Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Trick for Reducing Time Spent on Internet

I've developed a simple and effective trick to help to reduce time spent on the Internet.

Keep a running list (on actual paper, with a pen!) of things you feel an urge to look up, watch, read or otherwise surf on the Internet, as they occur to you. Then, once per day (preferably late-ish), sit down at the computer and go through the list.

If you run to the computer as surfing tasks occur to you, you'll likely find yourself also checking email, reading a blog or two, and idly surfing around each time. But by saving up the tasks, that generalized surfing will be constrained to one daily period. Keeping the list removes the sense of urgency, because you know you'll get to the task eventually.

As a bonus, many items on the list will, to your sober eye, be seen as completely frivolous, and you'll expunge them. Time saved! And since you'll be surfing with some sense of purpose, as you efficiently work through that to-do list, you'll be less inclined to idly inflate any given task. You'll grab the info and move on. You're in work mode, not drift mode!

The next step is to do likewise when working on your computer. If you think of something you'd like to surf, write it down, and know you'll get to it later. Your work flow will remain undisrupted. In this case, too: don't maintain the list electronically. It's got to be with pen and paper.

One handy tool is a program I mentioned in my iPhone App round-up last week: Instapaper, which can also be used for desktop/laptop browsing. You create an account on Instapaper, drag their bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, then whenever you spot an interesting article to read, you click the bookmark and it saves the text so you can read it another time (or print it out...or read it on your iPhone via the Instapaper iPhone app). And it's all free.

The trick isn't to surf less, or to restrain one's curiosity and thirst for information. It's to make Internet use a little more compact, focused, and efficient.

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