Don’t have time to read? Then give it a listen.
Let’s start with a simple question.
How much time have you spent online today?
Astonishingly, according to a study by businessinsider.com, the average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media every day, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime which is more than the time we spend in our lifetimes eating and drinking.
Broken down, this time spent on social media differs across each platform. YouTube comes in first, consuming over 40 minutes of a person’s day. Facebook users will spend an average of 35 minutes a day (some statistics include Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, and Facebook Messenger for total time spent on Facebook). Snapchat and Instagram come in next with 25 minutes and 15 minutes spent per day, respectively. Finally, users will spend at least 1 minute on Twitter on average, everyday.
Why do we waste so much time online? We know we should be studying, or learning a skill, or coding, or whatever – but instead we watch YouTube videos. Or we scroll through Facebook with glazed-over eyes.
Yes, Internet kills our time faster than anything else.
At a single click, we can watch our favorite TV episodes back to back, stalk our friends on Facebook and get stuck in the rabbit hole that is YouTube. It’s like a never-ending rollercoaster of distraction.
What most of us don’t realize is that excessive internet surfing works just like any other addiction. It hacks the reward system in our brain and makes us feel demotivated to engage in real world activities – socializing, exercise, working – the things that fuel personal growth. You know what’s worse? Internet addiction can ultimately lead to isolation, depression and anxiety!
So, we need to find it’s remedy, right? That’s what looked for all over the internet (I know, ironic, but what other options did I have?) and these are the 5 ways I came up with:
1. Put Some Restrictions on Yourself (Apps that can help you)
Okay, I know, this is like the most obvious answer to this problem. You are saying, “I know it seems that If I’m locked down from the internet, I can’t use it anymore. But only if it were that easy. I log out from the social media, only to log back in minutes later. It doesn’t work.”
Well, that’s why I’m here my friend, to provide you with a framework that will work.
Firstly, set a time frame for work only, like 7AM – 4PM. You won’t use your phone or internet in this time. You can have free time before or after this set time. Every time you stick to this plan you are developing strength, developing a habit, after a week or two it will come naturally. If it’s hard, work in short, 20-to-30-minute long stretches. Do not check or access distractions in between but allow yourself to get a walk for 30 seconds or get a glass of water. Re-focus and get back to it. Sure, to do a work, sometimes you’ll need help from the internet. My suggestion would be to write it down and save the browsing for later. Postpone the part of work that can’t be done without the help of the internet.
You can use a timer and keep it in front of you while working. It will remind you that you have limited time.
Now here’s the awesome thing, this task can be made easier for you by some tools that you get from the internet. You can have some browser add-ons like:
These add-ons can block unwanted sites on your internet browsers.
But if you are not determined enough, you will always find a different browser on your device that doesn’t have any site blocked. It’s alright, I have a solution for that as well. There are some applications that block websites through multiple browsers.
- FocalFilter (Windows) – FocalFilter allows you to block sites across multiple browsers.
- SelfControl (Mac) – SelfControl works much the same way as FocalFilter, blocking sites for a predetermined period of time. Even if you restart your computer or delete the application, you won’t be able to access distracting sites until the timer is up.
2. Stop Your Notifications
Even when you’ve blocked access to those huge time-wasting websites, there will always be some little notifications on your devices that will keep pulling your focus away from your work and, occasionally, send you down new time-wasting rabbit holes.
You should eliminate your notifications as much as you can.
Turn off all but the essential notifications on your phone in this way. Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode when you’re working (you can set it up so you can still receive calls, either from everyone or just specific people). Also, In you, social media sites and apps, keep the notification settings as minimal as you can.
Remember that changing your focus from one thing to another always costs a lot of your time, and those costs add up to many minutes of productive time lost. Each notification you disable gets rid of one more of those time costs.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
The second point is accountability. You have to create an environment for yourself where you have to answer for your moments of weaknesses in this journey of self-control of yours. If you are not accountable for the pleasurable moments where you give up on your determination just to browse through memes on Facebook, you will keep having these moments. So how to hold yourself accountable?
It can simply be done by keeping a notebook where you write to yourself about how much progress you’ve had on a given day. For every moment of failure, write “FAILURE” in all-caps and try to decrease your number of FAILUREs each day.
While holding yourself accountable to your future self through time-tracking and self-review can be effective, being accountable to someone else is much, much better.
Let me give you my example. When I was in a Cadet College (a military-based academic institution for high schoolers), for most of the tasks, there was always a senior brother I was accountable to. So I always did what I had to do, in time. Now in university, I don’t have that anymore, I can justify procrastination much more easily if I want. It certainly downgraded my productivity.
Most of the students have the same problem I have in university, they don’t really have anyone whom they are accountable to. But you can always manufacture a higher authority for yourself.
- You can make a group among your friends, and have a weekly meeting where you have to share your progress or failures.
- You can tell a friend you want to finish something by a certain date, and you’ll buy them something or do something for them if you don’t finish your task by a given time.
- You can make a productivity buddy, and report the day’s progress to each other each night.
These are just a few ideas – you can come up with many others yourself.
4. Take A Week-Long Break From The Internet
You can do this during your vacation days.
A break from the internet can make you realize, you are more than the websites you browse.
During this break, you can go out with your friends, or if you like to be alone- sit in a park, read books, meet new people. Sure you were doing all these when you were on the internet. But you’ll find a newfound focus and energy while doing those this time. So when you’re out and about, you’ll discover dynamic energy in your relationships and activities that will make you feel fulfilled and excited for this one life you’ve got. And as a result, you’ll stop wasting time on the internet when you go back to your computer.
But what is my basis for saying these, right? My friend Prayas from BUET CSE dept Recently took this “self-exile” from the internet. Here’s what he thought in his exact words,
“Taking a break from the internet was actually the wisest decision I had made in recent times. I found out that I was less angry, and fresher than in the past days. I was able to visit lichi Bagan, a monastery without any distraction, which I suppose, I wouldn’t have been able to without a break from the internet. And reading books and actually feeling the characters were more possible because every half hour I didn’t check Facebook for notifications
To connect with people and to gather necessary information, specially if you’re a student, the internet is a crying need but sometimes to feel like a perfect human being we need to take a break from it.”
5. Take The Control of Your Life
Okay, all of those changes that I talked about, were external, right? Those were the activities that you can impose upon yourself. Now let’s talk about some changes to the core. Some changes you need to bring in your mindset. You can’t bring this right away. But the external activities can actually lead you to internal rectification.
Firstly I want you to ask yourself a question, do you control your device, or does the device control you?
I know, “The things you own end up owning you.”
But you have to really understand, that your time is unique and limited and you have to start using your time for your purposes.
So take control of your life.
How to do that? Firstly, you have to know yourself.
Know your long-term goals. Make those long-term goals your fuel to get up every day and use your time in a productive way.
The internet is in fact a great tool for serving your productive purposes.
But are the things you do on the internet actually helping your goals?
If you know your purpose, know your path, you’ll always act in your best interest. Internet addiction will not be a problem in your life anymore.
So, let’s look at those steps again.
Now, it’s time to get back to work.
Remember, reading articles on how to be more productive is yet another form of wasting time – unless you put what you’ve learned into practice.
So start implementing one of those ways into your lives. Then finish one by one. Hopefully, you’ll transform into a more productive person within a month!
This article’s audiobook is read by Wasima Noor Iqra
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