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Last Updated on December 15, 2017

Why The Internet Is Killing Your Productivity

Why The Internet Is Killing Your Productivity

You can’t get by without being online. Our world is connected 24/7, and it has changed the way we live and work. When working on a project, it’s natural to turn to the web for answers or inspiration. The internet is a valuable tool, but it’s easy to find yourself distracted or overwhelmed by it.

Say, for example, that you’re working on a essay, and you need to do some research. Your search terms bring back 20 pages of results. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour poring over more information than you’ll ever be able to use.

Maybe you notice a catchy title or an ad that draws you away from your work. You’re learning about the private details of your favourite celebrity’s life, or you’re buying the newest gadget. Time disappears and you’re still not done with your work.

We can’t live without the internet, so we need to learn how to live with it

Everything is online these days, and it’s so easy to Google whatever you want to know. We’ve gotten used to using the internet to find the answers to our burning questions.

You can’t even attend school without getting online. Online education portals and communication are a normal part of learning now. We’re so reliant on the internet, that we don’t always know how to find answers any other way.

Just 15 years ago, if you wanted to know the meaning of a word, you looked it up in the dictionary. Today, we just Google it. We no longer call a restaurant when we need to make a reservation. We go online or use an app to save ourselves a table. We don’t even have to set foot in a store anymore–we can buy whatever we need and have it shipped to us.

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Having internet access should increase productivity because we don’t have to spend so long looking for answers. The internet’s ability to make information available at your fingertips is a blessing and a curse. For many people, the internet is extremely distracting.

How often do you catch yourself with non-work-related tabs open? It can take you twice as long to complete a task when you are bogged down by these distractions.

    Addiction to social media is closely tied to our general addiction to the internet. Everyone is always on their phones. I’ve definitely caught myself checking my phone every ten minutes. I have to refresh my Facebook and Instagram feeds constantly because I am consumed by the fear of missing out (FOMO).[1]

    I know I’m not alone in my compulsive page-refreshing. By the time I get around to working, I don’t have enough focus and energy to put toward the task. If this sounds like you, then your productivity has suffered because of the way you use the internet.

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      Distraction can have long-term consequences

      Decreased productivity means that you won’t be able to achieve your full potential. It’ll take you longer to do your work, or you might lose the drive and self-discipline to take care of business. Chronic distraction can even rewire your brain.[2]

      The more distracted you become, the easier it is to procrastinate. While the internet is fun and stimulating, it will almost always tempt you from working on your most-important tasks.

      It just so happens that the internet has this effect on us because of our biology. The instant gratification we get from clicking, searching, and refreshing stimulates our limbic system and prompts the brain to release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter.

      Using the internet is an all-encompassing experience. We use our hands to type or engage our touchscreens. Our eyes and ears are flooded with stimulation from videos and notification. This bombardment of stimulation hijacks our attention and leaves us seeking the next click.[3]

      It’s time to cut the cord

      The only way to stop the internet from taking up all your time and concentration is to disconnect. When you unplug, you’ll get your focus back, and you’ll be less tempted to waste time on things like email, instant messaging, and social media. There’s a time and a place for those things, and it isn’t all day every day.

      Impulsiveness and our tendency toward distraction originates in the limbic system. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation calls impulsiveness the “cornerstone of procrastination.” The more impulsive you are, the more likely you are to procrastinate.

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      To combat procrastination and impulsiveness, we have to get our prefrontal cortex involved. We use this part of our brain to tackle difficult projects or plan for the future. There’s an even better solution to building focus than strengthening our brain against impulse: remove time-wasters before they take up your time.

      Unplugging from the internet is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from wasting time in the first place. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you are when you take control of the internet rather than let it control you.

      Tips for embracing an unplugged workday

      1. Disconnect when the work seems hard

      The internet rewards us on a neurochemical level when we avoid doing things that we don’t want to do. When you’re working on a high-impact or challenging task, disconnecting will be so helpful for you. After you get used to not refreshing your browser or checking your email, you’ll be amazed at the sense of calm and productivity that you experience.

      2. Put your phone away

      Lock it up, leave it in your bag, or put it in another room. Whatever you do, don’t leave it faceup on your desk. It’s just begging for you to pick it up, and the notifications are sure to draw you away from more important matters.

      3. Put your mind to it

      It’s not enough to put your phone away. Go into your work with the intention of having greater focus and energy. Setting your intention will also help you fight off the temptation to scroll mindlessly.

      4. Give yourself deadlines

      When you don’t have a deadline, projects can take a lot longer to finish. If you weren’t given a deadline, make your own. That pressure will help you focus and get the job done on time.

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      5. Close the extra tabs on your browser

      There are probably a few tabs that you don’t need to have open on your screen right now. Each one is an invitation to click away from your high-impact task. Get rid of anything you don’t need–even your inbox tab can be closed for a little while.

      6. Prevent information overload

      There are an infinite number of pages and articles on the web. Don’t let them prevent you from taking action.[4] Put a time limit on your research. If you find an unrelated article that interests you, bookmark it for later.

      Bookmarking apps such as “Pocket” and “Feedly” are great ways to save online content so that you can look back on it later.

      The internet was made to improve your life

      The web has changed the way our world works. It’s a bonus that adds to the quality of our life, but it isn’t critical to your survival. Use the internet to be more productive and produce better work so that you can have more energy for the things you love.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on November 14, 2018

      Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

      Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

      Do you find yourself constantly feeling busy? Or, maybe you feel like you have too much on your plate? Perhaps you have a to-do list with no end in sight, or many responsibilities to juggle on a daily basis at work. When you get home, you have household responsibilities to take care of, too, and it just seems like you never have much time for a breather.

      Being busy is good, it’s better than not having anything to do and letting time slip away. But, what many people don’t realize is, being busy doesn’t always mean you’re being productive. The more time you take to complete something does not equal to more success. Many people end up falling into this trap as they pack their day with tasks and errands that may sometimes produce little outcome or output for the effort that they’ve put in.

      For example, let’s say that your washing machine at home broke down and you need to fix it. Instead of calling the handyman to come, your husband decides he’s going to fix the machine. He ends up spending half a day figuring out the machine, and does eventually fix it. He did however have to make a trip to the tool shop to buy some extra tools and parts for the machine. Now, if you had called the handy man, it would probably have taken the handyman much less time, and he would have all the necessary tools and parts already, because that is his job. So in this instance, was your husband’s time and effort worth it? Oh, and because he took half the day fixing the machine, you now had to take over his duties of dropping the kids off at soccer and swim practice.

      We Need Not Be That Busy

      I hope you would agree, that it would have been ideal to delegate this task to the handyman. That would have saved you time and effort, so that you and your husband could focus on doing other things that were more important to you, like being there for your kids or spending time with each other. This is just one example of how we often impose busyness on ourselves without us even realizing it.

      But, I’m going to show you just how you can gain quality time from external sources. Whatever big goals or ambitions that you may have, it’s normal for them to involve a lot more of your time than you first expect. I’m talking about things like starting a new business, changing careers, perhaps even moving to a new city. New challenges often involve things that are outside of our experience and expertise, so covering all the bases ourselves is sometimes not feasible as it takes too much time to learn and do everything.

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      You Are Just One Person

      At the end of the day, you are just one person, and you have a limited amount of time. So, you have to do things that are meaningful to you. While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones needed to get there may be meaningful. Because we all have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, not every task will be enjoyable or all fun & games. Some simply require pure willpower and discipline to grind through. And that is where delegation comes in.

      What is Delegation?

      You may hear this term a lot in the business or corporate world; it’s an effective way for managers to distribute (or sometimes avoid!) work. But, that’s not what I’m referring to. Instead, delegation means leveraging time from an outside source to give you opportunities to increase your quality time. By outside source, we simply mean that it’s not your own time that you’re spending.

      What Should You Delegate?

      To delegate effectively, it has to be done with deliberate intention. So the aim of delegation is to create more quality time for yourself. There are 3 types of tasks that you should generally delegate, called the Delegation Triangle.

      The first are tasks you don’t enjoy doing. These are things that you know how to do, but don’t enjoy. Second, are tasks you shouldn’t do. These are things you know how to do and may even enjoy, but may not be the best use of your time. Third, are tasks you can’t do. These are things that need doing, but you don’t have the skills or expertise to follow through with them at this moment.

      Have a look through your daily tasks and responsibilities, and see if you can fit them under these 3 categories.

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      Pitfalls of Delegation

      Using the Delegation Triangle, you can decide which tasks are worth delegating. In theory, it might look easy to sort actions at first glance; but often, it’s actually harder than you think! 

      One such example, is diverting time on tasks you shouldn’t do. Let’s go back to the washing machine example. Your husband decides to fix it on his own instead of simply getting an expert to fix it. Why? Because it’s probably a challenge he enjoys, and it’s an accomplishment that would bring him satisfaction. However, if the value of the task is too low, you really ought to delegate it to others.

      Sometimes, when you have a larger goal in mind, you might have to sacrifice some actions in return for making progress. Always think about the bigger picture! One thing that can help you avoid this pitfall is to keep your deadlines in mind whenever you set milestones for a project or task.

      Deadlines are a commitment to yourself, and every bit of time is precious. So if an activity you’re focusing on is taking time away from progress towards your goal, it may be time to let go of it for now. You can always decide to pick it up again later.

      Then there’s the other extreme of delegation. And that’s when you start delegating everything you dislike doing to external sources.Sometimes it’s tempting to abuse delegation and get carried away outsourcing everything on your “don’t like doing” list.

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      Some people are too picky on what they’re going to do. But sometimes, if you don’t like doing so but you’re the only one who can do it, you still need to finish the job. At the end of the day, it does take your own hard work and effort to achieve the success you want.

      So if you find that you’re constantly running into this problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation, or reason for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

      Ask yourself, “Is this task contributing towards a meaningful objective that I want to achieve?” and “what kind of progress do I make each time I carry out the task myself?” If the task is both meaningful and creates progress, then the next step is to ask yourself questions that can help you create actions.

      What obstacles are causing you to avoid this task? Is it because of low confidence in your ability? Do you think someone else can do a better job? Is it your level of focus? Or is there an alternative action you can take that can produce the same results?

      Take Action Now

      Take a look at your current tasks or to-do’s that you have planned this week. Which tasks are possible candidates that fall under the Delegation Triangle? Are there any that fall under the pitfalls mentioned above? Which tasks can you immediately identify that should be delegated out right now?

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      I hope this exercise helps declutter your tasks and responsibilities a little and allows you to see how much more time you can be saving for more important things. But, this is not the end of delegation. After you’ve sorted out the tasks that can be delegated, the next step is to determine who it should be delegated to. Besides people like your co workers, or spouse/family members, did you know that there is a whole delegating industry out there?

      If you’re keen to learn more about this delegating industry, and find out how you can decide who’s the best fit to do your delegated tasks, subscribe to our newsletter today. We will help you discover many more skills that will boost your productivity by leaps and bounds!

      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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