Getting Back To Wasting Time The Old Fashioned Way. It was about how much time I spend online, and how little I seem to get out of it anymore. We always think the more gadgets we have, the more productive we're going to be, but I was starting to feel like an addict. I was starting to feel like my tool had become my Master.
I read an article over the weekend that I thought had to be wrong. It said the average American spends more than three hours a day online doing non-work related activity--that would be your Twitter, your social media, online shopping, texting, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. On top of that, the average American spends another three hours watching television. Between television and the internet, Americans are spending as much time doing those activities as they spend at their full time job. And then it went into how much time is wasted at work on the internet--did you know that about 60% of Americans admit they waste more than an hour a day at work on the internet? So that's another 5 or 6 hours wasted that your employer is paying the tab for.
Slowly over the last few weeks, I've been cutting back on my time on the internet. I had no idea until I started paying attention just how many times a day I was checking my phone, checking my messages, reading Facebook posts, checking my blog stats, etc. It makes me sad to admit--but one of the changes I've made is that I no longer take my iPhone to bed. I usually go to bed pretty early, and I watch television, and invariably, mess around online at the same time--usually on Facebook. I enjoy it, don't get me wrong, but considering how much time I spend doing that, I should be getting more out of it. And with me, it always comes down to the same thing--how could I be using this time more productively? And more importantly, I was beginning to feel disconnected--like I was spending way too much time outside of the "real" world.
The first thing I noticed was how quickly I grab that phone when it beeps at me--Pavlov's dogs weren't as well trained to that bell as I am to this damned phone. God forbid one of the sixty or seventy emails I get a day sit in my inbox for ten seconds without me seeing it, or I be unaware that one of my friends "liked" a post I put on Facebook. So the first thing I did was kill that distraction. No more notifications are sent to my phone--no email alerts, no Twitter alerts, no Facebook alerts, etc. I check that stuff manually now at set points during the day with a plan that as time goes on, those set times will become fewer and fewer. My phone only lets me know when I get a phone call or text message, or if I have an appointment on my calendar--that's it. It's odd not having that phone ding at me four or five times an hour from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, but it didn't take long to realize just how distracting it had been. I had a cup of coffee this morning and read the newspaper! I haven't done that in at least five or six years. And not one distraction.
And the second thing I did quite suddenly one evening was decided to take a long vacation from Facebook. Whatever social value it had in the beginning I think is gone--it has turned into bad theater. It was becoming more irritation than entertainment. So starting on October 1st, other than posting links to my blogposts, and keeping events posted for my Lodge and High Twelve club, I'm staying off of there for awhile. I even took the app off my iPhone and my iPad.
Over the last few weeks, I have been a lot more productive. It's funny, but I've found I'm more productive without the tools I bought thinking they'd make me more productive. It's amazing just how habitual these devices can become. People feel like they have to use them and have them with them at all the times. It's as if they feel like they have to be connected at all times.
Believe me, you don't need to be more connected to the internet--people need to be more connected out here. Where I am. Out here in the real world.
Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist
whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel
Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014