulars, which will likely be hashed out in the coming days and weeks. So watch this space.

In the meantime, for a sense of what the new regulations mean, we reached out to T+L’s trusted network of travel specialists for more insights. (A big hat tip to GeoEx, an operator that has been active in the country for several years, for help deciphering these regulations.)

Here’s what we know:

  • All travel to Cuba must still meet certain activity-related requirements. There are 12 types of travel that are permitted, including family visits, journalistic activities, professional research and meetings, educational activities, public performances, and religious activities.
  • “People-to-people travel,” the most common way most Americans currently now experience the country, is considered a form of educational travel that promotes meaningful exchanges between U.S. citizens and Cubans. It is officially still subject to “appropriate conditions” (meaning certain activities, such as going to the beach, are not permitted) and requires some sort of guide or agent to accompany travelers. In other words, you will still need to visit with a licensed tour operator.
  • Some operators are anticipating that the requirements and enforcement of people-to-people itineraries will soon be relaxed—meaning that even on these structured trips, you could more or less be able to travel through the island as you choose.
  • The new Treasury regulations lay the groundwork for a more simplified, general license for all types of travel to Cuba, which could open the door for more tours (and tour operators) bringing Americans to the country.
  • That said, the tourism infrastructure in Cuba remains very limited. It will be difficult for new companies to deliver meaningful experiences—for now.
  • Commercial flights are now authorized to Havana, but don’t expect them to start immediately (though U.s. carriers are already champing at the bit). Logistically, they will likely take several months to implement. So for the time being, it’s charter flights only from the States.
  • Americans can now bring back up to $400 in souvenirs home with them—that includes $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco.
  • U.S. travelers can also now use their credit cards in Cuba—a change that exists only on paper until U.S. financial institutions actually develop a presence in the country.

In essence, new flights, new tours and tour companies, and new ways to explore the island are coming soon. “Although things are sure to change in Cuba, we are viewing the regulatory amendments as very positive, and are excited about the possibilities.” says Jennine Cohen, the managing director for the Americas at GeoEx.

What remains to be seen is how long it will take to build up the tourism infrastructure in Cuba to meet increasing demand from Americans—and what this new tourism infrastructure will look like. “It is going to take a significant amount of time for Cuba to be considered a prime destination for tourists,” says Dan Sullivan, President and CEO of Collette tours.

In the meantime, the best experiences will be offered by operators who know the country well—and have relationships and connections already in place. We recommend GeoEx, Collette, InsightCuba, G Adventures and Smithsonian Journeys.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME advice

How to Not Sweat the Small Stuff

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Learn to use these 4 simple concepts in your everyday life

As a retiring worry wart, there are times I’m faced with minor issues, personal and professional, that seem to drive me crazy, but are really not worth the added stress. I used to destroy myself over every little problem that arose in my life, from completing homework to witnessing unethical behavior to chipping a newly painted nail. But with observation, insight, and honesty, I began to identify what was worth stressing over and what was not. Below are some helpful concepts that I’m learning to use and practice in my everyday life.

1. Think.

Take a moment, breathe, and think again. Think about the issue and what’s causing you more stress. Then think to yourself about how this will really affect your life. Some of the worst decisions come from acting too quickly. Think through the consequences or the possible outcomes of this problem.

2. Question.

How will this event truly affect your life in the long run? I tend to talk to myself in situations like this and ask myself these questions. Saying it verbally out loud makes it more realistic and helps me think through the question and develop approaches and solutions to the problem.

MORE 6 Steps For Handling High Pressure Situations With Grace

3. Remind.

Remind yourself that this isn’t personal and stop acting like it’s the end of the world, because it’s not. Reassure yourself that this too shall pass and there are worse scenarios that could be happening to you; like you could be battling an illness or losing your job. Being stuck behind that school bus on the way to work is not the end of the world.

4. Learn.

Find ways to cope with your stress and learn from this experience. I think I’m a stronger woman today because I learned how to deal with not sweating the small stuff in my collegiate years as a student, sorority president, and part-time worker. I had a lot on my plate and I had to learn how to manage my time and not take everything so personally.

Being able to admit and identify that you worry about too many things is invaluable. Once you identify this, you can use these ideas to resolve it. During my sorority recruitment, I connected with a potential new member (who is now my sorority grandlittle) over our OCD issues. She was experiencing the same things and we could laugh together over our stress. We established a great friendship, and now 6 years later with each of us living on different coasts, we’re still helping one another. It’s easy to talk to someone you know thinks the way you do, and by talking about your issue out loud, you’ll be able to develop a plan to tackle them on your own.

MORE How to Stop Feeling Like You Should be Farther in Life by Now

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME advice

What I Learned From Quitting My Job and Traveling Around the World

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While it wasn't a 'transformative experience,' I did learn a few things

Answer by Patrick Mathieson on Quora.

This past April I quit my job at Dell, crammed some stuff into a backpack, and went to Southeast Asia (and a few other places) for about six weeks. Not exactly “traveling the world” as I only went to a few countries, but it was more of a backpacker/adventure travel experience than I had ever had previously. (Last month I did another 2.5 week trip with a backpack to Australia and New Zealand, so this has gotten a lot less scary since then.)

The trip was modest, so I won’t act like it was some kind of transformative experience or anything. That said, I did learn a few things.

  1. I don’t need that much “stuff” to exist. My travel clothes consisted of two pairs of shorts, three pairs each of underwear and socks, about six t-shirts, and a sweater. That’s it. Whereas back in the U.S. I had amassed closet and a dresser full of clothes, most of which I never wore. Why did I accumulate so much stuff when a backpack’s worth of clothes could sustain me perpetually? Sure, I didn’t need a winter coat or a sports jacket on my trip, so those deserve some shelf space. But why did I own 6 different suits and 35 different dress shirts?
  2. I vastly underrated “home” while I was living there. Adventure travel is a tempting siren when you’re sitting at your desk job and dreaming of grand adventures at Mt. Everest or the Great Barrier Reef. I think this caused me to pine for the future and underrate the present. Home is awesome. I live in a country where I can freely travel and live in any of 50 states, where all of my friends and family are easy to see and contact, and where I’m relatively unscathed by the police/government/taxman/whatever (I’ll grant that this doesn’t describe everybody’s experience in the USA, and that I’m luckier than most in this regard.). For some reason, at the beginning of my trips I always think I’ll never want to come back home, but each and every time I’m mistaken. It’s made me a little more thankful and observant in my regular life in the States.
  3. People are people are people. No matter what country you go to, people put their pants on one leg at a time, so to speak. Even though different cultures can be vastly different from one another, most humans share quite a few common experiences. I suspect that the media caricatures of the daily live of people in North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. are somewhat overstated. Not to understate the horrors of political tyranny, but most humans go to work in the morning and tuck their kids into bed at night just like the rest of us.
  4. There’s nothing “special” about backpacking culture. Some people describe backpacker/hostel culture as more “authentic” than traditional tourist/hotel/hospitality culture, like there’s something more “real” about sharing a room in a dirty hostel instead of staying at the Hilton. And sure, I’ll grant that you are less likely to grasp local culture if you spend your trips at five-star resorts. But if you go to any hostel in the world you’ll see the same scene: A bunch of 19-year-old British/German/French/Dutch/Australian backpackers in tank tops smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Is that any more unique or authentic than middle-aged Americans in Brooks Brothers oxfords drinking rum and Cokes in every Ritz-Carlton on the planet?
  5. But…. it’s still awesome. I think everybody should take at least one backpacking trip, even just for the opportunity to have a really bad time and learn a lot from the experience. There’s a lot to see out there.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is it like to quit your job, get a backpack and travel the world?

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME advice

What to Order When Taken Out to a Restaurant for Your Job Interview

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Eat a bit before hand, so you can focus on answering the questions, and not on the food

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

When on a job interview, it’s usually safest to follow the lead of your host. The interviewer is often sussing out if the candidate is a “fit” for the job. You want to show that you will fit in well with the established culture of the company.

And an easy way to develop quick rapport is to mirror the other person. People tend to trust people who are similar to themselves. If you act like they do, it puts them at ease. And when people are comfortable, the conversation will run more smoothly.

So, if your host orders a 3 course meal with dessert and coffee afterwards, it’s safe to order the same. If they order an appetizer, order one too. You want to be eating, or at least appear to be, when they are eating. It’s often awkward to be eating while the other person is not.

Similarly, even if you are starving and they only order a salad, stick with something lighter. You don’t want to be too focused on finishing your meal when they are done with theirs, and are focused only on asking you questions. Now is not the time to order the most expensive item on the menu, if they are only ordering the soup.

I’m a vegetarian, so I’m not about to order a steak just because my interviewer is. However, if they order the steak, I’ll try to order something more substantial.

Interviewers may suggest an interview out of the office, to catch you with your guard down. Remember this is an interview. Eat a bit before hand, so you can focus on answering the questions, and not on the food. And don’t come to the interview with a growling stomach. Eat slowly. Don’t talk with your mouth full of food.

It gets tricky if your host orders an alcoholic drink. In college, a friend of mine made a disastrous, and hilarious, mistake. He was on the final round with a fancy firm, for a prestigious position. A partner of the firm invited him to lunch. The interviewer order an Arnold Palmer, which is an iced-tea and lemonade mix. My friend, mistakenly thought it was an alcoholic drink, similar to a Long-Island ice-tea. He wanted to show that he was mature and could hang with the crowd. He ordered a gin and tonic.

The host kept getting refills of his Arnold Palmer, which is pretty typical with ice tea. And so my friend kept getting refills of his gin and tonic, which is not so typical. He got really drunk at lunch, and couldn’t drive himself home. The interviewer had to call him a cab. He did not get the offer.

So, if your host orders an alcoholic drink, it’s probably safest not to, and say you have to drive. If it’s a happy hour interview, stick to just ordering one, and only drink less than half.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is a nice, safe choice for your meal when you are taken out on a job interview?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

5 Tricks for Beating Procrastination

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

  • Use short, painless dashes of effort. Just have at it for five minutes and feel free to watch the clock. Chances are you’ll realize it’s not so bad.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME advice

Here’s How to Enable Offline Maps in the Google Maps App

Google Maps shown on an iPad on June 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Google Maps shown on an iPad on June 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Thomas Imo—Photothek via Getty Images

The feature can be a huge help when traveling internationally—or just navigating from the subway

Google Maps has a hidden offline feature that can be used anywhere.

It may be 2015 but Zuckerberg’s mission to get the whole world on the Internet has yet to be fulfilled. Thankfully, Google Maps has a dark horse ready to ride us out of the Internetless-danger zones — OK Maps. This rarely talked about feature allows smartphone users to access Google Maps even when there is no Wi-Fi or data services available, for both the Android and iOS version of Google Maps. The only catch? You have to save the map ahead of time.

I wanted to give the tool a try to see how well it would serve as a guide when the Internet has betrayed me. To my surprise, OK Maps is remarkably easy to use. The only major downside I found was that saved maps are well, just maps: raw, downright simple maps. It does not allow users to route directions or search places offline and only provides a visual of the place you save. It’s basically an old school paper map but with a flashier screen.

Some point before an excursion, you’ll need to find a location where you have either Internet data or Wi-Fi available. To start, open the Google Maps app and sign into your Google account. Next, type in the location you want an offline map for. Living out my dream trip to Ireland, I use Dublin as an example.

Zoom in or out to focus in on the area that you know you will need for offline access. Google Maps allows users to zoom in and out from saved maps and gives closer details of streets and buildings offline. So it’s generally more useful to zoom out when creating a new map: there’s more data to look at later since it saves more minute details than you think it would.

The OK Maps feature can only download areas as large as 50 km (31.7 miles) x 50 km (31.7 miles). If the area you are trying to save is too large, the app will alert you to zoom in to save. If you really need an entire area, my suggestion would be to create two maps (ex. Dublin East and Dublin West) and use those interchangeably if necessary.

Next, tap the search bar again, this time, typing in the magic phrase “OK Maps” or, according to Lifehacker, “Okay maps.” Google Maps will ask you if you want to save the map. If the area looks good, tap “save.” The app will then ask users to name the map for reference later. All done.

Once the map is saved, it can be accessed again offline by opening the app and clicking on the menu button in the search bar. Depending on the type of mobile device you have, this may look like an icon in the shape of a person or three horizontal lines like in my example. This will take you to your Google Maps account where you can select “My Places.” Scroll down and voilà, your offline map is there for viewing.

Last July, Google announced they had created a new feature to make offline maps even more accessible for users. The feature functions the same way as OK Maps—i.e. you can’t get directions offline but you can look at previously saved maps—however there is a more direct way of saving maps that doesn’t require typing in the elusive “OK Maps” passcode.

To use the alternative method, open up Google Maps and again search for your place. Here, I choose San Francisco. Next, pull up the information about the location you just searched. This can be done by clicking on the name of the location at the bottom of the map. The screen will then change to the information brief. On this window, touch the menu sign (looks like three circles stacked on top of each other) in the top right corner.

When the menu comes up, an option to “Save offline map” will appear. You will want to choose this and then zoom in to your select location. Just as with using OK Maps, these maps can be accessed from within “My Places” on the Google Maps app.

Keep in mind that Google Maps only saves offline maps for up to 30 days. After that, they are wiped off your app. If you need the maps for a longer period of time, you can update the map by going into “My Places,” then selecting “View all and manage.” Find the map you want to renew and click its corresponding menu sign (three stacked circles on the right). Now it is good for the next 30 days.

Although it may not provide the same directive advice Google Maps has taught me to rely on, the offline maps feature can definitely be a useful tool to help get around an unfamiliar location. Even if the excitement of feeling like the Sherlock Holmes of Google Maps wears off, I’m sure saving money by not purchasing an international data plan will still win me over.

This article originally appeared on Map Happy.

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