3 tips and 1 application to stay focused and get thing done online

Do you sometimes have the feeling that technology is slowly beginning to rule you instead of serving you? In my opinion it's really becoming a case of the tail wagging the dogg. I usually get this feeling after spending hours online going from article to article under the assumption that I am doing something valuable only to find out a few hours later that I haven't accomplished anything of value at all. All I have done is add a few bookmarks to my already overloaded Delicious or Bitly account, or some other bookmarking service.

Getting things done online

I often had this feeling at the end of every weekend whenever I tried to check what I had done with all that free time that I thought I had at the beginning of the weekend. After a few weekends of tracking time spent online, using the Firefox plugin Mind The Time, I quickly realised that my weekends were not as productive as they should be. I had to do something about it.

My first step was to check what it is that I was doing that I wasn't supposed to be doing. Like Tim Ferriss said, "You can't improve what you can't measure". Since my problem was information overload, I new I had to go on an information diet. My bookmarks were bursting with information. I heard all the information I needed to accomplish the tasks at hand. Searching for information was just an excuse to waste time and pretend to be doing something instead of getting things done. I am sure you know how difficult it is to get started and get the ball rolling. Like someone said somewhere online "getting started with any task is as difficulty as it is easy for a space shuttle to escape gravity". That's why a lot of fuel is burnt during the first stages of the journey. It's exactly the same with us human beings. We need a lot of will power to get started with most tasks that we don't find to be pleasurable.

Do you get the feeling I am doing the same thing here? Anyway, let's put theory into practice and get going on this difficult task of getting things done online by blocking or ignoring all the temptations that keep appearing wherever we look. Here are the 3 simple steps and 1 application that helped me escape information overload and what some people call addiction to the Internet. I prefer calling it a bad habit.

The 3 simple steps

  1. The best solution would be to cut off the Internet connection, but not many of us can afford to do that since we have to get things done online or at least on our computers, smartphones or tablets. Whatever the case maybe. With all the social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon or even email notifications fighting for our attention, we can't get real work done. Getting rid of all temptations would be the answer. So pull the Internet plug on all devices whenever it is possible.
  2. Practise just in time learning. This is a very important point. This means look for information when you need it and use it straight away. Try not to collect information just because you think you will need it in the future. If only you knew how many links I have bookmarked over the past few years that I never used.
  3. Form new habits for getting work done online. This point is a sort of continuation of the just in time learning idea. The idea here is to decide that you are only going to look at a maximum of three sources of information before you start working on whatever it is that you are trying to do. Remember three is just an example here. The sources of information on any topic are endless these days. You could go on and on reading and there would still be something interesting to read. That's exactly what we are trying to avoid. So get the first three good sources of information and get straight back to work. It will be difficult at the beginning but perseverance will pay off in the long run.

The application:

Since I am a fan of using applications to improve productivity, any list that I make would not be complete without at list one application. The web service that I use to get things done online is found at www.minutes.at All you have to do is enter the amount of time you want to spend on a site, write the name of the website, click go and a countdown time will appear on the status bar of your browser. When the time is up, a pop-up message appears to let you know that it's time to get back to work. It's as simple as that. Like I always say, no application will help you to get things done unless you have the willpower and make a habit of stopping whatever you are doing as soon the pop-up message appears. This system works for me.

And a bonus application

Did I mention the fact that I I am a fan of productivity applications? Anyway, here is a bonus Firefox add-on that you can use if the one above does not suit you. It's called LeechBlock. It might just be the right tool for you.

You can find out more about forming new habits to improve productivity in my article Habits or Discipline? or go to Productivity and learn more about all the productivity applications that I use and recommend.

If you have other methods or applications that help you to get things done online please share by leaving a comment below.

Sun, 30 Sep 2012