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?
Running the household?
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.
- Being educated.
- Running the household.
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?