This post will walk through a 30-day trial of reducing your undirected internet use to just 30 minutes a day.
When I was a kid, my parents allowed me to watch TV for only 30 minutes a day. Back then, I saw this as maltreatment. Now, I'm grateful for their foresight.
Today, of course, the real threat to our productive time isn't TV--it's the internet.
To be clear: I'm not talking about internet time spent on research, emailing query letters and so on. That's real work. I'm talking about toxic time-wasters: undirected, purposeless web browsing, pointless Facebook debates, even reading the daily news and getting depressed about some awful event you have no control over in some place you'll never go.
Our goal is to cordon off and dramatically reduce the productive time we waste each day with undirected or unproductive internet use, and redirect that time towards our work. So, get out your calendar, pick a day to start (how about today?), and for the next 30 days, do the following:
1) Start each day with a session of writing and creative work. Don't begin your day with undirected websurfing or social media.
2) Identify a specific time you intend to allocate to undirected internet use, set a 30 minute timer, and when the timer goes off, that's it. That's your mental candy for the day. No more email, Facebook, Twitter, news, Pinterest, games, nothing. Stop and go back to work.
This trial might seem incomprehensible to you at first, but after a few days, you'll get more and more used to the idea of cordoning off your websurfing time. Of course, the most important part of this trial is start each day with creative work, not with internet use. That first decision you make each day--to dedicate each day's first moments to your work, not someone else's--is the first big leap in this trial. Attend to your own stuff first.