When it comes to the Internet, an inquisitive mind can work against a writer. Let’s face it. Having a wealth of information at the tips of your fingers creates temptations for a person enthralled by knowledge. It’s hard to draw a line, especially if your smart phone stands in for your alarm clock, as mine did until recently.
I would read the news at bedtime for at least half an hour, and again for the same amount of time while waking up. Really, I spent an hour a day flipping through headlines and waiting for news feeds to load at the speed of molasses. I could only read a few stories at that rate. Despite this inefficiency, checking the news had become an ingrained habit.
Whenever I had trouble falling asleep, I’d reach for my phone to alleviate boredom. It wasn’t really wasting my time, I reasoned, because I always learned something new. I mean, who doesn’t want to know about the latest Bigfoot siting or that a herd of tiny horses saved someone from a wild boar? According to Harvard Health Publications | Harvard Medical School, studies show that staring into a light-emitting electronic device not only can rob you of sleep, it can impair your ability to concentrate the following day. It’s hard to function on four hours of sleep, anyway.
How I Unplug at Night
The image illustrating this article gives away the solution that worked for me. It’s surprising how little alarm clocks cost. Some models sold for as little as $3. I opted for an alarm clock with an electrical plug to save me from changing batteries. My cell phone is now across the room at night, and even when it takes a little longer to fall asleep, retrieving it is too much trouble. Not that I want to anymore. Each night I enjoy peace and quiet, instead. And (surprise, surprise) my ability to sleep and writing productivity are both improving.
The $12 I spent on my alarm clock may just have been the best investment in productivity I’ve ever made.
UPDATE: I would advise against purchasing an alarm clock without first checking into its safety. My inexpensive alarm clock heated up so alarmingly (pun intended, I'm afraid), I had to replace it.
How I Unplug During the Day
That isn’t the only distraction the Internet holds for me, however. I find it far too easy, when the writing isn’t flowing, to open a browser window and peek at my stats, tinker with my websites, or check my email. I know from others that I’m not alone in this. I suspect that aiding and abetting procrastination is part of the Internet’s appeal.
Jeff Vandermeer’s remarks in Booklife come to mind. To increase his writing productivity, he asked his wife to hide their modem in a new place every night. Each day, he would call her at work and ask for its location, after he had completed his actual writing.
I can empathize with Jeff, although my own solution didn’t need to be so drastic. I leave the WIFI turned off and my smart phone off and charging while I write. I once rationalized that I needed internet access while writing, but it increases my writing productivity to note what I need to research and look it up later. For my personal research system, read Researching a Novel the Simple Way.
I’m careful, during the time I do access the Internet, to keep my goals in mind. I try to stay aware of the amount of time I’m spending on a social site, for example. I sometimes use an online timer to remind me my attention is needed elsewhere.
Managing Social Sites
During a regular workday, I only give social sites what I call ‘high-fives.’ Once or twice a day, I reply, like, share, pin, post, friend, Tweet, and comment as quickly as possible, and then I’m out. Once a week, I spend in-depth time on my top social sites, as my schedule allows.
Deciding to live life more in the here-and-now than virtually is a personal choice I’ve made. As a writer, I do need an online presence, but not one that undermines my writing productivity.
Have you tried other ways to help you unplug from the Internet? Do tell.