We all love the internet. In fact, most of us couldn’t function without it! Sometimes, though, it can be a huge time suck and actually make tasks more difficult. Erin Falconer, author of HOW TO GET SH*T DONE, shares some simple solutions to minimize your online distractions and to make the hours you spend on the web (and on social media!) productive ones.
How can you make sure that you’re using your time online in a way that supports your goals rather than distracts or diminishes you? Apps like RescueTime allow you to get an honest accounting of how you’re using your online time. Most of us probably think that the bulk of our time online is work-related, but up to 40 percent of our time online is spent on social media. This kind of time-tracking app can show you the reality of how your days are really spent. And once you get those results, be honest with yourself about how time spent on various digital plat- forms makes you feel. Do you feel bad about yourself when you see on Instagram that two friends went on a hike without you this morning? Does your heart sink when you see the holiday snaps your ex-boyfriend posted on Facebook? Does having a quick exchange on Twitter with a friend mean that you won’t bother following up about that dinner you keep promising to book?
An analysis of forty studies, conducted by the Graduate Institute of Education in Changhua, Taiwan, showed the internet has a small but significant negative impact on general well-being. A German study showed that Facebook can be a stressful environment that encourages feelings of envy and decreases users’ sense of life satisfaction. Another study out of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health found a strong relationship between excessive time on social media and depression. And particularly for those prone to depression, social media can be an even darker place. If you’re feeling down and looking to social media for support, you may end up feeling worse when you encounter people’s happy vacation snaps. Other researchers counter that social media can increase people’s trust and engagement with each other and with political events. The difference in these findings seems to lie in an important factor: action. People who lurk on social media, simply taking in images and posts, tend to be brought down by the experience. Those who engage—write comments on posts, or post images or articles themselves—feel connected and happier for the experience.
One thing can’t be said: that our time online is neutral. It’s a key step in your process to consider how your time online affects you. Are you drained by it? Are you informed by it?
How to Lessen Your Online Distractions
1. Disable the culprits! If you know—from doing your homework—that you’re answering the siren call of Pinterest or your favorite online retailer, then address the problem. You can either block them completely or set up a block on a timer, like Self Control, so that you can only go on at scheduled times.
2. Gather together all the tasks you can do offline and then shut off your Wi-Fi for part of the day.
3. Set a schedule, which includes distractions. Knowing that you can go and poke around social media during your scheduled break at two-thirty will help you keep on task until then.
4. Make your current work full screen. Don’t allow the visual presence of tabs for Facebook, Twitter, and Apartment Therapy lure you away at every micro pause.
5. Stop following and/or engaging with people who bring you down. You can be affected by people even through the interface of social media. If you find yourself rolling your eyes each time you see a colleague’s avatar on Twitter, go ahead and un-follow.
We’ve got more tips to help you disconnect.