How to Stop Wasting Time Online

Discover eight tips that will help

I talk to many people who find themselves wasting time online. It’s usually a self-imposed distraction, sometimes we’re consciously wasting time online as a form of procrastination. Other times we’re doing it unconsciously. The thing is it’s easy to get away with.

How to Stop Wasting Time

To the outside onlooker, you’re working hard on your laptop, tablet or phone. They can’t see that you’re involved in an in-depth discussion about what your friends got up to last night. Perhaps you’ve fallen prey to the internet monster. You know that one that magically transports you from the site you should be looking at for work, to that one that shows you a sandy beach in some part of the world.

Almost every aspect of our lives is now firmly rooted in technology. So even if it looks like we’re busy and trying to get stuff done. In truth many time we’re just wasting time online, even though we’re trying hard not to!

Here are some tips for how to stop wasting time online.

Have dedicated “technology break” times.

People expect you to be on call at your device, ready with an instant response. But that isn’t efficient, nor is it even possible. You have every right to be logged off while attending to the pressing matters of life. A good way to manage this is to instil a personal policy where you only check email, Facebook or your messages once you’ve completed a task that you set out to do. Or, only check email a maximum of 4 times per day – morning, afternoon, evening and late night if you’re up.

Stop abusing the “like” button.

Serial Facebook liking is rampant, isn’t it? What’s worse, LinkedIn and other social media networks have now copycatted and they have their own like buttons that you’ll be tempted to click to give the world a hearty thumbs-up (or a frowny-face, heart emoji or whatever new time-waster they invent next). The like button can be useful, for example if you’re trying to get work done with a group online and you want someone to know that you’ve seen and read their message. But it’s also a trap that almost forces us to start wasting time online. Treat it as the trap it is. Don’t feel obligated to like everyone and their mother.

Know when a conversation is over.

Ever find yourself chatting with someone who doesn’t realise there’s nothing left to say? Try to recognise when is a good time to type a quick OK to verify that you’ve committed to something or received an important piece of information. But think about the last time you were rushing around, and texts just kept on coming in. If someone says, “Okay, I really got to go, bye” and you know they’re pressed for time, you really don’t have to write back, “Okay, bye!”

Be Definitive with your plans.

In today’s age people don’t have time to be vague. Many are looking for clear direction and concrete actions. Be that person. Stop wasting time making social arrangements. Be assertive about your plans. “We’re going to fox and hounds for dinner at 7pm if you want to meet us there.”

Many people find themselves wasting time on telephone tag. If you call some one and it goes through to voicemail. Don’t leave a message that asks them to call you when they’re free. (You’re giving them permission to manage your time). Instead be clear, leave a message stating what you need to talk about and that you’ll ring them back at a specific time. (You’re managing your time, and allowing them to manage theirs).

Don’t be tempted by distractions.

This requires a very focused mind. If you do happen to come across something irresistible in your online explorations, use the Bookmarks feature of your browser or quickly email or message yourself a link. Then go right back to whatever it is that you were trying to accomplish.

Doing something important online? – Don’t allow people to interrupt you.

For example, if you’re working constructively with a group of professionals on LinkedIn, and suddenly a message from a friend pops up, ignore it. Know that there is a time for everything, and now is not that time but you can always go back later during a “social break.”

Prioritise Prioritise Prioritise.

All tasks are not created equal. The email from your son’s teacher talking about parents evening almost rivals the message from your boss or client about an upcoming deadline… but not quite. The alert from the local supermarket about this week’s sale just does not compete. If you find yourself distracted by every little thing, learn to categorize and prioritize your emails so you don’t have quite so much to look at. You could be even more radical and turn off the notifications for email and social media messages.

Don’t get caught up with online junk communication.

For example, those automatic emails that come in now from the professional networks where you get a boilerplate “congrats” message for work achievements. This was a waste of the person’s time who saw that you had a job anniversary, and a waste of your time for thinking that someone you know actually had a valuable message to share with you. If you truly want to stop wasting time, breeze through these without a second glance. Better yet, get a junk email address where you can route such mindless click bait.

If you’d like more advice about how to manage email you may like this article manage your email in 5 days

How do you ensure you’re not wasting time online? – You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Till Next Time

Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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4 thoughts on “How to Stop Wasting Time Online

  1. Mike… I am guilty of so many of these, and unsure how to stop them. Maybe I might focus on stopping one at a time. I do leave my phone on silent though or switched off, which does help me a lot. Having technology breaks is something I have experimenting with and feeling better for doing. There is always another level and your post has given me a lot of food for thought, as always 🙂

  2. I aim to have specific times I’m on certain platforms and for what purpose.

    And, I avoid cute cat videos like the plague because that’s time I’ll never get back. However, videos of cats that can’t jump that’s a different story. Can’t miss them!