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How do YOU avoid getting distracted by the Internet?

Some writers are able to switch off their computers and stay off e-mail and the Web all day. Freelance writers who rely at least partly on client work for income, however, sometimes don't have this luxury. The Internet can be a wonderful resource for writers but it can also be a major timesuck.

To those who DO have to go online at least a few times a day: How do you manage your time online? Do you limit the amount of time you spend on social networking sites? What tricks and tips can you offer others? What -doesn't- work for you?


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Reader Comments (14)

I've just posted something about this very topic:

Summary: I generally have to turn off my internet router, or even flick the wireless switch off on my laptop, otherwise I'll be opening new windows continually and refreshing my emails at the end of every sentence I write.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

This is a good question with (at least on my part) a disappointing answer. Nothing really works for me. I have to be online to research and receive client email, so the temptation is always there... and I have no willpower to stand against it. About the best I can do is be sure to check my favorite blogs, facebook, and other distracting sites first thing in the morning, so that it's all done. I still check back periodically throughout the day -- I don't seem to be able to help myself. But I do notice that I catch myself doing it when my brain is pushing overload from whatever I'm working on, so maybe I can excuse it as instinctive self-preservation.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatharine Swan

How do I manage my time online? I don't! Ha. As for social networking--I just don't have accounts. Therefore, I don't waste time.

I usually say, okay, I'm going to write X amount of words/pages. Once that is done, I can go read blogs, check email, etc.

I turn off my Internet and summon as much willpower as possible to do some actual writing.

It's tough but somehow I do it.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

The laptop I use to write my novel on is not connected to the Internet, so I have to get up and go downstairs to work online. It's a mixed bag, because if I need to look something up quick, I have to leave my story, but it also keeps me from wasting time.

Great topic!

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa Frohock

Timer. Timer. Timer. I am a freelancer writer, as well as a novelist, and so the lure of the internet can be a challenge. I've taken a tip from many other blogger/writers and I set a timer during my fiction-writing time during which I do not allow myself to switch out of Word to any other program, internet or otherwise. Generally, I go about an hour at a time but can go up to 4 or 6 if I'm on a deadline.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStasia

Here's a helpful article (by the Positivity Blog):

Top 10 Online Habits- http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2010/04/08/10-online-habits-that-make-my-life-simpler/

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracita Linda

My anti-distraction mechanism is mechanical in nature: a manual typewriter. No Safari, no Adium, no Mail, no fuss.

When I find myself getting too distracted while writing, I retype my last paragraph (or the one I haven't started yet) and I'm off and clacking.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterC.L. Stearns

First I accept that I'm going to check up on email, sports scores, entertainment gossip, etc., but now I put a time limit on it. Recently I started timing my online activities through the Pomodoro Technique http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/. At first I was doing "pomodoros" as timed writing exercises, but I find it also works for practically anything. It's really worked for me.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Estigarribia

My answer is pretty much the same as Katherine Swan's. I do find that Gmail, Google Reader, and HootSuite help me make better use of my online time... but at the end of the day, I am still trying all the time to reduce the # of minutes/hours I spend on the internet.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristan

I take my laptop to a room without internet or simply avoid the net all together until I'm finished writing. If I need research I'll make notes on a separate page and do my research after I've finished my word goal. It can be a pain, but it's significantly more productive than pulling up Facebook every fifteen minutes.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjr erickson

To piggyback what Katharine closed with, Wired had a brief article a few months ago (which of course I can't find) which basically stated that it's not a bad thing to get distracted, briefly, every once in a while. Not everyone can sit and concentrate on one thing for hours on end, so checking Twitter for two minutes can not only give your brain time to decompress, but you might also jog it into making an association you hadn't considered before.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercolin

I have *no* willpower.

Therefore, I use programs to keep me from being able to waste time. Either LeechBlock (for Firefox) or StayFocused (for Chrome) - both allow you to completely lock down access to any websites other than the ones you have to use (I do some writing in GoogleDocs, so that's on my "okay to visit" list) for a certain amount of time.

During that time, if you attempt to visit a website that's not on your whitelist, you instead get a blank page that says "Shouldn't you be working?"

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Davis

Another Pomodoro Technique timer person here; it's the only thing that controls my Internet addiction ;)

When I can't shut off or walk away from the distractions...I get out of the house. Too many distractions (like Internet) are in the house. Once I am in a coffee shop where I've bought a $3 coffee or whatever, I feel like I have to produce SOMETHING otherwise I've wasted the money and hassle. :D

July 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHimani

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