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The Internet and Productivity: A Love/Hate Relationship

The Internet and Productivity: A Love/Hate Relationship

    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.

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    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…

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a Daily Plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a Calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

    Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an Organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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    5. Know Your Deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to Say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to Be Early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time Box Your Activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

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    9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out Distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track Your Time Spent

    When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

    You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

    14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off When You Need To

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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