A Productivity Experiment: Limiting My Online Hours

By Daniel Scocco

I don’t know about you, but every time my access to the Internet is limited, I become more productive. For example, currently I need to write 50 pages of content for a small project, and I had been procrastinating on it for over a week. Then yesterday my Internet connection died virtually the whole day, and as a consequence I managed to write around 10 pages. How come? There was nothing else to do!

And the curious thing is that I consider myself to be quite disciplined. Yet when I have free access to the web I tend to disperse my attention.

That is why I decided to run a small experiment for the month of August. I will limit my online time to two hours per day. The rest of the time I will physically unplug my ethernet cable.

On those two hours I will clean my email inbox, publish the daily post, and carry out any other task that requires access to the web. The rest of my work time I will spend writing content and working on business related matters.

By the end of August I will let you guys know how the experiment turned out.




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54 Responses to “A Productivity Experiment: Limiting My Online Hours”

  • Nicholas Z. Cardot

    Interesting experiment. I feel like I waste too much time on the internet as well. I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out for you.

  • Sohail

    hmmm i can relate to that sometimes i sit on PC for hours and do nothing while sometimes i write 2/3 articles in an hours. It all depends how u manage time

  • Andy in Germany

    I thought it was only me. I tend to work on an ancient, non-internet connected laptop when I write, and it does make a difference. I just figured I was a lazy oaf, so it’s good to know I’m not. I can show my wife it isn’t just me, now.

  • Jeremy McKay

    I am looking forward to your results and I am inspired to do the same thing. Research will be tricky , but I think you are right. A lot of internet activity is such a time suck. Good luck with your experiment.

  • Jim Kukral

    GREAT idea. I might have to try the unplug thing as well.

  • Leanne Boyd

    Great posting and I sooo agree. However, when your work is all online, it becomes difficult to stick to an ‘absolute’ number of hours per day, for anything. But, I too, have ‘jailed’ my inbox, for instance, and applied filters so that for many items such as newsletters… I will get to it when I can! The management issues increase daily, don’t you think? As we go forward, ‘life’ and work on the Net are very different from yesteryear’s freelance or home business. I’ve worked solo since the 1970s. It’s amazing and even alarming, all the changes we’ve gone through. Thanks for your insightful comments, and I will keep tabs on your results.

  • Steve

    That quite an interesting experiment. I have always read that checking your email and your rss reader on a regular basis wastes a good amount of time.

  • Ronnie Holm

    I can only agree.

    Several times, Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขve set forward a similar goal of only using the Internet for some period of time every day. In the end, I never reached my goal. Mostly because my work required me to lookup stuff on the Internet — or so I convinced myself.

    Instead, I’ve adopted an approach using two computers:

    http://www.bugfree.dk/blog/2009/07/27/becoming-aware-of-and-minimizing-distractions/

    I’m on week two of my experiment. Good luck on yours ;o)

  • Chanda @ BizDharma.com

    Hey Daniel

    I have a cool tip to help you more. If like me you too are a firefox fan you can get plugins such as the Time Tracker plugin. It simply keeps on tracking the time you are surfing the web. And it remembers the time and calculates the whole day net consumption.

    This has helped me a lot in saving as the ticker keeps ticking at the status bar.

    Regards
    Chanda Himanshu

  • Mike CJ

    Seems a bit drastic to me. Maybe invoke some self discipline rather than disconnecting? The danger of the two hour limit is that you may not have time to promote through social media, research other blogs, stay up to date with news, and do all the other things that aren’t directly productive, but that are necessary.

  • Scott Thomason

    I would shrivel up and die if I was limited to two hours of internet access per day. It is certainly a brave experiment.

  • Ellen

    Fantastic experiment and I look forward to seeing how it goes for you. Or maybe we should start a club, the 2-hour a day club for bloggers, and compare notes at the end.

  • Jason

    Interesting experiment. Let us know how it goes.
    It sure does sound like something I would not be able to do. Maybe a few days at a time, or a couple of days a week but not for a month. Need access to email.

  • InternethowBlog

    Wouldn’t you get tempted to plug the ethernet cable back or extending the hours?

  • Denny Sugar

    Will need to try that, although I have recently cut out most of my twitter and facebook time and decided to get back to reading blogs again. Way more productive and useful info.

  • Kelly

    I couldn’t do it! I’m too addicted, I’m sorry to say.

  • Chester

    I agree. I tend to be more productive when there’s no internet connection. When there is, a lot of time spent searching for networking sites, watching videos and other non related work.

  • Oscar – freestyle mind

    That’s an interesting experiment. Can’t wait to see the results/

  • Stephanie

    Interesting. I’ll look forward to hearing the results of your “experiment.” It certainly is easy to get distracted by the Internet.

  • Stefan | StudySuccessful.com

    Pretty cool experiment when you own a blog with 25k+ subscribers!
    You need some courage to do that.

    Good luck with it, I am looking forward to the outcome!

  • PLR Videosc

    Well, I believe your theory is very true. In fact, how many of us truly devote quality and productive time online? Many of us will be held guilty because the internet affords all avenues for leisure, fun, and other stuff entirely unrelated to business or our productive working time. Perhaps, I should try this too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ulla Hennig

    My experience is that being online seduces me to have a look here, and then there, and then doing all kinds of things which I didn’t plan to do. I am now using http://www.nowdothis.com which makes me focus on one thing, and having done that, on the next.

  • wo@soho

    it’s so great experiment that complete all process in two hours.
    Usually i just publish one post in two hours and need more time to do other thing.
    after thinking over seriously, it’s true that we waste time in useless thing.

  • Aidil Sharizaq

    Guess what? It did happen to me yesterday and I become more productive! It surprised me as well…

    maybe because i spend a lot of time on the internet,looking for information,the time i needed to produce content is limited.

    We never realized this because after doing hours of work online(doesnt matter what it is) we thought that we are progressing.but only on the learning part.we forgot that producing content is the main reason our blog existed!

    And also,too many distractions on the internet (for me its Facebook!)

    good post.this opens up my eyes.

  • Alka_s

    ah can’t wait to see the results.. ๐Ÿ˜› i have the same problem, once I start browsing, I totally forget what i had opened the computer at the first place. I end up at some site where they are talking about the biggest dog or the smallest cat.. The internet does have too much information.. NO wonder we get so distracted.. I might try the same thing soon Daniel.. i might need whole lot of patience for that.. WISH U LUCK.!!

  • Linda Walker

    It’s difficult to eliminate the Internet from our lives, as it has become an incredible source of information. It can save a lot of time but you need to stay focused on what your intent was.

    A trick I use to stay away from getting lost on the Web, is to write on sticky note what I’m going on the Web to do… ex. looking for directions, looking for information on spindle bindles, etc.

    And I use a timer to ring after 30 minutes or whatever amount of time I wanted to devote… it keeps me from going astray.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Chanda, I believe that unplugging the thing will be far more effective than that.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @InternetHowBlog, I guess so, but it is easier to control yourself from plugging the cable than from clicking on a link to Twitter or some other website where you will waste time.

  • Jamaipanese

    looking forward to the results. Good luck!

  • Jason

    Great post Daniel. You hit the nail right on the head. This post hit me so hard I had to write about it on my Health and Wealth for Life blog as it directly affects so many of us when trying to reach our goals, irrelevant of what they may be.

    Well done and thanks. Hope you don’t mind me “putting you out there” on our blog man! lol

  • Jacques

    Great idea. I was just thinking doing the same but with my TV time. I tend to get home in the evening and just wasted from the days work. I enjoy relaxing in front of the tv but was wondering what would happen if for 1 week I just record my favorite programs and then do other stuff. I mean I can still watch the recording a week later. Think I will join you in this but with my TV time

  • Hesham

    This is a very good experiment, I would love to know the results!
    Good luck!

  • Alex

    what a great Idea!

    I guess that’s the reason why the writers of The 18th – 19th century were so productive…they were unplugged : )

    Alex.

  • Tom Bradshaw

    I can see this being useful from a content writers point of view, having that distraction taken could probably be good thing. A lot of my work involves design and development so only having internet access for 2 hours a day brings me out in a cold sweat!

    Good luck with your internet detox plan!

  • LuAnn

    Congrats on a great goal/decision! I may be pretty much off the grid next week, which would be good from the kids-not-here-can-actually-get-something-done p.o.v., but that will probably be offset by the OMG-I’ve-got-no-access reality.

  • odtaa

    Certainly the most productive person I knew, she was a professor, wrote numerous research papers and managed 500 staff and about 6,00 students – well she would only look at emails at the end of the day.

    She’d only reply to something that was important as she didn’t want to encourage endless replies.

    OK she did have a secretary and if there was anything real important fire, queen visiting, just been given a grant for several million then she could be contacted on her private cell phone, which only her secretary and a few friends knew.

    This gave her lots of time to work with people developing projects etc.

    If you got an email from her – you knew it was important.

  • Diane L. Harris

    Daniel,

    I’m going to do this experiment with you. Keeping up with email accounts, facebook, Twitter, and multiple other social networking sites is definitely cutting down on my productivity.

  • Steve

    You sure you’re not just going on vacation or somethin…? haha jk. There’s no way I would be able to do this experiment – my job depends on it.

    Anyways, good luck!

  • Ben Moreno

    Daniel,

    You know you can set your router to limit the amount of time it stays connected to the internet right?

    Who knows, maybe it just might make you more productive ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Josh H

    That is a good idea. I think i will follow you as well!

  • Kat Gordon

    Here’s my prediction: you will be so wildly successful this next month that you will stay on your Internet diet the rest of your life. I’m convinced that the frantic tweeting everyone’s doing kills the possibility of any mental momentum beyond a 3-minute span. Ditto for your cell phone, your iPod, and any other device that creates visual or audio input. All my best ideas happen in the shower, while driving, or when playing tennis — away from technology. Can’t wait to follow your experiment.

  • sociolingo

    I have to agree with you. I had come to much the same conclusion recently. I have papers to review and I am spending far too much time online justifying to myself why I spend the time! meanwhile the review paper sits there with a baleful look waiting for me to give it time. Am I brave enough to join you? Perhaps ….

  • Sparky

    Being a beginner in the blog world i spend so much time researching how to build a better blog.I am always thinking I’ll get to my work in a while.I probably should do the same and unplug the cable but then I would find a software program I need to learn a little better.
    OK I’ll write out “discipline”1000 times.

  • Ching Ya

    Coincidentally that’s what I’m going to do in the next 10 minutes: be ready to be wireless-LESS by switching off the router once and for all. I got too many distractions (mostly my fault) whenever an email alert or networking app notification is beeping, couldn’t help just to take a peek that ends up me being on it for hours. =P

    Where do you think I got in here from? — Email alert for Daily Blog Tips latest post. lol.

    @wchingya
    Social/Blogging

  • Cory

    I’m really interested in reading about your results at the end of August. Intuitively, it makes sense that you’ll be more productive since you’re theoretically going to be more focused on your tasks at-hand. However, intuition and theory aren’t always correct.

    Anyway, if you find your productivity increases during this experiment I’ll give it a go myself.

  • Arun Basil Lal

    Daniel,

    In my part of the country, Internet access is a previlege. So I find myself offline many times a month and those are the days I come up with long original articles. Internet is too distractive by itself, esp. Twitter.

    Good luck.

  • Aron Parker

    I am the same way! I need to do an experiment like this as well. Very interested to see how this goes for you.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Ben Moreno, I feel that physically unplugging the cable safer ๐Ÿ™‚

  • vegas

    You should read ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris – It gives some pretty good productivity tips

  • Kerenne Jessop

    That is so true! There are so many distractions online, such as social networking sites, messengers, etc. when you are trying to work. Based on my own experience, disconnecting from the internet truly works to help you be more focused on what you have to do on the computer without going online. Just check emails maybe, go offline, and work. Then when the job is done, you can reward yourself and surf the net.

  • Dana Sullivan

    Excellent idea. I think I’ll use a timer of some sort. Just shut down my browsers.

  • Training Connection

    My laptop broke down recently and I never realized how much I now depend on my PC. Truly, I think we all could use a breather but I need my life support!

    I completely understand how the internet can just burn up quality time as well. Let me know how your experiment goes!

  • JFo

    I read an article (in the Atlantic) which said there are programs you can download which limit your internet access for however long you want – so you can make sure you work continuously for an hour or two without checking email etc. Does anyone know of any examples of this? I’d love to buy one.

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