How To Prevent Mindless Web Surfing Distractions

by Brad Isaac on February 16, 2007

If you have trouble getting work done because you occasionally find yourself falling into the vortex of reading websites, this post is for you. The first thing to do is break the deep trance. The web is interactive, it gives immediate gratification much like the TV does for some people. Thus, it’s easy to read a site, read a link to another, then click a link to another. Before you know it, an hour is in the toilet.

What I think is going on, is there is a fake sense of “this is important” thinking that shoots through the reader’s mind. It is so pervasive, you could start a search for getting rid of a cough, and by the end of the expedition you are reading about who fathered Anna Nicole’s baby.

So how do we snap out of it and break the trance?

Many people use timers to do this. There was an app called “snap out of it” that would alert you at certain intervals. You can also use an egg timer. But whatever tool you use, you MUST commit to STOP – no questions asked – when the alarm sounds.

Here’s what I am talking about. Set your timer for 10 minutes any time you are surfing while you should be working. (Yeah, yeah, I know we shouldn’t be surfing while at work…but let’s be real…) Anyway, set your timer for 10 minutes. Then when the alarm sounds CLOSE YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of a forum post or reading a 911 alert from the duct tape guys. Close your browser the second the alarm sounds.

You might be panicking right now. “But I’ll lose my place.” Well, here’s the thing. If the page you were on is so darned important you’ll remember and be able to go back. But 9 times out of 10 you will have probably been on a time wasting site anyway, so closing your browser is good for you – it will recover what would have been lost time.

There are two significant benefits to taking a strong stand on closing your browser at alarm times. When you close your browser the first, second or third time you learn at a deep level that you must focus while surfing. The next surf session, instead of wandering aimlessly, you’ll get 10 minutes to get the information you need.

Another immediate benefit is the recovered time. Just think about what you could do when you recover hours on hours of Fark time.

Finally, you’ll start to value your surf time more. If you only have 10 minutes you’ll learn to maximize the entertainment value or research value of the session.

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February 17, 2007 at 2:46 am

I do this all the time – and it works. I also set my timer for 50 minute work sessions where I do nothing but grind away at my work. Then I take a 10 minute break – sometimes go outside and breathe – basically get our from in front of my computer. Keeps me fresh.

Another great tip…I shut down my email client after I check messages. I check three times per day, within my workflow, and I only reply to the most urgent messages during the day – saving the rest for first thing the next morning. Then, once I’ve checked my email, I will shut down my email client until the next time to check mail. This keeps me from wasting time in my email client when I should be working.

Henry February 21, 2007 at 10:36 am

This is a great article.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good software timer application that’s free of malware and stable?

June 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

A very practical guide! I spend each and every day trying to eliminate Internet distractions. I definitely going to try these techniques!

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