A book that every young woman (and man) ought to consider reading asap is The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas G. Carr. It basically dares to explore the question, “is the internet making us stupid?”
As we enjoy an infinite abundance of information, a mouth watering buffet of virtual entertainment, and instantaneous connection with practically the entire world, all at our fingertips — what are we sacrificing in exchange?
We’ve all seen them. Walking aimlessly down the street, steering obliviously behind the wheel, or disconnectedly “dining” at a restaurant near you — like zombies, completely consumed in their phones, and totally blind to the world around them.
But that’s definitely not me. And that’s certainly not you. Or is it?
The truth is, that we’re all vulnerable to the sexy allure that is the internet. Be it an endless loop of imagery stimulation, instantaneous connection, or information overload masked as “learning” (my personal favorite) — facebook, Instagram, email, youtube, news sites, fake news sites, “you can get a distraction. You can get a distraction. Everybody can get a distraction!”
And try as we might to detach, to just simply put the phone down, or close the screen, it’s just so. Damn. Hard (“that’s what she said”).
I for one can’t help but feel a tremendous amount of anxiety, the moment I’m challenged to put down my phone, while I’m binge watching 90 Day Fiancé clips on Youtube. And if I’m enthralled in pinning to my latest style inspiration board on Pinterest, you couldn’t pry the phone from my hands with the jaws of life.
Even as a self-proclaimed conscious internet consumer, I (and you too), can get got.
Realization is simply not enough. Unless you take very intentional action to keep in control of your internet usage (and not the other way around), you risk losing even more than any mind-numbing time we invest and will never get back. According to many recent studies, we risk losing our ability to focus, genuine human connection, and even our sanity.
After much reflection, I’ve identified three of the biggest #internetproblems of which I have personally struggled with, and solutions that are working for me.
I’d like to preface by declaring the that I am no expert on slow web, internet addiction, or productivity. I’m a writer/blogger, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner (see resources below), who is personally committed to continuous improving in many aspects of life, and helping others. With that said, these are my own personal insights, and what’s working for me, right now. It is my hope that you find it insightful.
Problem #1: Information Overload
At a certain point, the ever-growing abundance of information is overwhelming. With a plethora of incredible resources galore, it can be extremely difficult to tell when it’s time to throw in the towel on consumption. How does one say with confidence, “ok, I’ve got enough information”, when the greatest insight could be just one more youtube video away.
Inevitably, the stream of valuable information becomes incessant, redundant, yet paralyzing just the same. Our brain kicks into risk aversion mode and our fear of missing out has us believe that if we stop now, we may miss out on the best treasure yet to come, just one more youtube video away.
Problem #2: Constant Distraction
The nature of the internet today encourages the delusion of “multitasking”. You watch Wendy Williams while cooking, you listen to a podcast episode while catching up on email.
The truth is, multitasking is a myth. While you may feel productive as you check multiples things off the to do list at once, in reality, your brain is just switching between tasks quickly. As a result, your accomplishing all of those respective task without the full focus they may deserve, and these tasks end up taking way longer than necessary to complete.
Problem #3: The Internet’s Got A Hold On Me
As an entrepreneur, freelancer, digital nomad, or any one working online in 2019, when it comes to work life balance, the struggle is real. When our work, and our personal lives are so strongly tethered to the internet, it’s hard to conclude a healthy balance of internet for work, internet for personal life, and disconnecting all together.
Internet addiction and social media addiction is becoming more and more a topic of discussion. As virtual reality is becoming more real, who must draw the line is clear (after all, it’s not in the best interest of any web platform do kick you out of the party). The question of where, and how do we draw the line however remains.
Solutions to Internet Problems
After much research and continuous trail and error, here are 14 Tips to help alleviate #internetproblems including helpful resources and apps.
1. Be ok with not having all the facts: Challenge yourself to believe that the knowledge you currently have just may be enough to make the progress you need right now. Practice being ok even without having all the possible information you could have.
2. Practice selective ignorance. Do you really need to know all the latest news the moment it happens. I know it sounds crazy, but what if you chose not to “stay updated”. In the grand scheme of things, does knowing the latest absurd trump tweet add value, or noise?
3. Practice “just in time knowledge”: Challenge yourself to ignore all the enticing bits of information calling your name in the moment by practicing “just in time knowledge”. This is essentially not consuming information just for the hell of it, regardless how “valuable” it may seem in the moment. Instead, get into the habit of looking up specific information, only when you need it.
4. Practice thinking critically: Think more critically about the information you choose to consume. Ask yourself, “what is the likelihood of the information you’re about to consume containing something exponentially different, or more valuable than what you already know?” “Does this have the potential to fundamentally change my life?”
5. Curate what goes in: Practice blocking the broken fire hydrant of content begging for you to read, click, or watch now by bookmarking interesting pieces for later. At a designated time, you can then more critically curate, and then consume; wedding out the unnecessary.
Create an information queue and tackle it on a regular basis. Don’t feel pressured to deal with information as it arrives; put it to one side and tackle it in a quiet time of the day. Create filters on your email box and ensure that only priority material catches your eye during the day. Use filters in your searches to reduce the amount of information you get on Google. Only deal with what is relevant and/or important.
6. Filter ruthlessly: Tackle your curated information queue on a regular basis, and ruthlessly by thinking more critically about what you choose to consume.
7. Work in blocked time increments: Breaking down tasks into subtasks and organizing them into timed increments makes it easier to focus on the task at hand. There are different methods of practicing, and building the skill of deep work.
**My Pomodoro Method:
- Make a list of tasks to get done in order of priority.
- Choose a single task on which to focus. Starting with the highest priority.
- Set timer for 30 minutes. Anything besides said task should be disabled (see next solution).
- Work on the task until the timer goes off.
- Check task off the list.
- Take a short break. Do not engage in unrelated tasks (cat videos, Instagram, etc.)
- Rinse and repeat.
8. Block distracting and enticing websites: That goes for youtube, Instagram, google… heck, I block the entire internet, excluding specific task at hand, while I’m in a Pomodoro session using Freedom Website Block App.
9. Set deadlines. The freedom app is great for this.
10. Schedule everything: Schedule time for email, “social” internet time, reading, curating your read list, watching cat videos — everything. Sync your website blocker tool to align with your schedule.
**Schedule learning time using the The 5 Hour Rule.
11. Clear to Neutral: In other words, tie up all loose ends at the end of each day. Close all your browser tabs, exit all programs and applications, organize your Downloads, empty the trash, and shut off your computer. This habit helps to set up the “future you” up for success.
12. Set working time vs personal time vs offline time.
**What’s working for me:
- 5:30 pm – All working applications (except for email) are automatically blocked with Freedom App. Google Drive will save all unfinished work.
- 5:30 – 6:30 pm – Is “social hour”. That’s when I can check and respond to emails, catch up on social media, engage intentionally as opposed to aimlessly wasting time ( I only have 1 hour after all).
- 7:00 pm – Freedom App, disables all web browsing, apps, programs, ect on my computer AND phone. I’ve got no choice left but to live life offline. Read a book, go for a walk, call a friend, or my mom (“hi mama”), or anybody.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
13. Continuous enhancement: Harping back to “schedule everything”, make sure to schedule continuous enhance of your productivity game plan, perhaps every week or so.
14. Stick to the plan. Perhaps the most important of them all, ya gotta stick to the plan man! Like any skill in life; it won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Give yourself grace, to perhaps fail but always get back up; and to master the skills that will make you a more internet liberated and perhaps more productive human being.
Resources and Apps
News Feed Blockers
I’m currently using Feed Eradicator, a chrome extension that disables your perfectly algorithmic news feeds. Extentions like Not Now Youtube and Distraction Free Youtube hide your youtube recommendations so that you can concentrate on your work.
Likewise, Kill News Feed kills your Facebook news feed and replaces it with a message reminding you not to get distracted.
Time Tracking Techniques
I am a fan of the Pomodoro Technique.
Freedom, the original and best website and internet blocker, easily blocks websites and apps on your computer, phone, and tablet.
Recommend Reading & Resources
- Book: A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin
- Book: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
- Article: While Everyone Is Distracted By Social Media, Successful People Double Down On An Underrated Skill by Michael Simmons