I don’t know about you, but I have definitely noticed that the time I spend on the internet has fairly increased over the past two years. In 2008 and 2009 I was so busy with my full-time job and evening classes that the internet was just a “part-time activity” in the evening, whenever I was searching for something I wanted to know on Google, connected with a friend via a social network or just wanted to be entertained for a while by watching a video on YouTube, etc. So, basically, my internet usage was very low, as I was working, studying, exercising in the gym or hanging out with friends and partying. So, there was basically not much room left for spending time disproportionately on the internet. Nevertheless, I think the major change in my internet usage happened in 2010 when I newly discovered the internet as an amazing news source for all kinds of information that helped me to stay up to date, in many areas. Furthermore, I created an account with twitter and started to use my existing Facebook account even more often. I had almost forgotten to list the fact that I started blogging in 2010 as well, which also increased my internet usage drastically. So, to make a long story short… in 2010 the internet wasn’t just a gadget anymore for me… it became a part of my everyday life.
With the internet there came many achievements, such as the fact that it allows you to stay informed about recent events and trends from all over the world, you can find help and solutions for problems of all kinds and whenever you feel just the slightest approach of boredom there is a video/game/story/etc. that entertains you in these situations. Besides all these positive side-effects of the internet, I noticed that I spend a lot of time online in an ineffective and unproductive way and with activities that simply waste my time. Rather than just searching for the information I was seeking for I started to also stop by at some blogs I find interesting, read some title stories on online newspaper sites, had a look what the people I was following on Twitter had to say and logged into Facebook to get in touch with all my friends from all over the world and see what they were up to do at that moment. There was so much more, such as reading forums, researching information I absolutely didn’t need to know and in the aftermath it feels just as a complete waste of time, especially when making myself clear that I could have spent that time in a more effective way, even if I just met a friend in “real-time”.
Nevertheless, I’m definitely not the only one who noticed this drastic increase of his personal internet usage, as the internet becomes more and more an omnipresent part of everyone’s life, who has access to it via PC, laptop, iPad or Smartphone. A recent survey conducted by Forrester in 2010 results in the realization that “the average American spends roughly 13 hours per week using the internet”. The internet has even surpassed the TV as the main news source for the young adults, which is no wonder in times of Twitter, Facebook, free online newspapers and news shows on YouTube.
After realizing that I might have spent about 13 hours per week using the internet – mostly unproductive – I decided that something needed to be changed… Here is how I was able to stop wasting my time on the internet.
How to stop wasting time online
1. I rearranged my PC
Spending too much time on the internet is just like a habit and whenever I sat down on my desk I turned on the computer if it wasn’t already turned on. That didn’t just distract me from what I had planned to do, but it also started to become a habit to start the day reading online newspapers and seeking for the newest information about what was going on in the world. Finally, after I noticed that I often started to waste my time online in the morning when I sat down on my desk I grabbed my laptop and relocated it to another place of my room – a place where it was quite uncomfortable to sit, so I started to abandon to turn on the PC immediately in the morning.
2. I listed the websites I visited
Now, whenever I logged into the internet I often visited and spend time on sites I hadn’t even planned to visit, but spontaneously decided to do so. It was often just a spontaneous thought like, “After being up-to-date with the recent news I could also see if some of my friends are already awake”. Based on the fact that I visited a lot of sites completely unintentionally and spontaneous, without profiting or benefiting from these sites (= wasting my time), I decided to write down all sites I frequently visited. I listed all these sites accordingly to their importance for me and the level of how much these sites benefited me (from “important information” to “just a waste of time”). At the top of that list were some news sites like CNN, one business related website and two blogs I find really interesting. But that’s it. No Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Digg and whatever site, as these sites are purely for entertainment, but these sites didn’t help me to reduce the time I spent on the internet and more important: spend the time online in a useful way.
3. I blocked time-wasting internet sites
When I wrote down the list of internet sites I frequently visited it really arrested my attention that there were really a lot of sites that I just visited for the purpose of being distracted or entertained, even if it was just a glance into the post box of my email provider. At that point, I decided to avoid these sites as good as possible during my regular working day, so that I could reduce the time of getting sidetracked and increase my productivity (and spend less time on the internet, of course!). So, first off I thought about simply not accessing these websites, but heck that turned out to be really difficult, which is why I searched for a more effective solution. What I found was the Firefox add-on called LeechBlock that allowed me to block time-wasting internet sites during given periods of the day, or 24/7. (By the way, this add-on was downloaded 300,000+ so I guess it’s fairly popular out there…). In case you’re using another browser you need to search for the add-on called StayFocusd for Chrome. In Internet Explorer and Opera you just have to add the given sites in your blocking-settings.
Using a plug-in to block specific websites during given periods of time was one of the best ideas to spend less time wasting on the internet, helped me to live life more conscious and helped me to improve my productivity.
4. I planned my internet usage
At first sight, it sounded completely awkward and unnecessary to “plan” one’s internet usage, especially for me as I’m a relatively spontaneous person, but it helped me to stop wasting time on the internet without benefit. Planning exactly what I wanted to know and what kind of information I wanted to find on the internet helped me to avoid getting sidetracked and spend more time online than necessary. Logging into the internet with an intention can be tremendously helpful when it comes to reducing the time wasted online, as you do what you wanted to do on the internet, without just surfing around without a purpose and checking emails.
5. I stopped checking my emails…
… in the morning and during a task. I noticed that checking emails and answering distracts me so much from my tasks that I nearly forget them completely. Sometimes it can be a true pain to delete all the spam-mail, unsubscribing from junk newsletter I do not care about and reading through all unimportant emails that it completely sidetracks me from my tasks I intended to do. After I became aware of how many time I spend just with emails I decided to not check emails in the morning and during tasks. I preferably check my emails now in the evening, some hours before finishing work (it is important to note, that if you depend on email correspondence with your clients/business partners you shouldn’t do that…). In case you have set your email provider (Gmail, MSN, GMX, yahoo, etc) as the homepage of your browser you should better change to just a search-engine if that helps you not to get sidetracked by your emails.
6. I turned off the computer
Whenever I could solve a given task offline I closed my laptop and turned it off during the time I focused on that given task. This decision helped me effectively to increase my productivity for every “offline-task” and helped me to avoid getting sidetracked.
Photo by evil erin
Do you have a favorite strategy that helps you to stop wasting time online?