Sometimes social media and smartphones and the “always on” mentality of the Information Age can feel overwhelming. Do you ever get time to think anymore, or are you just jumping constantly from one digital task to another?
Digital tools and the Internet were supposed to make us more productive and efficient, but sometimes it feels like they’re just making us more stressed out.
Here are a few key concepts for how to make sure you’re using the Internet the “right” way, improve motivation and productivity while avoiding distractions. With a good plan in place, you can make sure to get the good aspects of the Internet, but without the clutter and energy-draining aspects.
1. Monitor your information diet
Everyone is a consumer – of products, services, food, and experiences, and on the Internet we are non-stop consumers of information. But just like some food is unhealthy for us, consuming too much of the wrong information can be unhealthy for our emotional state as well. Are you purposeful in your Internet browsing, or are you just wasting time by mindlessly clicking around? Are you using the web’s vast resources to get better informed about your industry, or are you just consuming too many depressing news stories? Is the Internet helping you feel smarter and calmer, or just more stressed and irate? With these ideas in mind, maybe it’s time for you to go on an information diet. Pay attention to how much time you spend online and what you’re reading and which media you’re consuming. Is it making you feel better, or worse? Sometimes our moods are affected by the ideas we choose to bring into our minds – is the Internet helping or hurting you?
“One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.” – Daniel Goleman
2. Curate content from key sources
There is too much information online – and every day, more gets added to the pile. We have the whole sum of human knowledge at our fingertips, but it often seems like a gushing firehose instead of a refreshing stream. One way to make sure the Internet is serving your interests well is to rely on other people to “curate” content and information for you. Twitter is very helpful for this. I try to follow some of the top experts on Twitter in my industry and fields of interest – and then I “listen” to their daily Twitter updates to get breaking news and information that is useful for me. Instead of feeling like I have to plunge into the deep waters of the Internet, I can rely on other people to filter out the top stories and put them in front of me on Twitter. It helps to filter and curate content to avoid getting overwhelmed and overstimulated by too much information at once.
3. Use self control
Do you tend to waste time on certain websites (like Facebook)? Would you be more productive if you could just block yourself from visiting those sites during work hours? If you struggle to stay focused at work (and who doesn’t in this day and age?) there is an app for Mac users that is literally called “Self-Control” that might be useful. With the Self Control app, you can block yourself from visiting a “blacklist” of websites of your choice for a pre-specified length of time – 15 minutes or 1 hour or 3 hours or more. Get work done by avoiding online distractions! Another option is a similar app called Freedom that works for Windows, Android and Apple devices – and Freedom lets you shut down certain sites and apps, or lets you block yourself from accessing the entire Internet if needed.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar
For the most part, the Information Age is a great time to be alive – we have awesome digital tools and access to all the information we need to be productive and build business relationships. But the challenge is, sometimes we need to take a break, manage our emotional state, and avoid distractions at the most crucial times. With some careful planning, there are many ways to be more productive and stay motivated and focused while working online – without the downsides of “information overload.”
What ways do you use the internet in a productive way?