Stop wasting time and learn how to quit the Internet today and change your life forever
It’s no surprise that people depend on the internet today for a wide variety of things. Whether it’s electronic communication, work, catching up on the news or just entertainment, the Internet has woven its way into the very fabric of our society.
The connection to the rest of the world that it offers is invaluable and has allowed people to engage in conversations and discover information they previously never would have had access to.
According to data collected by the Pew Research Center, 87% of adults in the US are regular Internet users. Their findings indicated that an overwhelming 97% of people between the ages of 18-29 used the internet, more than any other demographic.
However, the Internet also has many negative effects which research is increasingly showing is bad for us.
A Swedish study found that excessive use of the Internet can result in stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, relationship problems, loss of productivity and even depression.
If you feel like you waste a lot of time on the Internet, or it is having negative effects on your life or work, it can be difficult to know how to limit that time. Here are 5 steps to stop wasting time on the internet and gain back your productivity.
1. Track Your Time
One of the best ways to make sure you are using your time efficiently is to see where your time actually goes. It isn’t strictly necessary to keep a detailed log of every minute you spend on specific websites. Even just a sheet listing the various time-wasting sites you visit per day and an average time spent on each would be sufficient to give you an idea of exactly how much time is lost.
If record-keeping isn’t for you, apps such as Stop Procrastinating will allows you to get goals while you use it to block the Internet for a certain period of time.
Setting goals is a powerful activity, but not all goals are created equally. Saying “I’m going to waste less time on the internet” is a much broader, and therefore less achievable, goal than saying “I’m going to spend X fewer minutes on X site”.
Once you’ve started setting goals to reduce Internet use and have made yourself more accountable for your own productivity, it’s time to start setting those goals in motion. However, it’s easier to say you’ll limit your time watching adorable kitten videos on YouTube than it is to actually do it. Here’s where our next tip comes in!
2. Set Time Limits
Locate the Internet sites that waste most of your time and this will help you reduce their use. For example, if you find that you spend a huge amount of time divided between email and social media networking, it’s pretty easy to tell which is more important.
If you’re one of the millions of people who rely on email communication for work or necessary correspondence, it isn’t necessary to cut it out of your life entirely. In fact, if the majority of your email activity is productive, it’s hardly a time-wasting activity at all! However, if you find that only a small percentage of your email time is work-related, it may be helpful to consider limiting your time there, as well.
Other sites, such as search engines or other research-related websites fall into a similarly grey area. You can’t cut them off entirely, especially if you rely on new information and research for your productivity, but it can also be far too tempting to follow up on related articles or searches that have nothing to do with work. Before you know it, you have immense knowledge on different types of cheese slicers, but no idea where the last hour went.
Once you’ve identified where you want to make cuts in your internet habits, set up a timer. Sure, you could rely on willpower alone, but as this NYT article explains, self-control is limited. Once you’ve successfully resisted the temptation of an hour browsing Reddit, it becomes much harder to say no to the joys of Facebook.
Instead, opt for a time-limiting app. Stop Procrastinating allows you to choose which sites to limit. The best part? They aren’t permanently blocked – you get a pre-set time limit to enjoy before buckling down to work. This is important, as you don’t feel deprived, and if you need a short break, you can have your five minutes (or 10) to relax before diving back in to responsible computer use!
Or you could undertake a digital detox by following this step-by-step plan.
3. Turn Off Notifications
Even if you keep away from the sites that are the most distracting, and focus as much as you can on the tasks that are actually necessary, it’s almost impossible to keep from being reminded of the outside world. Whether it’s the little ping that lets you know you have a new email or desktop notifications for messages from social media sites, these little interruptions can be impossible to ignore. They lurk in the back of the mind until curiosity is satisfied (and a little more time is wasted).
It might be hard, especially for people who are increasingly reliant on social media, but there is a simple solution.
It’s this easy: just turn them off. Put your phone on silent (except for calls or alarms), turn off desktop notifications and don’t leave open tabs for Facebook or other social media. The sounds will go away, you will feel freer, and there will be fewer distractions.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Without being notified of recent activity or messages, how will you know they are happening? If they aren’t important to your work, they can wait. The only exceptions to this would be a work-dedicated email account or if you are expecting an important message. Otherwise, you don’t need them!
An added bonus to ignoring notifications? Less stress and, over time, less dependence on being in the loop at all times. Freedom is a beautiful thing.
4. Treat Yourself
Alright, so we’ve talked about setting time limits on internet distractions and time wasters, but how about time limits on work? A recent study suggests that taking short breaks while working help with memory retention, as well as increased focus on the task at hand.
An idea that has recently been gaining a lot of traction is the Pomodoro Technique. It sounds super-fancy, but it really just involves using a timer to separate your time into 25-minute periods. Basically, you work as much as you can for those 25-minute periods (no distractions allowed) with the promise of a short break afterward.
You can find a full guide to the technique here, but the premise boils down to this: 2 hours of work, split into 30-minute periods. Each 30-minute period includes 25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break. After four of these 30-minute periods, take a longer break, perhaps 15-20 minutes. Stretch your legs, get some coffee, check your Twitter.
Taking breaks is great for productivity as you tend to experience less “burn-out” and find it easier to stay focused on the task at hand.
If you find that the promise of a short break still isn’t enough to keep you focused, how about upping the ante a little bit? Make a deal with yourself that if you can complete a day of work with little or no Internet distractions, you get a treat. People react to rewards with greater enthusiasm and better results than punishment, on average. Why not try it out for yourself?
5. Block the Internet
If these techniques still aren’t enough to break the addiction and help you stop wasting time on the Internet, it might be time to bring out the big guns.
That’s right, blocking the internet altogether.
There are several ways of doing this. The cheapest and easiest would be to simply unplug your router, or turn off wireless connectivity. The problem with this approach, however, is that it is far too simple to just turn it back on again. There is very little standing in your way, and if it’s so easy to get back online, what are the chances you will stay offline?
Then, of course, there are those who need at least a little of the resources available on the internet in order to work properly. This can include those who are required to access and reply to work emails promptly, those who have an intra-office online messaging system, or even those who need to be able to do research online.
Here’s the solution: internet blocking software. These ingenious pieces of technology can be configured to block the whole of the internet, or just websites you choose. They can have time limits, or be turned off at will. There are a variety on the market today, but some of the more popular include Stop Procrastinating that will block the internet altogether or a selection of the most distracting websites (still allowing you to use the Internet for work or study) for a set amount of time.
These are extreme measures, to be sure, but sometimes they become necessary.
Now that you know five different ways to unplug from the internet, why not give them a try? As stated, the benefits are multi-faceted and far-reaching. Perhaps your goals are to get more work done, stop wasting time, or focus on the things in life that truly matter.
The truth is: aside from breaking a potentially hazardous habit, taking a break from the internet can benefit your health. There is an increasing amount of information available about how freedom from the internet, from mindless consumption of social media and useless facts that won’t be remembered, even from screens themselves, can reduce risks of stress and depression.
Wasting less time on the internet is a great way to not only get more work done, but also to become happier in general.
Of course, it must be stated that the internet is still a wonderful tool. While a lot of time is wasted because of it, browsing Facebook or binge-watching a series on Netflix as a way to relax after work or on a lazy Sunday is no more harmful than playing video games or reading a novel for pleasure.
It is only when these activities interfere in the productivity of daily life that there is cause for concern. Just employ these helpful tips to get back on track and stop wasting time on the internet!
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