Unless you happen to practice a tremendous amount of self-discipline, “I’m just going to read this one thing” is often akin to saying “I’m only going to have one cookie.” One minute you’re reading an article about private equity, and an hour later you’ve inexplicably learned everything there is to know about Saturn’s moon, Titan.
The Internet is a great tool for conducting research and generally getting work done, but can be even more effective when it comes to distracting you from that work. Though a slew of productivity tools designed to help you tame your wandering eye abound (like this, this one, and this too), it turns out that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question “What are the most productive ways to spend time on the Internet?”
On Quora, a question-and-answer site combining the best aspects of Wikipedia and eHow, individual opinions abound. Business Insider took note of one response in particular:
The real issue isn’t that there’s a paucity of useful webpages on the internet, it’s that taking advantage of those webpages is difficult… We live in an attention-deficit culture, and the solution isn’t better websites, it’s better humans.
Naturally, the author goes on to share his own tips on Internet productivity, some of which may be easier said than done (i.e. part ways with social media completely). Still, two tips resonated with me:
1. Make to-do lists: There may be nothing more nightmarishly effective than a to-do list. Write down what you have to do, prioritize by difficulty, and be excruciatingly detailed in your list.
2. Who cares? The most popular articles shared anywhere — Facebook, Upworthy, and the countless copycat sites — are the journalistic equivalent of McDonalds. Consuming them makes everybody worse off. I have found myself knee-deep in an hour long compilation of Vines, and twenty minutes in, I have to do a reality check: This s— literally does not matter.
He’s absolutely right on this last point: clickbaity articles are pretty ubiquitous these days, so practicing a little self-awareness about where you’re spending (wasting) your time can go a long way toward ensuring you stay on track and on task.
If you absolutely must browse during the day, try to concentrate it into designated blocks, or save it for breaks between projects/tasks/meetings, etc. While it’s important to give your brain a rest every so often, it’s equally important to remember that the break has to end at some point. If you’re used to going on browsing binges before or during work hours, think about the time you could save by practicing a little discipline and self-control. Buzzfeed will always be there- great opportunities to grow or improve your business will not.
Photo Credit: Dwayne Bent via Flickr