Get More Done By Spending Less Time Online

We’ve all become accustomed to working with the Internet. It’s invaluable when we need to communicate quickly, whether it’s one-on-one via email or IM or socially through Twitter and Facebook, or find an important piece of information, or use a web app.

It’s also far too easy to go down the rabbit hole and spend a bunch of your day distracted by an endless Wikipedia chain or refreshing currency exchange rates.

Unless you work for in an environment that requires constant connectivity say, at a tech news blog most of us can benefit from knowing when to fire up the browser and when to stay offline. It’s probably naive to suggest turning the Internet off altogether far too many apps and operations depend on it these days but staying out of apps like the browser, email client and messenger at certain times can certainly be advised.

Don’t Start Your Day Online

The natural instinct for most web workers is to check email and missed Skype messages as soon as we get into the office (or dining room, or whether the computer is). Many productivity experts suggest that we slow down a little and leave the communication overload until later in the day. Checking in with your task manager and selecting the tasks you’ll tackle that day, and more importantly right away, is a great alternative.

It’s good to choose the biggest tasks first, those that require the most concentration and take the most time, and get them out of the way earlier, as early as you can before your eyes get tired of looking at the screen in the afternoon. Then once you’ve got those big offline tasks out of the way your output session you can check in and handle email and the like.

Schedule Times to Check Your Email

Don’t stop at just avoiding email in the mornings. Once you check your email once later in the day you”ll be tempted to keep looking every five minutes. Everyone does it don’t even try and deny it! Unfortunately, it ruins a lot of potentially productive time.

To avoid this, try setting specific times to check and zero your inbox, like just after lunch and as the last thing you do before clocking off. Alternatively, if you feel you really should handle email in the morning, try clearing it first thing, closing it, and not coming back to it until 5PM.

What If I Need to Check Facts?

Many of us are constantly firing up a Google search to check facts or do some research on a topic. It’s better not to interrupt your train of thought or flow when you’re working on something, so you should just power on with the rest of the item until you’ve done all you can without getting the facts. Cory Doctorow suggests using the letters “TK” in a document to signify areas you need to check into further, he says these letters are very rarely combined in English, so shouldn’t fire too many false positives on a search through the document later.

Does This Context Require Connectivity?

If you are an adherent of the Getting Things Done productivity methodology, you have a tool in your kit to answer the question of “should I be online right now?” already. It’s called contexts. A context is used to describe the situation “tools, locations or people” that need to be available in order to complete the next action on a task list.

Fortunately, you can easily add contexts in your system that indicate your need to be online to complete them. Commonly used options include a simple “Online” context, or you can go further and divide them up by app “Online – Email” or “Online – Paymo” for example.

The good news is that steering clear of the Internet during your most productive hours doesn’t mean you can’t use Paymo. You can still track time without your browser open. Just make sure to download one of our desktop apps for Windows or Mac OS X, or our Dashboard widget. The widget can be downloaded by logging into your account, clicking on the Settings gear icon, and selecting Download Desktop App.

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