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Time to Unplug by Janalyn Voigt for Live Write Breathe

Writing Productivity. Time to Unplug?

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. 

Writing Productivity - Time to Unplug via @JanalynVoigt  | Live Write Breathe

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

8 thoughts on “Writing Productivity. Time to Unplug?”

  1. Managing your time can be difficult with all the choices we have. I have made it a priority to write in the mornings. I don’t even go to my e-mails or anything else, unless it is involved with what I am writing. I find it much less stressful and productive.

  2. I have had to do the same! I have thought about setting up specific days and time of day to go online and how long. But it’s like a black hole. It will suck you in. Ha!

    But I have noticed how it limits what I can do online, how many blogs I could visit, etc. I actually just put up a post about cutting back time spent on the internet. When I only have 2 hours, and even if that at times, a night to work. I have to limit what I do during those times.

    thanks for sharing!

    1. Whoo boy, you’re right about the black hole that is the internet. You have to be strong-minded sometimes to resist. The best way to approach the internet is with limits, no matter how much time you have!

  3. Janalyn,

    This is a great post and so, so true!

    When I’m in the middle of a writing project, I sometimes leave the computers off in the morning and do my writing with pen and paper. This is especially true in the brainstorming and pre-planning process.

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