How to Simplify Your Online Life

simplify your online life

 

You don’t know what happened. Last thing you remember you were checking your bank balance, the next it’s 37 minutes later, you’ve been on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. You’ve discovered seven new favourite blogs and you’ve caught up on DIY tutorials involving chalkboard paint and moustaches.

That, friends, is the online rabbithole. It sucks you in before you realise, drawing you down into the twisting, endlessly connected digital world. And if you let it, it can kill HOURS of your day.

If you’re really wanting to live a simpler, slower life and find contentment, then one of the most important things to do is to take control of your own time.

You need to ask yourself four questions:

 

1. What activities online are making my life richer?

Not just entertaining you, but educating you in useful ways? Or helping you run a business? Or making the job of running a household easier?

  • Facebook? Sure, connecting is good for the soul. As long as that is what you’re doing. And I’m afraid that looking at photos of your high school friend’s holiday to the Gold Coast does not qualify as connecting.
  • Blogs? Obviously, I love blogs. There is such a wealth of information available to educate and inspire. But which do you read that simply pass the time and which actually provide something positive to you?
  • Online News? I’m all for understanding what is happening with the world, but it’s safe to say that reading the paper online once a day is plenty. You do not need to check the news websites hourly.
  • Celebrity Gossip? This is something I don’t understand at all. But for those who partake, it’s important to ask yourself what positive elements this is bringing to your life.
  • Twitter? Keeping informed about the world is good. But how much do we really need to know? How much information can we actually consume in a day? If you’re a business owner using Twitter to connect with people, great. Just ensure that’s what you’re actually doing – not just shooting the shit with a bunch of strangers.
  • Pinterest? It’s a beautiful way to track things we want to try – recipes, fashion, gardening tips. And it’s a wonderful, visual way to bring together your inspirations. But what if you spent most of the time you currently spend on Pinterest, actually cooking the recipes you’ve pinned, or trying the kids craft you saw last week?
  • YouTube? Yes, you can learn a lot on YouTube. But it. is. a. time. suck.
  • Admin Tasks? Online banking? Godsend. Productivity tools like Evernote? TeuxDeux? Wonderful apps, but unnecessary.
  • Email? Are you the Prime Minister? No? So it’s safe to say the world will not end if you only check your emails twice a day.

 

2. Of the positive online activities identified, what is actually important to me?

Connecting?
Running the household?
Getting organised?
Staying informed?
Being educated?
Networking?
Being entertained?
Inspiration?

Once you have worked out which of these things is truly important, write them on a piece of paper. Then number them in order of priority.

For me:

  1. Being educated.
  2. Running the household.
  3. Relationships/Connecting.
  4. Inspiration.

 

3. Honestly, how much time do I have each day to spend online?

Is it 15 minutes? 3 hours? You know better than anyone the flow of your daily life. There isn’t a right or a wrong – just find your honest answer.

 

4. When is the best time to spend online?

I like to read blogs first thing in the morning, but the days I do are days I inevitably wind up flustered, running late, less productive than usual or agitated. I am far better off waiting for night or getting up at 4am before everyone else.

Are you willing to get up early or go to bed later to fit this stuff in? Are you prepared to not watch television at night so you can spend time online?

 

Asking yourself these questions gives you a really good idea of what you value and how much time you have to give to it. Your online life is important. It can bring so much to your days, teach you, inspire you, help you connect with people, help you earn an income. But it is only one part of your life. And it is meant to make life easier, not add to the things you “need to do”.

So if you’re feeling torn in too many directions – if you’re struggling under the weight of over-committment, battling with mental clutter and feeling physically exhausted, try stepping back from your online life. Re-evaluate what it is that it’s providing you. Ask yourself these questions and take back control of your own time.

What are your online priorities? What online activities bring you joy? Make your life richer?

The Slow Home BootCamp is a free 20-part email course, designed to kickstart your Slow Home journey. Find out more and sign up here and start living a simpler, slower life today.

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14 Responses to How to Simplify Your Online Life

  1. Shannon says:

    Excellent points! This happens to me all the time. I am doing an online degree andhave online study groups on iLearn and Facebook and between these and just “being on” the laptop, i can constantly be distracted from study 10 times an hour. If i hear the “ding” of a notification i even stop a lecture to check it. terrible!!

    I would have so much more productivity if i wasnt addicted to the internet!!

    • Brooke McAlary says:

      It would be super hard being online all the time, Shannon! I find that when I’m writing now, I use a program called OmmWriter (which only gives you a plain screen and some zen music – distraction free!) I was pretty sceptical at first, but it works. Weird!

  2. Dee says:

    Great post Brooke. Was just thinking this morning that I seem to accumulate blogs & interesting websites on my IPad but very rarely look at them, cos I spend so much time looking for new ones. Time to hit the delete button on some (maybe a lot) of them I think and maybe I’ll have time to look at the ones I already really like!

    • Brooke McAlary says:

      I think it’s human nature too Dee. We’re so often on the lookout for the next great thing. And I know sometimes I get fearful that I’ll “miss out” on something. When in reality, I’m just reading the same stuff, written by different people.

  3. the trouble is, it’s got that addictive emotional “what will I miss out on if I don’t look?” element to it… But just looking at that question as I type it, it really depends on emphasis, and HOW you ask it. Ask the question honestly, and you can answer it yourself.

    • Brooke McAlary says:

      It plays on the emotions so much, Julie, you’re right. Even just the recent changes to Facebook (I think) are designed to make everything more addictive, more voyueuristic, more sticky. And if I think about it that way, I generally think that Facebook doesn’t get to decide how I spend my time – addictive or not. (But then, there are days where I’m like, “I’m fairly certain it wasn’t dark when I got on here. How did that happen?”) :)

  4. Stacey-Lee says:

    Great Advice. I am guilty of going into the room with the computer to grab something and thinking ‘I’ll just quickly check fb/pinterest/whatever’ and time just goes by, totally forgetting the item I came into the room for. Such a time suck and really, if we do ask ourselves what we are benefitting, the answer would be mostly not much

    • Brooke McAlary says:

      You sound exactly like me, Stacey-Lee! It’s definitely well worth asking the question though, isn’t it? What am I benefitting here??

      Thanks for stopping in. xx

  5. Hello! It was great to meet you at NNB2012 and it’s also awesome to stumble across this post. I am in struggle town with my online life right now. SO overwhelmed. Now I have somewhere to start making changes.

    • Brooke McAlary says:

      Hey Kylie! It was so great to meet you too. (Although things got a little fuzzy towards the end. I hope I was making sense?!) ;)

      I’ve been battling with the online time vortex too – it can be a battle, especially when you’re online a lot with blogging. Hopefully this will be helpful – let me know how you go! xx

  6. Lulu says:

    Great post! Pintrest is my greatest time “suck” although I DO try to put into practice tips and actually cook the recipes I pin. Twitter is great for quick bites of info and I occasionally come across a gem. On both, I am selective about whom I follow (usually based on either websites or blogs I visit regularly). I read when I am feeding the baby or watching tv so it won’t have too much of an impact on my available time ( which as a mother of 3 is limited!).

    • Brooke McAlary says:

      Thanks, Lulu!

      See, I think that’s where the real value of Pinterest lies – when you actually cook the recipes you pin, and make the DIYs, try the kids crafts. It really is so full of awesome ideas. The problem is when you spend hours pinning things you’re only wishing for. Instead, log off and stop wishing – start doing! :)

      (At least, that’s what I’m telling myself these days.)

      Plus internet + feeding = fabulous! It is a great way to still feel connected.

  7. Rah says:

    It’s taken me 40min to get back to this blog post and ocmment… I got distracted on Twitter, Facebook, email….

    Love what you’ve outlined, and obviously I’m very much in need of taking it on!

  8. Jay says:

    Dear Brooke, thank you for this article. I am not alone in this it appears. I am a researcher and whenever I am stuck with a problem I inevitably go to a blog or a newspaper site and when I am ready to work again sometimes I find that it is already time to leave.
    This along with Leo Babuta’s suggestion to observe my urges should help me alleviate this problem.

    Thanks again.

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