We’re all very guilty of wasting obscene amounts of time on the internet at some point. What we think will only take us a few minutes can quickly turn into hours of wasted time. It’s caused what some have classified as “Popcorn Brain,” where our mind gets rewired to become addicted to the instant gratification we can find through the internet. This is a serious issue, and it’s causing problems in our society.
The most dangerous part about this is that we develop small habits that we do while we are actually trying to accomplish something else. It sneaks in through the temptation of only a short relief, then sabotages your progress against set goals.
This is personally one of my biggest struggles. My intimate knowledge of this struggle has led me to look for ways to fight this issue, and I have some tools that I use every day to help me let me use technology as a powerful tool instead of being ruled by it. I hope that they are able to help you too.
5 Tools to Help You Stay Productive Online
1. Time Out – Look Away and Take Breaks
This has been one of the most useful apps on my computer. The Time Out app works on Macs, and is free and lightweight. This is a relatively simple app that reminds you to take a break and step away. My favorite use for it is to use it to take micro breaks to look away from the screen. This is incredibly helpful to follow the 20-20-20 rule to help your eyesight. It reminds me to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes, in an attempt to help what remains of the health of my vision.
For PC users, there is a similar app called Workrave.
2. Stay Focused – Limit Social Media
Social media is an incredible tool to facilitate communication with family and friends, but it can easily become an enormous time suck. The problem tends to be that we become unaware of how long it takes us to do an activity, so sometimes we need some help with self-control.
Stay Focused is a Google Chrome browser add-on that just this job. It is highly customizable and allows you to add sites to the black or white list with specific times allowed. Once you reach your quota for the day, all you see is a reminder that says “Shouldn’t you be working?”
For you Firefox users, LeechBlock is a great alternative.
3. Evernote Web Clipper – Collect Resources and Notes as You Go
Journals and notebooks are invaluable resources for taking notes and developing ideas, but they have the finite limitations of all other analog media. Evernote is by far the best tool to use for keep all digital notes, ideas, and references together in one place.
Evernote is a tool that only gets more useful the more you use it. Using the Web Clipper Add-on or Chrome Plugin with your browser helps you keep track of bookmarks, images, screen shots, even whole articles in simplified form. I use it for my creative work for writings talks, collecting writing resources, art references, and every other project I have on my plate. This tool is invaluable for organizing the endless content I like or want to save.
4. Google Drive – Your Documents Should Live
In a connected world, it’s unrealistic to look at documents as if they remain stagnant in Word or Excel files. Google Drive is only one of many options to bring collaborative life to your documents. It’s my favorite because of the ease of use and it’s also free.
Outside of being used to work and edits documents, it can also be used a free cloud storage service. It works great for sharing files through Gmail too.
5. Calendar – Keep Track of Events and Deadlines
Google Calendar is a very popular app, but it’s usefulness can be extended by subscribing to other calendars like a Liturgical Calendar or different organizations. It can even add on your Facebook events. Setting reminders can interrupt you online activities when you need to transition to the next meeting or event.
I often use it to remind myself when I do specific things like get a haircut or go to confession, and my wife and I use it to coordinate our busy schedules by sharing all events with each other. It has been a lifesaver in planning events separately and together.
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