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5 Ways to Stop Wasting Time Online

5 Ways to Stop Wasting Time Online

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 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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