Psst… no one’s paying me to write this. Just doing it because I like to share my thoughts.
You guys, I love the internet.
There is a category of posts on my blog called “ilovetheinternet”
I’ve technically been blogging since 2004. I had a Xanga.
I joined Twitter in 2008. I tweet daily while my friends who got me to join rarely use it
One of the first things I do everyday is read blogs and other online news.
So I know, I mean I really know, how wonderful and yet overwhelming the world wide web can be.
And while I’ve always known that I can bend to toward the overuse of the internet, in the last few months I’ve been sinking more and more into constant connection and online overwhelm… and yet half of that time online is not spent in a productive manner.
And so in the last month or so I’ve started implementing (or thinking about implementing) certain online constraints and practices to help me stay productive and not fall down a never-ending internet rabbit hole. I’m certainly not out of the woods, but I am taking baby steps. Here’s what I’m doing:
Stand While Social
We have a storage unit that stands next to our television and we’ve been putting our largest laptop on it so that we can easily connect it to the TV via HDMI and watch shows online on our TV. I recently realized that the unit places the laptop at the perfect height for using the PC while standing. So now, if I’m going to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or my RSS feed at home after 9AM, then I’m doing it standing up at that computer (if I check it before 9AM, I’m in my new workspace, or in bed if it’s a Saturday). This makes me less likely to browse endlessly like I do lying on the couch with my tablet. Plus, standing is so much better than sitting.
Social media blocking
I haven’t done this yet, but I’m looking into using some sort of application to set times when sites like Facebook are blocked on my PC. Popular ones include Leechblock, Self Control, and Anti-Social. Or you can do it yourself with some code. Or you can have will power and just tell yourself that you’re only doing social media twice a day… but who can actually do that???
Avoid clicking on Facebook articles
One of my big time sucks is clicking on articles that are shared via Facebook or Twitter. The problem with clicking on Facebook is many times the articles are not helpful they only anger me. You know what I’m talking about. So, now if a link on Facebook is not about adorable animals, Harry Potter, or an awesome grilled cheese recipe… not clicking.
I only recently created Twitter lists for myself, and I know I’m still not using them to their full potential. If you don’t know what Twitter lists are, you can make categorical lists of the people you follow on Twitter, and only see updates from people on those lists. For example I have a list for friends and family, and then I have a list for celebrities, local stuff, and also a list for dance or art profiles. Instead of reading through your Twitter feed all at once, you can just look at one segment of the people you follow by clicking on one of your lists. This is not a perfect solution for me since I’m a completist and really really want to read the entire feed, however I’m still tweaking my reading practices and hopefully these lists will help.
As I’ve mentioned, a big time suck for me is clicking on every article that seems interesting. It’s necessary because I’m trying to share as much valuable information as I can, both through Twitter and the blog, but it feels urgent (read it now! Before you forget!) when it’s really not at all. So recently I started favoriting tweets to mark them to that I can easily find them later (when I am making a Friday Finds post, or filling my Buffer) at a time when I am able to fully read them. Forgive me if this is incredibly obvious, but it really does help. Another option? Apps like Pocket.
I like to subscribe to email newsletters, but it’s another thing that was taking a ton of time out of my day, because most of the time when my phone told me I had a new email it was a non-urgent, non-personal email newsletter. So I started using Unroll.Me. It’s awesome, I’ve written about it before, I know, but here’s another rundown: sign up, it analyzes your inbox to find any newsletters you subscribe to. It gives you a chance to unsubscribe to any newsletter (way easier than finding that info yourself), and then the rest it puts in a daily digest called a roll up. Any of your newsletters (that you want. You can choose to have the important ones go to your inbox if that works better for you) that you’ve rolled up go straight to an unroll.me folder in your inbox (you can get to them any time you want) and one time per day Unroll.me sends you an email that is a summary of the newsletters you received that day. You can pick if the digest gets emailed to you in the morning or evening. Now, I don’t get interrupted several times per day by a million newsletters as they hit my inbox, instead I get my digest at 7:30 in the morning and I only click on the items that I want to read. If I sign up for a new newsletter, it finds it and asks if I want to roll it up. Anything else that comes to my inbox is personal.
What tools do you use to stay productive and avoid online overwhelm?