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One great way to stop the internet affecting your productivity


One great way to stop the internet affecting your productivity

With today being Fight Procrastination Day, let’s talk about something that we’ve all come to rely upon to get work done, but can also easily distract us from doing it – the internet.

An internet connection is of course crucial to building and updating a business website, but what we class as ‘work’ in the 21st Century doesn’t have to be linked to web design or development to depend upon the net. You might be a fiction writer who wants to find a realistic name for a Ukrainian or Burundian character. You might be writing a report and need some online statistics to back it up. You might even need a bit of help with household tasks, such as unblocking a toilet or cooking salmon?

The internet is a library of information, but it’s such a vast one, it can be easy to get lost or distracted. For example, let’s imagine that you want to know how to cook salmon, so you go over to YouTube and find the below video:

Just over five minutes later, you have a good idea what you’re doing, but then when the video has finished, YouTube suggests you watch this video, called 15 Mistakes Most Beginner Cooks Make:

You then decide to follow that up with some advice from famous hot-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay:

But then, among the recommended videos, there’s one where a chef serves Ramsay burnt lettuce! That sounds entertaining, so let’s watch it:

And before you know it, you’re off on a cycle of watching Gordon Ramsay shouting and swearing at hopeless cooks, diners muttering about their terrible food, chefs throwing knives around the kitchen and all sorts of other restaurant ructions. Gradually, you’re forgetting how to cook salmon and your dinner is getting delayed, probably much to the disappointment of your date or other half.

It’s no secret that the internet is addictive. In Japan, health officials believe that nearly a million teens are addicted to the web, while in Ghana, the number of people at risk of developing internet addiction has been put as high as 40%. So if we need to go online to work, how can we make sure that we are actually working and not distracting ourselves with personal emails, football news and videos of fat people falling over?

I’m as bad as anyone for wasting time on the internet, but now that I work from home a lot more, I’ve started doing something that seems to have improved my focus and made me more conscious of keeping recreational browsing to a minimum.

So, here’s my tip – use two different browsers. Select one browser you use for work, and another for play. Since most of us pick one browser and stick to it, it means our bookmarks and internet history are a confused mixture of work-related resources and what we’ve just watched on Netflix. By using one browser for work and another for leisure, you can enjoy a much cleaner and less distracting internet experience in either situation, and keep work and entertainment separate even if you use the same computer for both.

For work, it’s probably best to use a solid and reliable browser. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are usually rated as the best by techies, and I tend to use the latter just because I’ve become used to it in the office. When messing about on the web, I use Safari as I’m a bit of a slave to Apple (owning both a Mac and an iPhone) and it suits their products well, but Opera is one with a distinctive interface that’s often seen as a fun alternative to the big two and whatever Microsoft is trying to peddle to us.

Of course, this technique still requires some self-discipline and YouTube will still do its best to send you on a crazy cycle into timewasting territory, but at least if you pick two visually different browsers, you should be able to train yourself to become aware of what you should and shouldn’t be doing while online.

John Murray

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