A big step

photo by Petr Kratochvil

The other day I snagged a free Kindle book on Amazon titled Web Rehab: How to Give Up Your Internet Addiction Without Giving Up the Internet. It came around at just the right time. I’d been getting disgusted with the amount of time I was wasting online.

See, it’s one of the dirty secrets of working from home. Since some of what I do involves being online, I can always look busy. Even when I’m not. Even when I’m clicking through the same sites over and over and over wasting time. I wasn’t even really looking at what I was clicking to, I was just compulsively and mindlessly going through this odd routine of clicking and refreshing the numerous tabs I’d have open. I was wasting time and I knew it. Worse? I was starting to get pain in my wrist and shoulders and neck.

I think some of it was due to being stressed out. I just did not want to deal with anything else the past few months. I had a lot on my plate and would spend my evenings clicking around, zoning out, until it was time to go to bed. The other day I realized I needed to stop, but I honestly didn’t know how. I know I’m not the only one in that boat. I’ve discussed this with others in various locations.

So when I saw this book in my weekly perusal of Kindle books available, I decided to grab it (it helped a lot that it was free at the time). I ended up reading it last night. Yes, in one evening. It was a short book. But it’s packed with practical help.

The main thing I liked was that the author didn’t assume that the easiest way to deal with it was to just shut off the internet. Obviously, for many of us in this age, that’s just not possible. I have to be online to do email throughout the day. Not just for pattern support, but also for marketing, keeping in contact with my tech editing clients, uploading information, etc. Those weren’t the areas I was having difficulty. It was when I’d click around and do other things (Facebook, Pinterest, Ravelry forums, Google Reader, etc) than working that it became a problem.

So I did the worksheets last night that are in the book. I set firm goals. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be online, I just needed to limit the “surfing” part of being online. And I started last night.

Let me tell you, it was hard. I didn’t think it would be. But within five minutes of deciding that I wouldn’t check email as soon as it binged (instead waiting until I chose to do it…I’m not Pavlov’s dog), my email binged. And I actually sat here stressed out. What if it was important? (it wasn’t). What if it was something time sensitive? (it wasn’t). I waited until the time I set that I would check it and by then I was calm.

This morning I got up and did not check my email and Facebook from my phone while still in bed (something that always started my day off wrong, and yet I’d continue to do it). I didn’t turn on my computer until I had breakfast, read a passage in a book I wanted to read, fixed some coffee, and read over my goals. I did some preemptive work last night and did away with all the pinned tabs of the time sucks, instead leaving only my email and Twitter (since it really isn’t a time suck for me). So when I got online this morning, I took my 30 minutes I gave myself to surf, checked the sites I felt I needed to check, and then closed those tabs. I minimized my window and got to work.

Mid-morning I got twitchy. The butterflies in my brain flitted by with ideas of things I had to check right then online. Instead of falling for them, I got a notepad out and made a note of things I needed to do online. At lunchtime, when I gave myself another 30 minutes of surfing time, I did those things, and a few others and got right back to work.

This evening I sat down to do my allotted hour of surfing. I was shocked. About 30 minutes in, I felt I had checked all I needed to do, and closed down tabs. Could it seriously be that simple? Now, yes, I’m still online. But I’m writing a blog post. This is not my justifying things, it’s part of the limits I set for myself. Being online and accomplishing things (email, moderating forums, entering pattern information, etc) has never been the problem. It’s the hitting “See more pins” five times when I don’t see anything interesting on Pinterest or looking at groups I’m not even a part of on Ravelry because I’m bored and nothing else is going on that’s the problem.

I don’t think I’m where I want to be yet, and I know the next few days will be tough. But I feel like I just might be on my way to having a great handle on this. And since I know there are others who are going through the same thing, I thought I’d share. Good luck!