Last year Web Worker Daily’s Master Your Information Manifesto: 21 Tips to Deal with Information Overload offered great advice for people who have to be on the computer to accomplish their work, yet have difficulty avoiding the endless distractions that the Internet provides. (Can you say, Facebook, YouTube, IM, and ESPN.com and not lose your focus?)
So it’s finals week, and you don’t have time to read 21 tips, but every time you sit down to study, you first log on to your various accounts, respond to your friends’ messages, update your accounts and then look at the clock and discover an hour has gone by. Below, I’ve highlighted the parts of the tips most relevant for a finals week study session. When you have time, take a look at the whole list. More than likely, you’ll recognize a couple of the time-wasting habits. Happy Studying!
4. Take control. Get into the mindset that you are the master of your information. It’s really about the mindset, because I think we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that when there are emails in our inbox, we HAVE to read them… when people are IMing us, we have to respond. We don’t… Technology should serve us, not the other way around…
5. Shut down email. Again, email is a tool that you should use when you need it. You should not be a servant to it. As such, I suggest that you shut down your email when you don’t need it. Only go to your email when you want to use it, and don’t worry about responding to the messages in it right away, or even ever.
7. Set up a chat zone. Have a set period each day when you connect to IM… Don’t connect to chat at other times of the day, unless you really need to for a specific task.
9. Take mini-breaks. Even when you’re connected, you shouldn’t do it for hours at a time. Every 45 minutes or so, get up, walk away from your computer, stretch your legs, take a walk around your home or office. Or better yet, get outside, get some fresh air, and get a little perspective. It’s important.
10. Block distractions. When you’re connected but need to work, use a utility like Page Addict to track your time on different sites and block the distractions. This will allow you to do the work you need but not be tempted to check email or your feeds or your forums or what have you.
11. Learn to focus. While short attention spans and the ability to multi-task might be a feature, and not a bug, of the newer generation of web workers, there’s still value in being able to focus on one task for long enough to complete it or at least make a lot of progress on it. It’s actually a skill that can be improved with practice. To learn to focus, turn off all programs and close all tabs except what’s needed to complete the task at hand. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes [Click here for a free online timer], and try to focus on getting the task done. When you feel yourself being pulled away, stop and pull yourself back. This ability to focus can make you a lot more productive.
19. Work disconnected. An alternate strategy to having a disconnected period each day, see Tip 8, is to disconnect each time you need to work on an essential task. Pull the information you need off the web, disconnect, do the task, and the reconnect if you want. But working in a disconnected mode will help you concentrate and take control of your time.