Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

How to Create an Internet Schedule

A calendar

The internet is a wonderful thing. At least, it can be. It makes doing research, communicating, working, and even just shopping easier.

On the other hand, the internet can be a huge pit of distraction. It’s tempting to watch that video on YouTube, check social media or email, or get sucked into the Wikipedia spiral than actually do some work. Plus, you get a nice hit of dopamine when you do.

If your worried about the internet being or becoming a distraction and a time sink, you have options to prevent that from happening. I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to stop the internet from putting a dent in your productivity is to create an internet schedule.

Here are some suggestions that can help you create a schedule.

Start By Taking Stock

Think carefully about where and when the internet is taking up more of your time than it should. Be critical, and also think about where one path leads to another.

You might be constantly checking posts on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. You might be regularly checking your email or visiting sites like Reddit or Hacker News. You might be constantly looking for deals on eBay or Etsy.

An email, for example, could lead you to YouTube. Once you watch that funny video from the Olympics, you could be tempted to watch some of the suggested videos listed on the right of your browser window. A quick check of Twitter could lead you to a news site, and you could get caught up in stories that catch your eye.

Take an inventory of:

  • Where you’re spending time on the internet
  • The amount of time you’re spending on each task
  • How often during the day you’re doing it

Until you take that inventory, you won’t realize how much time the internet is taking away from other, more important things. Once you have that inventory, you can take action.

Think in Batches and Bundles

Chances are you’re jumping around a lot online — for example, looking at several websites and searching for tweets on specific subjects.

Wherever you can, try to assemble as much of what’s distracting you as you can in one place. That’s what I mean by batches and bundles. When it comes time to follow through with your schedule, you’ll have a lot of what you want to view in one place.

How do you batch or bundle what you view on the internet? With websites, collect them in an RSS reader. An RSS reader grabs the latest news from sites and lets you organize them in categories. If RSS readers are new to you, or if you haven’t used one in while, check out these recommendations.

Both Twitter and Facebook have a feature called Lists. This feature lets you follow specific accounts that post on your favourite topics. By using lists, you can filter out a lot of cruft.

A Sample Schedule

You know where your pain points are. Now it’s time to ease that pain by creating your schedule.

Your schedule doesn’t need to be anything formal. It can just be a list of times when you allow yourself to use the internet. You can write the schedule down on a piece of paper, put it in a text file, or use a calendar application. The choice is yours.

Here’s the schedule I use:

  • Check email at 6:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.
  • Read RSS feeds at lunch
  • Check social media at 8:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.
  • Give myself 45 minutes of unstructured time three times a week

On top of that, I try to do a digital fast on weekends.

That schedule is simple, and I usually don’t deviate from it. Sometimes, though, things happen and I need to check my email (especially if I’m on a deadline) or need to respond to a time-sensitive request.

Use Technology to Help You Along

When you start using your internet schedule, you’ll be tempted do deviate from the program. You’ll backslide. Expect that to happen and don’t beat yourself up when it does.

To make the transition smoother, use technology to help you stay on track. The first thing you should consider doing is turning off notifications: on your phone, on your desktop, and (if you use one) your smartwatch. That way, you’re not constantly bombarded with alerts and you’re not tempted to act on those alerts.

If that isn’t enough, turn to blocking software. Blocking software does what it says on the tin: it lets you block access to the internet at specific times to let you get things done without distraction. To be honest, I’ve never used this type of application but people I know recommend:

Final Thoughts

Creating an internet schedule is easy. Sticking to it is the hard part. With time and discipline, you can do it. Once you do stick to your schedule, you’ll find that you’ll be more productive. You’ll finish what you’ll need to get done, and you’ll have more time for the important things in your life.

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