Online Discipline

Set a Timer Before Diving Into the eWorld

The Internet, a wonderful tool that allows us to retrieve information in seconds, can also rob us of hours if we are not careful. Have you ever looked something up and found yourself reading countless other articles by following link after link of fascinating data? I know I have! There is so much to see, and it is so easy to get to that it is tempting to just read and read and read. How do we stop?

As for social media – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and all the other bells and whistles that command our attention – like so many other things in life, social media can either save us time or cost us time depending on how we use it.

Juli Shulem

Then there is good, old email. If your inbox is anything like mine, you get dozens of emails a day. A lot of these can probably be safely deleted. But while it takes hardly any time at all to hit the delete button, the process of sorting through them can be very time-consuming.

For one thing, there are those emails that you aren’t sure of, so you must open them and take a quick peek in order to determine if anything detrimental will happen if you delete it.

Another component that takes more time than you might anticipate is hitting the “unsubscribe” tab and going through the process to get off an eblast list.

And finally, when an email with a link to something funny, interesting, or important gets sent our way – who are we to delete it without opening it up? If it was sent by your best friend, you pretty much have to open it because you might get asked about it the next time you speak. But should you be doing it at 2 in the afternoon when you are supposed to be working on a project at the office? Not really.

What’s a person to do in the early years of the 21st century? Here are my suggestions for dealing with the seduction and temptation of the Internet, email, and social media:

Set Limits: Internet lure is tricky. You can spend your time going from site to site, which may teach you some wonderful things, yet it can also take you from important people and activities in the real world. Bottom line: Monitor yourself. Set an alert (I use an app called ‘Do It in 10” for my Mac) so you can have some outside “force” telling you when it’s time to stop. Let yourself run wild with curiosity for the time allotted, but give yourself a limit and stop before you are out of control.

Email Hygiene Emails, eblasts, e-offers… Set aside specific times when you will go to your email list. I have a girlfriend who would respond to an email I sent within minutes. All the time! I finally asked her how she could be getting anything done if she was always on email all day and night. She thought she was saving time by responding right away to someone. And for some very disciplined people, in some situations, this might have some merit.

However, if you set aside certain times to reply to emails and stick to it you have fewer opportunities to get sucked in by the other computer distractions. I answer my emails twice a day, basically. I may check a bit more frequently if I am expecting something, but only to look for that one item, and then close up again. Again, set a timer so you are aware of how much time you are taking to deal with emails.

And during that time, remove yourself from lists that no longer interest you. Consider getting off the lists of your favorite websites, as well: You can probably find them without using the link provided in the email.

Just One More: Social media sites are probably the biggest time-suck my clients complain about. It’s so easy to watch “just one more” video clip on YouTube, or check just one more friend’s timeline on Facebook. If you count that as your “social life” time and that’s how you spend it, that’s one thing. But for most of the population, the time just slips away and isn’t missed until later. For others, it becomes a stalling mechanism.

Set a timer, set a timer, set a timer. Give yourself some boundaries around how much time you are devoting to these sites. And try this: Before going online, ask yourself, “What is my intention for going on Facebook right now?” If you discover that it is your intention to play one of the many games on Facebook (biggest time-waster I can think of), maybe you need a new hobby.

Watch next week for Time-Waster #5, the last of this series! Then stay tuned for holiday-related organizing ideas.

Something you want an answer to? Ask here and I will address it in time for the holiday season. Or send an email to with “question for column” in the subject line.

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