One commenter, Jess, made an interesting point about the internet. She said:
I’m wondering about taking this one step farther, though. I am absolutely appreciative of the internet – I love connecting with people all over the world, sharing ideas via blogs, and being able to sell products while I’m sleeping. But despite its benefits I am definitely aware that my use of the internet sucks creative time from my life. There are just so many things to be distracted by.
I absolutely agree, and I have a few thoughts to offer.
First though, I thought I should clear something up – we turned off cable but we do still have a television. It isn't turned on very often but we do watch movies and programs available via streaming media. A few readers seemed to think I was gesturing toward abandoning television entirely, which we did not, but we have significantly reduced our interaction with television. Additionally, watching TV in this manner is far more filled with intention and choice - it requires a more active participation and selection of programming and does not give the option to "channel surf" nor the dependence on set times for programming. We're also ad free, which is fabulous.
Getting back to Jess' point though – I too adore reading blogs, browsing internet marketplaces and it can, absolutely, suck you in time-wise. This is very much an area I struggle with as well. I do have a few thoughts or challenges to offer though that you might consider.
Because the internet is a transient, changeable, and virtual space it can be difficult to apply the same rules we might in a "real" physical space or setting. Many of us can now access the internet practically anywhere at any time - even while flying. Applying the rules and social norms we apply to friendships we have offline to those we have online may help define some limits that will aid with internet usage.
Designate a time for your internet
We would never expect or accept a friend being in our house all hours of the day for a limitless period of time - talking to them as we drift off the sleep or listening to them as soon as we wake up, inviting them into the bathroom with us or other private spaces. Consider limiting your internet usage the same way. If you wouldn't be comfortable with an actual person being in the room or with you while you are doing whatever you are doing then perhaps that isn't the time or space for the internet either.
If you have an internet connected "smart" phone consider removing social networking applications from your phone. You can try one at a time or all at once. Try it for a week. Just one week. I did this and it was incredibly liberating. Since then I reinstalled things because we traveled but I am removing those applications. Right now.
Now consider designating actual time slots for your internet usage. My best and most productive time is while my daughter is napping. Your best times depend on your personal work and productivity habits. That said though if you are hoping to accomplish something and you know you are most productive in, say, the morning, consider NOT connecting to the internet until after that task has been achieved. For instance, if you have a presentation to get done at work immediately sit down and work on your presentation. Only once that main goal for the day is done do you go ahead and check your email. Work-wise you may find that the best thing to do is not have your email always on, but rather to check at designated times throughout the day. Read and respond at those times but not in a scattered manner throughout the day.
Designate a space for your internet
I have got to say – having a desktop, an office, a physical space to work and browse the internet in is the best. Hands down, the best. Before I had an office I was an internet transient - the computer would show up on the couch, in the bed, the kitchen table, etc. Had I known how much better designating a specific space for my work and internet time would be we would have done this years ago. Having a space helps get my head in the right mental place as well and confines my usage of the internet and work to a designated area that doesn't physically or emotionally overlap my time with my family. This is crucial stuff - being able to define family time, personal, and work time as distinctly separate is both difficult and fulfilling. If you have a laptop I recommend trying to designate a space and sticking to it - just like with the phone, for one week. Then go from there.
Assign an Intention
Before you begin your time online consider assigning an intention. Some days the intention may be as simple as "entertainment", other days more complicated – "seek inspiration", "write one blog entry", "respond to all outstanding emails", for instance. Having a goal, an intention, a guided path in mind helps to define both your time and your successful use of that time. This goes for pretty much anything in life, but maybe just try it with internet time first and go from there. If you are interest in an online forum to voice your intention as a way to feel more purposeful in it check out Intent.com from the daughter of Deepak Chopra, Mallika.
Hopefully some of these ideas help a bit. Do you have tips, techniques or other ideas? Please let us know - we could all use the insight!