Wasting Time Online
Recently I downloaded PageAddict, a Web-based program that tracks Internet usage. I wanted to see where I was spending my time online and how I could use that time more efficiently. Two weeks later, I opened the charts and graphs that logged my usage, along with a list of all the sites I visited. I was shocked to discover that I wasted about two hours every day online, something that never occurred to me as I clicked on links, checked e-mail, and shopped online. We’re not saying you have to curb your Web surfing, but with minimal effort, you can streamline your time online. Here’s how.
Get a clear picture. In order to reform wasteful Internet usage, it helps to know where your time is spent. A simple program like PageAddict can help. Or just keep a notebook next to your keyboard. Anytime you go online, jot down the time you sign on, list the pages you visit, and note the time you sign off. After a week, tally the sites you visited and the time you spent. Take it one step further and classify the types of sites—e-mail, IM, shopping, blogs, news, etc.—to determine your biggest addictions.
Schedule online time. Instead of trying to quit cold turkey, set aside time during the day to feed your Internet addiction. You’ll be less likely to randomly log on and click around. For example, if you naturally lose focus around 3:00, use that time to sip a cup of tea and peruse your favorite sites. The best time to surf, though, is first thing in the morning. You aren’t wasting work time and most sites will be freshly updated.
Shore up your surfing. Keeping up-to-date on news feeds and blogs takes a large amount of time, though reading up on industry (and, okay, celebrity) news is crucial and fun. To streamline your surfing, utilize an RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, feed. One easy version is Google Reader, but others are available through Web browsers and Web-based bookmarking sites like http://del.icio.us/. Input your favorite news channels, blogs, gossip sites, and industry newsletters. Whenever new content is posted, your RSS feed will track it for you, similar to how you receive a new e-mail. This enables you to receive updated information without having to visit multiple times.
Don’t fall into the IM trap. There are two major pitfalls that can ruin the best of intentions: e-mail and instant messaging. It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly refreshing your e-mail or instant-messaging friends and co-workers. Not only are they both time suckers, they also cause you to interrupt what you’re working on to check new messages. It won’t be easy, but turn off all notifications, including pop-up windows and sound effects. Just like you did with scheduling surfing time, plan time to check personal e-mail or IM. Then take those minutes you’ve saved and do something productive that doesn’t require a keyboard and a screen. You’ve earned it.