16 Hacks to Stop Wasting Time on the Internet

this was the eeriest one I could find

When I was 16, I had some important exam coursework disqualified by my teachers due to plagiarism.

“But I didn’t copy it!” I told them. What I chose not to mention is that I also hadn’t written the essay myself…

Sick of me having left everything until the last minute again, on the night before the coursework was due my mum had picked up my Religious Studies textbook and just started dictating. That was why the essay was, in my teacher’s words, “A-level standard.” Because somebody who’d already done their A levels (the exams we’d take at 18) AND a Cambridge University degree AND had twenty-odd years of life experience had written it.

Long before the internet was a thing, I would do anything I could to avoid doing my homework. Access to it became easy and frequent later, when I was in the workforce as a freelancer and now an entrepreneur. Both are jobs where there’s no boss standing over you, and I embraced all the opportunities to dick around online and not get work done until the last possible minute.

Recently, I’ve started to try and combat this tendency.

Here are the apps, behavior shifts and phone hacks that I use to keep myself off the internet as much as possible.

 

PART ONE: APPS

(1) SelfControl App for desktop (free!) — selfcontrolapp.com

Of the variety of apps that exist like it, this is the one that I found first, is super-simple and that works really well. You download it to your computer, add “blacklisted” websites (mine are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BBC news, CBC news, The Guardian), then set how long you want to be locked out for (any amount of time up to 24 hours).

Once you hit “start,” all those sites behave as if they’re down. Even if you take the app off your computer, you’ll still stay locked out until the time is up.

It’s most effective when I remember to start it the night before a morning where I’m going to work, to keep me locked out for at LEAST the first two hours.

 

(2) Kiwi for gmail (free or $9.99) — www.kiwiforgmail.com

This is an app for your desktop, that allows you to use gmail, google calendar and google docs, all without opening a browser. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

It behaves exactly like gmail and most apps that you use for gmail work with it. You can have multiple gmail addresses on the same app. It’s simple, clear and delightful. And it means you can get on your email without the temptation to hit “new tab” and check social media.

 

(3) Inbox Pause (free!) — www.inboxpause.com

This is an app by Baydin (who also make the amazing Boomerang for gmail) which stops new emails coming into your inbox. If, like me, you use email for work a lot, it means you can go into your inbox to search for things/email people/reply to stuff without your brain getting the “OOH NEW EMAIL WHO’S IT FROM????” moment that makes you want to check.

New messages still arrive — but to see them, you need to search for the special “inbox pause” folder, which is just annoying enough that you don’t do it automatically.

I have had my inbox paused since June 2015.

 

(4) Chrome apps for Facebook and Youtube

I use Google Chrome because I like the apps. These two help me not get lost when I pop onto Facebook or watch something on youtube, by disabling the Facebook news feed — “News Feed Eradicator for Facebook” , and the Youtube “suggested videos” — “Remove Recommendations Youtube VK Facebook”. They have saved me HOURS.

 

PART TWO: BEHAVIORS

(5) No technology in the bedroom

I have an alarm clock. I happen to have one with a light on, but you can probably get any alarm clock from a charity shop or yard sale for under five bucks.

On rare occasions, I might watch TV in bed. But mostly, I try and keep tech out of that room. As my friend Dave says, “The bedroom is meant for two things that begin with S. One is Sleeping. The other is definitely not S…ocial media.”

 

(6) Taking quarterly social media breaks

I used just to do this over Christmas week, but then I made it more regular. In reality, I’m often sneaking on to look at this or that on Facebook, but here’s the main reason it helps me:

I discover that when I don’t:
– comment on every post
– respond to every comment
– like every response
– acknowledge every time I’m tagged

…then — get this — the sky does not cave in. Isn’t that WILD?

The idea is that this should make me more chill about not responding to notifications the rest of the year. Which mostly works…

 

(7) Not checking email or social media first thing in the morning.

THIS WAS SO HARD!!!!!!!!

Seriously, I spent YEARS knowing I should do this, but couldn’t bring myself to. What finally convinced me was listening to a conversation between Jonathan ‘Good Life Project’ Fields and KC ‘This Epic Life’ Carter. One of them said,

“Why would you start your day responding to other people’s needs instead of your own?”

Boom.

Also, I began to realise that, on the days where I woke up and
didn’t check email and social media first thing, I started work feeling like I could DO ANYTHING AND CHANGE THE WORLD.
On days where I did, I started work feeling like I had five houses resting on my shoulders.

 

(8) Setting up expectations

All of my clients know that I have a minimum two-day response time. I also teach them hacks to get my attention if something is urgent. I use (another favourite app) Boomerang for Gmail to delay responses to people by at LEAST two days if I can, so that no one expects me to be accessible all the time.

 

(9) Accepting that I’m not going to get to every email (nor should I)

This is SUCH a hard one for me! I’m such a people pleaser!! But once I began to accept that inbox zero isn’t realistic for me unless I want a miserable life where all I do is respond to emails.

Has this meant I’ve sometimes missed out on opportunities? Yes. But more almost always come along. Has this meant I’ve likely offended people who think I just don’t want to reply to them? Probably. But as a result of this, to my amazement, no one has yet thrown a tomato at my head or banished me from the kingdom.

 

PART THREE: PHONE HACKS

(10) No sim card in my iPhone.

I have a flip phone. I love it. It’s indestructible, the battery lasts for days, it’s tiny (if I don’t have pockets it easily fits in my bra) and I can type texts by touch, without looking.

I also have an iPhone, with useful apps like Evernote, Dropbox, Slack, Voxer, Google Calendar — and of course, an excellent camera. But, because it doesn’t have a sim card, I can only use it when I’m on wifi.

Literally the only truly annoying thing about this is not having Google Maps. But with planning ahead, you can work around it — I just figure out where I’ll need to go in advance and screenshot the map pages I need. Also, technology now is so creepy that Google maps can show me where I am on a map when I’m out and about, even when I’m not on wifi.

What it means is that I don’t have access to the internet when I’m out of wifi range. Which makes me more likely to spend dead time or travel time reading, listening to music, looking at photos or just staring out the window. All of which feels like better uses of my brain than scrolling through Facebook.

You can do this without a flip-phone — just get a plan with no data. Bonus: your phone bills will be really cheap (mine are $30/month all in, which for Canada is a STEAL).


(11) No notifications on my phone

I get texts on my flipphone. I do have visual notifications for Whatsapp, but I don’t have previews and I try and remind myself that for anything urgent, I’d get a phone call or a normal text. Also, I don’t need to think about social media notifications because of….

 

(12) No social media apps on my iPhone

Not only that, I also don’t have a browser app I can click on — I have to use the search function to get to safari — plus:

– I haven’t taught the phone any of my passwords and
– I try and log out whenever I get off the site (so I have to type my details back in to take a look at my accounts and notifications).

Is this a massive pain in the bum? Yes. Does it keep me off the internet? Yes.

THE INSTAGRAM EXCEPTION. This is a platform you can’t (easily) post on via a browser. So I now try and download the Instagram app, use it just long enough to post something and take a quick look, then I delete the app again. This has saved me from losing swathes of time while scrolling mindlessly.

 

(13) Homescreen Zero and hidden apps

My friend Jack Reeves taught me this concept:
1. Put all of your apps into a folder (when you’re moving apps, just move one on top of another to make a folder).
2. Move that folder to the second (swiped left) page. Keep your homescreen blank.

3. When you need an app, use ‘spotlight search’ (I don’t know what the android of equivalent of this would be, but on an iPhone, you just swipe down) then type in the name of the app.

What’s nice about this is, if you have a photo you like to look at on your homescreen, you always get to see all of it it! My modification has been to have non-dangerous but much-used apps easily available on page two (things like the weather app, Insight Timer meditaion app, Evernote, Google Calendar, Slack and Reminders). Everything else goes in a folder, so I don’t see it as soon as I unlock my phone.

 

(14) Making my phone black and white

This one I learned from Dave Conley. He taught me how app companies research which set of colours are exciting and make us want to click. It’s a GAME-CHANGER in how appealing it makes them. Look at these pictures and how exciting they are:

Now look at these:

Much less exciting, right?

You can find the option in “accessibility”. That’s where you should also be able to find how to set it up so you can switch between colour and grayscale just by clicking the home button three times.

I’m not always the best at remembering to do this, but I try to before I go to bed.

 

(15) Switching off wifi as default.

Having a flip phone means this is easy — but you could just as simply switch off data, so you only have calls and texts coming in. This just adds one extra action in order to get on the internet, giving your brain half a second to ask, “Do I *really need to go online just now?”

 

(16) Resisting the urge to look EVERYTHING UP ALL THE TIME

I am obsessively curious about pretty much anything. But I also know that looking things up is a huge bummer. When I’m alone, it’s because then I usually fall down a rabbit hole of searching based on search results, only to emerge, blinking, to discover I’ve lost 45 mins of my life learning about the history of tractors.
When I’m with friends, it’s because I’ve realised that looking something up kills the lovely connection we’ve all been having. You temporarily lose the looker-upper (because they usually scan before they read anything out) and everyone else just has to zone out while waiting for them.

I try and imagine I’m at a Trivia night and trying really hard not to cheat.

 

There you go, my 16 top tips. I should add that, in spite of these, I’m STILL on the internet way more than I feel I should be. And, I didn’t start all of these all at once. I suggest you do the ones that feel most easy to implement, then consider adding another every couple of months.

Which one feels like a good place to start? Anything you’re doing already? Or any hallelujah moments reading these? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading. If you know anyone who you think could use at least one (if not all) of these, you can share it with them using one of the round buttons below, or click HERE to share on Facebook.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

 

PS want more advice, plus stories and secrets that I won’t put on the internet? Join the Yes Yes Marsha family for free, weekly coaching via email! Pop your details in below! You’ll also get my FREE guide to the magic bullet for telling compelling stories. Here:

 

Photo: Ales Nesetril for Unsplash

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