We are all guilty of it. The internet has become something of a non-negotiable for us in this modern-day world. We can certainly live without it, but the thought of that possibility is enough to make most of us shudder in horror.
So we get stuck with the conundrum. How to stop wasting my life online? How can I get the most out of my online experience, without wasting my precious time and energy on ridiculous click-holes?! Sometimes we need a little extra help to be mindful around our internet and computer habits. Here’s 7 ways you can create optimal balance between your digital and real-world interactions.
Set a Time Limit
Sounds lame, right? It’s like something your mom would force on you so that you’d get your homework done. Guess what? Mom was right. The online world and computer screens in general actually have a proven addicting effect. We humans are attracted to the buzz of our synapses firing as we are constantly fed information, let alone the brightness and vibrancy of HD screens.
So, we need to create tangible reminders to draw us out of the trance that our computer screen creates. You can do this easily by setting up a phone alarm – or even better – a good old-fashioned alarm clock to go off at set intervals.
Once you know that your browsing or working time in front of that screen is finite, you will be pushed to really get in there and do what you need to do, rather than heading straight for Facebook or Imgur. It’s also a great lesson in self-awareness, to realise HOW MUCH time you spend on any particular task online.
Set a goal or intention.
What do you want to get out of your online experience today? It helps to outline a gameplan, preferably on paper, before you open your computer. Keep it close to hand as you browse. You have already outlined a set timeframe, so be clear about what you need to get done in that time. Maybe you are doing some online shopping, researching a topic or just plain unwinding.
Whatever the case, know that going online with a set goal or intention will keep you on track. You will be far less likely to become distracted or waste time with passing thoughts or links. And if you do find yourself becoming distracted, you can always bring yourself back on target by consulting your ‘goals/intentions’ list. The simple act of NOTICING that you have become distracted is a powerful practice in self-awareness.
Limit Your Open Tabs
You heard me. There is something so distracting about having multiple tabs open all at once. You suddenly feel that you need to address each of them simultaneously. There are times when it’s necessary to keep a few open to work between, but mostly not. Try to work with a 3 tab maximum. One in, one out. As soon as you open a new one, close down something else.
If you have a tab open that you don’t want to deal with RIGHT NOW, but which is important nonetheless, you need to set up a ‘reading list’.
Set Up A Reading List
You can bookmark it for later. If you aren’t addressing it RIGHT NOW, it can go in your bookmarks folder. I love bookmarks, because I can sub-divide into evergreen and time-sensitive folders. That way I know which ones are always there for me to reference, and which ones are just waiting in my ‘reading list’, which will probably be deleted once I’ve finished reading them.
Purging your reading list often is the only way to make this system work. Otherwise, you end up with an endless list that you get more and more scared about tackling, therefore you never go near it. Counter-productive! Easy fix: as soon as you’ve finished reading something in your reading list, take one of 2 actions:
- delete it from your list
- re-locate it permanently to one of your ‘reference’ folder
Turn OFF Notifications
This. Is. So. Important. Who even invented notifications?! They are ONLY beneficial for the website implementing them. Notifications are so detrimental to productivity. They are like junk mail – unwarranted and intrusive – practically NOBODY likes them.
Turn them off on your phone and turn them off on your computer. At the very least put them on mute. Notifications drive me barmy – I can’t stand being in the same room as somebody whose phone is constantly binging. What’s worse, we OBEY the bings! Even before we notice it, our hand has reached towards the phone. No, no, no, no, no. Please. If you only take one thing away from this list, please switch off your notifications.
After all, all those messages and likes and comments will still be there – at a time that YOU CHOOSE to address them. Nobody needs the constant annoyance. We do not need to be always on call. Respect yourself and your time enough to know when to say no.
Put Away Screens During Meals (and meal prep)
Ah yes. Remember the days when it was the family gathered around one screen (the tv) – or even no screen at all! Nowadays we sit with our individual screens, even more disengaged from each other. Even if you eat alone, giving your attention to your screen instead of to your food can be harmful to your digestion and your sense of ease.
It reduces our awareness of the food we eat – usually causing us to over- or under-eat. Instead of really connecting with our bodies and what nourishes us, we distract and divert attention away to whatever is on that screen.
While you may think that this step doesn’t fit into time wasting on the internet, I believe that spending time online when you should be interacting with the real world IS time wasted online. You are not a slave to the internet. It is a resource and a tool and you get to decide when it fits into your life and when it doesn’t. If you really can’t live without your phone at mealtimes, maybe you should look into having a digital detox to help you break the habit.
Create a Digital-Free Space Around Bed-Time
Speaking of digital detoxes, the hours before bed are the perfect time to disconnect from the internet and reconnect with yourself and loved ones. This time of unwinding and relaxing your nervous system will not only guarantee you a better night’s sleep, it will also help releasing the right balance of hormones for you to relax.
Screens are addictive and trigger a dopamine (addictive) response in our brains. The increased brightness from the screen also triggers the production of melatonin – which means that we find it difficult to sleep, because our brain thinks it’s still daytime.
Rediscover all the tantalising rituals that you can create around bed-time, from lighting candles or incense to giving yourself or your partner a massage. You can use this time for journaling, doodling, meditation, yoga or reading. The twilight zone is a beautiful time and you can capture the magic only if you plug out the netflix, put away your phone and open your eyes to what is around you.
Love and Light,
Stop Wasting Time Online!
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