As hundreds to thousands of American websites go “dark” to protest the current SOPA and PIPA proposals that are in front of their government leaders, they have found that they aren’t alone in this plight. Around the world many other websites from many other countries are uniting with their American Internet colleagues, truly demonstrating that the web is indeed “worldwide” and assembling the largest online protest in history.

While Lifehack.org hasn’t gone this route today, I’m going to take a look at what the Internet has done (and not done) for those who have wanted to get more productivity out of themselves and their coworkers. Whether you’re looking for solutions to bottlenecks in your workload, want to communicate better with your teammates or simply want to shape your life so that you can live it to its fullest, the Internet has played a part. I’m not saying it’s always been an ally – because for many of us it hasn’t – but I am saying it has played a part. The Internet and productivity have a love/hate relationship, and it’s important to understand that proposed legislation like SOPA (which appears to have been killed) and PIPA will have a real impact on both sides of the equation.

Why Productivity Loves the Internet

I could very easily drive off course here and discuss why I love that productivity loves the Internet, but I’ll do my best to avoid that.

The ability to use comprehensive web apps – whether it be Asana or Flow – or a secondary web app like Dropbox to sync up your tasks and projects, the Internet has made it so much easier for so many people to get things done. You’d be hard-pressed to see iOS and Android devices that could sync as well as they do if the Internet didn’t exist in its current form. In addition, websites such as Lifehack.org would have a much tougher time getting the message out if there was no Internet – because the only way they could exist is in print form. And while productivity sites are pretty popular in the online world, they can’t stand on their own in the offline one.

Without the Internet there would be far fewer resources for people to look to should they want to improve their productivity. As for collaboration tools, they would be a distant memory (or a figment of the imagination) if it weren’t for this “series of tubes” – as one of the US lawmakers described the base technology you’re using to read this piece right now.

Think about it: Without the Internet, productivity tools would be far less advanced than they are today.

That said, some people may not think that’s necessarily a bad thing…

Why Productivity Hates the Internet

When we had electronic organizers and paper planners to help us get stuff done, that’s exactly what they were for. They didn’t check email, they didn’t play games, and they didn’t do Twitter or Facebook.

But the Internet does all of those things…and more.

The best part about the Internet when it comes to productivity is also its worst. It can help or hurt you, depending on what you, as the end user, does with it.

The distractions that come with being able to access anything, anytime has done as much to harm the productivity of many as it has done to enhance it for others. But like those who choose paper over digital despite having the option to go with the latter, users have the same type of choice when it comes to using the Internet. You can use it responsibly or you can just use it. You just need to be prepared for the consequences either way.

What do I mean by that?

Should you put all of “your productivity eggs in the Internet basket” and it goes down – either in error or on purpose – you had best be ready to deal with what you had on your plate regardless. The thing about analog tools is that you have control over them from beginning to end. How you choose to implement them, what ones you use, what happens to them before and afterward – that’s all on you.

But with a web app or a software solution that works by connecting to the Internet in some fashion, you’re giving up some form of control. Even if it is a small amount, like syncing, it can be a vital amount. Losing all of what you’ve stored online because of a glitch (or perhaps a server being shut down due to violating the terms set out in a country’s laws) isn’t exactly something you’re ready for. But you might be wise to do so.

Your Internet. Your Productivity.

Today is a great to sit down and figure out whether or not you really value the Internet and productivity as a union or if you don’t. You’re not going to be able to remove the internet from the process entirely – email is on the Internet, after all – but you can lessen your reliance on it.

But do you really want to? Or do you really not want to have a choice in the matter?

The Internet is a valuable resource that the world needs. It serves to connect us and can make what used to be impossible possible. Productivity types like myself (and likely yourself) have tools and tactics we employ every day that involve using it. Many people nowadays make their living on it. Many of those using it don’t understand all of it, and that’s fine. The problem lies when those that don’t can control its future.

The only person that should be able to split up the Internet and productivity is you. Don’t let anyone take that choice away from you, no matter how tough that choice may be.

Editor’s Note: If you want to learn more about SOPA and PIPA, head over to Stop American Censorship.

(Photo credit: Road Signs Showing the Way to Hate and Love via Shutterstock)

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