Going Unplugged: Impossible?


Earlier this week, one of the members of UPOD challenged all of us to give up our three greatest online addictions for an entire week. While the prospect intrigued me, I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible for me to do.

My three online addictions? Gmail (and the accompanying gchat), Google Reader, and Twitter. The thing is, I often use gchat to communicate with my team of MM bloggers; the scouring of other products blogs through my Google Reader is a necessity for my work; and, aside from using my Twitter account to promote my own work, I’ve also been tasked with managing MM’s Twitter account.

While I may occasionally have dreams of unplugging (very occasionally), my career is inextricably intertwined with the Internets.

And besides, wouldn’t it be more productive to just figure out how to manage my online time more effectively?

After the jump, several tips for doing just that:

Stick to the Schedule:

This week, I started scheduling out blocks of time during my day, because I kept finding that projects were taking longer than they should, forcing me to continually push lower-priority projects back to the bottom of my to-do list. And so I set aside the first four hours of my day for MM, and then scheduled in a half hour for lunch, an hour for Freelancedom, two hours for the next project, etc.

The fact that I had placed limits on my time forced me to work more efficiently, getting things done much more quickly. I refreshed my Twitter feed less, and worked more.

Some productivity experts go even further, checking their e-mails and RSS feeds at only one or two preordained times during the day. It helps to disable you’ve-got-mail-type popups, and other distracting alerts.

See Things Through To the End:

I’m not nearly self-disciplined enough to stick to site checks a mere one or two times a day. Instead, I “reward” myself at the end of each completed task with a quick look-see through my three favorite sites (see above).

When I’m not obsessively clicking the refresh button on Twitter every five seconds, instead concentrating on the task at hand, things get finished a lot quicker.

Set Work Hours:

I’ve already mentioned the importance of setting work hours. Several times. I still feel the same.

As important as the Internet may be to your work, you need to unplug eventually. Because your family misses you. And you have vitamin deficiences from lack of natural light. And your eye started twitching again recently.

When the work day is done, get in the practice of unwinding with a walk outside, rather than the latest CollegeHumor video. (They are funny, though.)

Automate Certain Tasks:

If you’re dead set on getting certain things done online — such as promoting your latest blog posts or reading the news — try and automate them. For example, someone created a downloadable application that pulls the front pages from the papers you like, and combines them into a single PDF. Or check out twitterfeed, which automatically feeds your latest blog posts through to Twitter.

Anyone have any other examples to share?

Lock Yourself Out:

You can temporarily block yourself from accessing certain sites with tools such as:

  • KeepMeOut: This allows you to specify the amount of time that should elapse before you visit a site again, and then scolds you when you break your own rules.
  • BlockSite: This one’s a bit more…strict and, um, permanent. BlockSite is a Firefox extension that blocks your access to certain sites, even going so far as to disable all links to that site.
  • Invisibility Cloak: This script is courtesy of lifehacker’s Gina Trapani, and turns time-wasting sites blank before 3 p.m. Instructions are availability for changing that time.

Take a Vacation:

And when I say “vacation,” I mean it. Don’t take your laptop with you (I swear, I spent almost my entire honeymoon on my laptop). Don’t answer work calls. Set up an away message for clients. Treat your vacation like a vacation.

Being constantly available is the sure way to burnout. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to get away, use that time to truly recharge.

Don’t Set Up the Laptop in Your Bedroom:

I’m serious. I have a little lap table in the bedroom. And have claimed ownership of my husband’s laptop. And sometimes, I sit in bed and just stay online. Indefinitely.

It’s like a sickness. I can hear the new-mail beep coming from my desktop computer two rooms over, and then don’t even have to move in order to (compulsively) check it.

Don’t be like me, guys. Don’t be like me.

Related: Product Placement Plea: Throw Away Your Smartphones!


  1. […] You know. In order to avoid temptation. If you have absolutely no disciple (::coughcough::), read this post again. It contains some additional tips, and also some suggestions for apps you can use to lock […]

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