I’ve recently put in place a simple new motto and it’s amazing what a help it’s been, in terms of getting more work done, feeling more balanced, and fighting social media addiction.
What is that motto?
“No internet before lunch, no social media before dinner.”
How is it working for me in practice?
Switching the internet off at the wall
I’ve got into the habit of switching my internet router off at the wall before I go to bed. This is good for getting to sleep, because it means the flurry of Whatsapp/Facebook messages to my phone stops, and I can’t give in to the temptation of scrolling through Twitter instead of sleeping.
It also means that, when I get up the next morning, it’s easy to leave my internet router sleeping. It takes 5-10 minutes for my router to reboot and wi-fi to come online. This provides a good barrier to “just checking something quickly online” (such as the weather forecast, or the capital of Chile). Do I want to wait 10 minutes for that particular piece of info? No? Then don’t bother.
In short: I pretend the internet doesn’t exist in the mornings.
No email in the mornings
The major benefit of not checking the internet in the mornings is that I can’t see my new emails.
Whether they’re good (a chatty email from a friend) or bad (an annoying email requiring me to do something), emails are … NOISE. They make my mind start whirring.
Without checking email, I am calmer and more able to focus on what I need to do. For me, that’s writing, since mornings are my most energetic, creative time.
How often do you really need to check email?
I know I’m in a privileged position where I don’t have to check emails in the mornings. I work a salaried job part-time, usually in the afternoons. For the rest of my (self-employed) time, I make my own schedule.
However, even if you don’t have this luxury, it’s worth scrutinising how often you really need to check email. Is the world going to end if someone waits a few hours for a response from you? Could you push back that first email-check till 10am or 11am? Could you set three times per day where you check email (at 10am, 2pm, and 5pm) and not check in between?
When “checking” shades into OCD
I had a breakthrough when a friend referred to checking email or social media in terms of OCD.
Think about that cliché of someone with OCD checking they’ve locked their door seven times. Then think about how often you check your email. For me, the two are uncomfortably close.
This is why it’s a good idea to block out time during the day when it’s physically harder to check email.
Dealing with social media
But what about social media? If email is a sip of wine, social media is like a cocaine binge. It can completely screw with my head for hours afterwards.
Yet I don’t want to quit social media altogether. It’s an easy way to stay up to date with my friends’ lives, and it’s also part of how I market my book, Dead Ringer.
This is the reason for the second part of my mantra: no social media before dinner.
I don’t have the willpower to go days without checking social media, and this method doesn’t require me to. I still get a little taste of its addictive goodness, but it can’t derail my whole day. Even if Twitter puts in a weird mood (as it often does), ho hum, I’m off to bed soon anyway.
Using a robot butlerBuffer. This means you can dash off a tweet or put up an Instagram post without accidentally disappearing down a social media black hole.
I tend to schedule my Twitter and Instagram a few weeks in advance, spending a few hours at a time editing photos and writing captions. Then I don’t have to think about it for a while.
Thanks, robot butler! What would I do without you?
Staying on the right track
Obviously, I am only human. Sometimes I’ll cave and switch on my internet router early. Sometimes I’ll take a sneaky peek at Instagram in the middle of the day.
But remembering my mantra – no internet before lunch, no social media before dinner – is helping me to stay on the right track, most of the time.
What methods do you use to curb internet/social media use? Let me know in the comments.
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Hannah | A Cup of Wonderland
This was such a refreshing read. Although I don’t think I could bear to switch off my Wi-fi router and not get my emails done first thing in the morning – I do like the sound of embracing scheduling and using Buffer more in advance – especially for twitter and Instagram. Thank you for such an interesting post.
Sam | Smarter and Harder
I’m always working on productivity ideas and dealing with distractions, and I love how you’ve come at it here. Your approach makes the “bad” habit, too much internet use, the harder option, which must really help stay on track. I’m guessing that this is also a big mental health boost that a lot of us could use.
I have personally learned that a solid hour or two of writing first thing in the morning, before I check email or anything else, is the best way to set myself up for the day. However, other parts of your advice in this post fall, sadly, into the territory of a lot of self-help material. It assumes that you are the only player in your life, and you have the freedom to say no and change or ignore things. In my family, for example, there would be a riot if I switched off the internet whenever I happened to decide to go to bed. Not only are there downloads, backups and updates running all the time, but others of the family are on a completely different schedule. So far I have not even been able to convince my partner to switch off the annoying beeping from WhatsApp at all times of the day and night.
Most of us also don’t have the luxury of being a “full time” writer, with a supportive and encouraging family who will leave us alone if we ask. I can’t stop them interrupting, and I can’t afford to ignore emails from paying clients.
Nice idea, but certainly not universally applicable!