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Is the Internet Stealing your Productivity?

As it turns out, the internet is bad for productivity. This probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to anyone; we’re all familiar with the desire to check our emails constantly because we’re very important, even though we’re meant to be working or making big life decisions. But now that it’s been proven to decrease productivity maybe we should think about all the time we could spend learning the ukulele and stuff, instead of messing about on Reddit.

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There was a time when everyone wanted to get online. And in fairness, now it’s even more invaluable for our everyday lives – both in work and out. But now it seems that what we really want is to disconnect for a bit, giving us a chance to reconnect with our lives. A new survey has found that the internet ‘fuels procrastination and lowers productivity’; and if you’re anything like me, procrastination was already your favourite thing. Which probably explains why I’ve never finished that award winning novel.

What the study found

Half of the 2,500 participants surveyed by motivational aid site Webtrate said that checking emails and social media when trying to work revealed a worrying lack of control; and 63 per cent said they lost their chain of thought because they checked and responded to an email or social media alert while they were working on a longer piece of written work. Checking emails and social media meant 36 per cent of respondents lost more than an hour each day in productivity and 62 per cent of them reckon they felt less satisfied and happy when they realised they’d been wasting time browsing.

Whether it’s cats playing keyboards, the latest news or getting life-jealousy rage on Facebook, the internet just gives us too many options for distraction. One solution is to try a few self-imposed black-outs. Have one day a week – or even a few hours – where you don’t check any sort of internet. For a little extra motivation, make a game out of it; a colleague was telling me that when he and his friends go to dinner they all put their phones in the middle of the table – the first one to cave and look pays the bill.

Boost your productivity

Luckily there are lots of sites out there that are designed to get rid of the distraction of the pesky internet. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Rescue Time – Tracks time spent on applications and gives feedback at the end of the day to force us to realise how much time we’re wasting. It can also block sites for certain amounts of time. There are free and paid versions.
  • Write (Mac) and Dark Rooms (Windows)  – These bad boys give invaluable, distraction-free writing time. They basically turn your computer into a word processor and take away all other computery options. Free.
  • Nanny for Google Chrome – Blocks sites at certain times of day or for certain amounts of time, to keep you away from Wikipedia and lolcats and videos of slow lorises being tickled. Or sites that let you find out what the plural of ‘slow loris’ actually is. You can also block a group (e.g. any URL with the word cat in it). LeechBlock for Firefox is similar.
  • Self Control – This one’s for mac, and blocks certain websites for a predetermined amount of time; but the twist is that you can’t undo it once it’s running, so even if you restart or delete the app it’s not going anywhere ‘til that timer’s up.
  • Focus Booster – Counts down in 25 min chunks to maximise concentration. The programme uses a pomodoro timer to enhance your focus and concentration, and then – hopefully! – improve your productivity. Or just causes you to stare at a timer for 25 minutes… When we revised at school we were told to take a break every 20 minutes – so have a stretch, have a kit kat, and refocus; it’s better for your health too!

What techniques do you have for staying productive on the internet?

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