Although the Internet can be tremendously helpful for things ranging from research to networking, it can also be a huge time waster. Whether you often find yourself using Internet surfing as a diversion tactic from other more pressing matters, or have found yourself looking at your watch and wondering how it got so late more times than you can count, the steps below can help you mend your ways. Keep reading to turn the Internet into a productive place rather than one that makes you feel preoccupied.
Track How Your Time Is Spent
Regardless of whether you’re a Facebook fan or are loyal to Lifehacker, you probably already know the sites that are most likely to distract you. Check to see just how much the Internet makes you get off track by setting a timer that starts counting as soon as you begin viewing a website and stops when you leave it.
If you need help, consider using a service called RescueTime. Through downloadable software, browser plugins or both, it helps you get a handle on your online time. There are both free and paid plans to try.
Block Sites During Work Hours
Unless your use of the Internet is adversely affecting your life to the point where it’s impossible to have productive days, there’s no need to entirely cut off your access to sites that are habitual time sinks.
A Firefox plugin called LeechBlock is handy for preventing you from going to specified sites during particular spans of time. You could set it so it doesn’t allow you to visit Twitter from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but gives you free rein outside of those hours.
Identify Your Triggers
After careful evaluation, you may discover you don’t just waste time on the Internet due to boredom, but because you lack direction or you want to escape something unpleasant. Consider keeping a diary and jotting down how you’re feeling or what you’re doing during the moments when you feel compelled to go online.
If you uncover patterns related to your Internet usage, aim to break them by doing something more worthwhile. Perhaps you gravitate towards a favorite website during perceived downtimes in your workday when you’re not sure which task to focus on next. In that case, try making a to-do list so all your responsibilities are clearly spelled out.
On the other hand, maybe you use the Internet as a way to handle things that are stressful. If you lean on that coping mechanism during times when you should be getting work done instead, recognize that tendency and use some of the tips above to help break the cycle. Also, look for healthier activities to help you relax and clear your head.
Take Breaks, Within Reason
No matter what kind of job you have, short breaks are usually good for keeping your mind sharp. Because the Internet is so vast you can easily tell yourself you’ll spend just 10 minutes catching up on social media feeds, and find the break’s become 20 or 30 minutes long instead.
Keeping a close eye on the time is one way to make sure your breaks don’t become lengthier than intended, but it’s also a good idea to spend those brief rest periods doing things that aren’t likely to become as consuming as the Internet might.
Walking around the block, reading a chapter in a book or calling a friend are useful ways to spend time. All those options are more purposeful than merely deciding you’ll grant yourself the privilege of messing around online for no reason other than just having something to do for a while.
These actionable strategies should help you cut down on mindless minutes spent online. If you’re still having trouble despite your best efforts to practice better time management, think about meeting with a mental health professional to determine whether there’s a deeper reason for your online distractions.
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