Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 14, 2011

Internet Down, Productivity Up

My Internet was down for three days. Now, I use the Internet for communicating for work, but also just to stay connected with the outside world. Any of you who have been stay-at-home parents will understand the need to reach outside the house every now and then. The need to communicate with someone who can actually speak in complete sentences! So it has been something of a lifeline in that way.

That said, I had an extremely productive three days. Got lots of projects done, things I’ve not gotten to because I didn’t have the time. And so I started wondering, “Do I really spend THAT much time online?”

Although I do check in with Facebook, and check emails when they come in, and have certain blogs I follow daily, I am pretty good at not getting sucked into the time warp that can happen online. It is so easy to follow an interesting link that leads to another and another…addictive. But I’m fairly adept at avoiding that (unless it’s during genealogy research – which is why I don’t do that during work hours!). So probably my actual amount of time spent READING what I get online is between 1-2 hours a day – not a workday, but a full 15-hour day. That’s not bad.

So why was I so much more productive without the Internet? I think it was a combination of two factors: information and fragmentation.

Everything I read – blogs, status updates, and emails – contains information. And if I could just read the info and walk away, that would be fine. But a certain percentage of that information demands a response. I may want to comment on a blog, or a friend’s Facebook post. And emails, whether for work or pleasure, often demand a reply, if only a short one. All of which eats into my time, but in such small increments that I don’t notice how much it’s taking.

Those increments are insidious because they are fragmented – I don’t notice them in bits here and there, yet at the end of the day they have added up to a larger number than I expected. But the other killer is a different kind of fragmentation – the fragmentation of concentration.

When the Internet is functioning, there is the pressure to deal with things as they come in. Someone responded to my Facebook status? Gotta see what it says, keep the dialogue going. A new email in the Inbox? Hafta see who needs what from me now. The Internet is wonderful in facilitating fast communication – but it also brings the pressure of instant communication. Like I have to respond now, at once. And this constant checking to see what’s going on out there breaks up the large chunks of uninterrupted concentration I often need to get projects, both work and home related, done efficiently.

So what to do about it? Self-discipline. I have to devise a strategy to somehow avoid the pressure to check frequently. It may be as simple as actually closing my browser except at certain times of day, so that I don’t see those updates popping up, demanding my attention. We’ll see how it goes.

How do you avoid the lure of the Internet?

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