My Challenge for May: Plugging the Online Time Drain

All right, yesterday I wrote about 5 time drains.  And I’ve admitted to you before, that managing online time is something I struggle with.  Giving up Facebook certainly helped, but I’ve realized that, over the winter, I’ve still spent more time on teh internets than I should.

And–the funny thing–is that nearly everyone I talk to says the same thing.  Which has led me to do some thinking.

Why Does the Internet Have so Much Appeal?

Why are we so content to stare at our computer screens, for hours a day?  What does the Internet do for us, for me?

Well, in my case, being online provides me with…

  • A creative outlet and a hobby.
  • A chance to contribute something positive to society and the world in general (albeit a small population of the world!)
  • A community in which I belong.
  • Incredible, intellectual discussions.
  • Friendships as close as any in “real life.”
  • Entertainment!

So, obviously “just saying no” is not the answer, as recreational online time does serve a real, positive purpose.  In fact, that is what I learned when I gave up most of my online time for Lent last year. 

So what’s the problem?

The problem comes when this online time interferes with the rest of our lives.  Admit it: there have been times when you’ve been on the computer, when you probably would have enjoyed doing something else, much better.  I will confess that I have spent sunny days checking the same blogs over and over again, and that there are times I missed out on opportunities to play with my daughter, because I was staring at the screen.

It’s really a matter of balance and moderation–two things that we really struggle with in Western cultures! 

My plan, to find a bit of balance with my online time, is twofold.  First, I am going to be more intentional with the time I spend online.  I will focus on one task at a time, rather than trying to multi-task.  When I’m blogging, I’ll keep my e-mail closed.  When I’m doing work-related tasks, I will resist the temptation to check my e-mail or blog comments.

Second, I will designate times, in my daily rhythm, for rescreational online time.  It will actually be a sizable amount of time, because I want to put my best into my blog posts and my e-mails to friends.  The difference is, it will be intentional, in its place.  I won’t be sneaking in online time when I should be doing something else.  It won’t be spread out through the day.  And it will be spent doing meaningful activities. 

Here is my plan:

  • The majority of the blogs that I follow, I have subscribed to.  I will subscribe to comments as well, so that I don’t find myself going back and checking everyday.  The few that don’t allow subscriptions (hint: You know who you are–add a subscription option!), I will check once a week.
  • Recreational online time will be limited to mornings, after my morning routine and yoga, and evenings from 7-9.  I will answer e-mails, read and write blog comments, and write posts.
  • I can use a little more time on weekends, to get ahead of writing posts and get caught up on e-mail. 

I think that’s a solid, realistic plan.  And, of course, it’s not set in stone.  So I will keep you posted, and tweak it as necessary.

Note: It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway–rhythm is not routine.  This is not carved in stone.  If a friend is going through a rough time, of course I’ll do what I need to to support them.  Basically, if it’s something that I would answer the phone for during dinnertime, then it is a priority and could possibly get more than my “allotted” time.  Being a decent human being is still being a decent human being…

So what about you?

All right, now it’s your turn.  What are you going to do to be more intentional with your online time?  Have you managed to keep your virtual interactions from interfering with your real-world life?  If not, what can YOU do?

10 thoughts on “My Challenge for May: Plugging the Online Time Drain

  1. We’ve already talked about this one, my online time definitely interferes with my real life. It is my way to connect with others, but it’s also an escape. I think that if I were to work on limiting my time online, and being more intentional with it when I am online, I would feel less of a need to escape as I would likely be finding fulfillment outside of the internet.
    DH and I are starting to implement an hour of no electronics after the kids go to bed. We’ve been doing far too much screen time and not enough talking and connecting for far too long. It’s a small thing that I think will make a big difference.

  2. I agree with you and I think that setting a time for being online will help. I get up really early in the morning and spend about 45 minutes online, then I go and work out and then after that about another 45 minutes or so. Now, I’m not on facebook so this is reading the blogs that I enjoy (like yours), reading two newspapers, checking e-mails and seeing what my workload is like for the day (I work at home). I don’t get back online in the evening unless I have to check Ebay (recently cleaned out mom’s house, she is an assisted living facility and trying to sell some things), so I give myself time in the evening to either read or watch a little tv.

  3. This is a problem we have struggled with as well. We have actually experimented with having no internet at home except for our smart phones. This has greatly reduced our time online and made us much more intentional when we visit the library or apple store with their free wi-fi.

    Another element we have focused on our computer work, and life in general, is doing one thing at a time, which seems to be where you are heading with your plan.

    I hope it goes well and I look forward to the updates.

  4. I have actually decreased my online time by using my smartphone. I check my email and a few things but I am not as tempted to surf mindlessly or follow a string of links because the screen is small, it is more difficult to type, and it is slower. I still use my computer a few times a week but it is when I have something specific I want to do or see.

  5. gosh lately the whole internet thing has taken a back seat. i was surprised how easily this happened because I’ve been keen for so long. Maybe it’s the spring energy here, the garden is calling and I’m enjoying the process of clearing and sorting. This weekend I plan to catch up a bit. Once the pressure to keep up has been let go of, it was easy to step back for a bit. Also I think my brain needed a bit of a rest from taking everything in, if you know what i mean! X

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