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5 Ways to Stop Wasting Time Online

5 Ways to Stop Wasting Time Online
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Do you sometimes find yourself online placing bets with total strangers in article comment sections about whether or not Kimye will name their next baby South West when you should be working to make your next deadline? Don’t feel bad; it’s a problem many of us face. There are websites and discussion threads completely dedicated to cat videos, and Ivy League institution. The University of Pennsylvania even has a class called “Wasting Time on the Internet.”

If you’re one of those people who just can’t seem to quit tweeting, liking, or Googling, here are five tips on how to stop wasting time and get shiz done.

1. Log Off Social Media – Yes, All of It

Humans are hard-wired to seek out social connections. We crave attention and a feeling of being close to one another that we often satisfy through the use of social media. It doesn’t even have to come from our own friends. You probably check out George Takei’s Facebook page more than you do most of the people you went to college with.

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One way you might’ve heard suggested on how to stop wasting time on social media is to shut it off. Before beginning work or sitting down to study, log out of your social media accounts, delete them from your phone, or block them through your browser settings to reduce the amount of time you can procrastinate.

2. The Repeat Test

In order to see just how much time we’re wasting sometimes we need to write it down. The Repeat Test is a great tool to help you keep track of your daily habits and activities and how doing them made you feel.

Start by drawing a table representing each hour of your day. At the beginning of every hour, take a minute or two to write down exactly how you spent the last 60 minutes, along with a short note of how each task made you feel. At the end of the day, go over the list and review which habits were productive and which need to be eliminated.

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3. There’s an App for That

Yes, there are apps to help keep you from Googling all day long for the newest iPhone product to hit the market. Apps like Facebook Nanny can help limit the time you spend on social media. Other apps like Concentrate allow you to specify which sites should be blocked and which you might need to visit, while an app like Checky can keep track of your online habits and let you know where you need to work on self control.

4. Schedule Your Internet Time

You schedule your workout times, possibly your meals, and your travel plans, so why shouldn’t you schedule your Internet time too? Instead of leaving yourself free to hop online willy-nilly throughout the day, schedule specific times when you’ll allow yourself to browse the web.

Whatever posts you see that look interesting in the morning will still be there in the evening, so it’s not necessary to click on it right away. Make note of your favorite games, social media pages, and news sites and schedule a window of time to visit them. Just make sure you stick to this schedule.

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5. Take Work Breaks

Stopping your study session or workday in order to play online could indicate you simply need a break. Research has shown regular breaks help us prevent boredom while also helping us retain information over time. In fact, studies show taking a break every 90 minutes could improve our productivity.

Set a timer for work sessions, then take a short five minute break to help maximize your potential each day. Walking, eating, and even looking at cute animal pictures can help us relax and recoup energy throughout the day, so this is the perfect opportunity to log onto Facebook for a quick Grumpy Cat fix.

Training yourself to focus and avoid playing around online is tough, so use the tools above to help you get started. Remember, it’s all about willpower. Learn how to assert yours and you may find yourself getting more done than ever before.

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Featured photo credit: raneko via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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