When I began working more from home, I noticed the time I spent at my computer skyrocketed. The Internet has the ability to entertain, connect and educate us, but it can also decrease our ability to concentrate for sustained periods of time and sap our energy. If you would like to explore and potentially modify your Internet use, here are some useful steps:
1. Attention. An Internet journal can help you gain self-awareness, similar to keeping a food journal when you want to examine your eating patterns. Use any or all of the following prompts to keep track of your usage for a week: What sites are you visiting? What are you reading? Are you interacting with others? How much time are you spending at each site? Are you doing other things at the same time? Where are you? How did you feel (body, mind, spirit) before? How do you feel after? What did you learn? What else could you be doing with your time?
2. Reflection. At the end of each day look over what you have written. Underline anything interesting or useful. You may add or subtract questions from your template as you move forward, depending on what you want to monitor.
At the end of your week of tracking, look over your journals. Do you notice any patterns? What is your attention like? Is the amount of time you spend on the web OK for you? Is it hard to stop surfing even when you know you should? Are there influences, such as the time of day, how you are feeling, social issues or stress-level, that impact your time on the web? Does your attention and state of mind feel different on days where your Internet usage is low? Some sites and activities we engage in on the net are like comfort food while others may inspire and sustain us because of the information they contain, or the beauty of their prose, images and graphics. Do you find you need a balance of both, and is your usage reflecting these needs?
You will probably notice that you have learned and gained a lot from your browsing journeys. However, there is also a good chance you have become aware of areas you want to modify in terms of time spent, quality of focus, and content read.
3. Action. The net encourages an impulsivity that can be difficult to set limits with. It can be expressed in linking to new pages before completing what you are currently on. You may also find yourself checking email and various sites for updates more frequently than is actually necessary. You can change this by setting time limits on web surfing. You can also establish a rule that you can’t link to a new website without completing the one you are currently browsing.
If you work from home, it can be important to create boundaries around work-related and non work-related computer time. How much time do you have? How much needs to be spent on work? How much time can you use to browse? Planning and following a schedule that takes into account these considerations can help. You may even wish to set your computer alarm or a timer because it’s easy to give yourself “just five minutes more” and then the five minutes turns into an hour. Time flies differently on the net.
Once you monitor your Internet time you can see what it reflects about your thoughts, feelings, desires and values. You can use this information as a guide to create boundaries between impulsive, leisure, educational and work-related behaviors at the computer. The more consciousness you can bring to your usage, the more you can get the best of the web without it getting the best of your precious resources of time, mood, and concentration.
Merryl Reichbach, LMSW, ACE, MA She is a Clinical Social Worker and art therapist with children, teens and their families. She also has a private practice as a certified holistic health counselor (graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) ACE Certified Personal Trainer and loves integrating art, yoga, writing and dance into her life and her work.
Website: Jumping Woman Wellness