November 26, 2011

Managing Time on the Internet

I'm a big fan of google reader. It helps me stay update with blogs, websites and articles in an efficient manner. It is also a time guzzler. Yesterday alone, I spent an hour wasting time poking around. In the last four weeks I spent fifty-five hours puttering around on google reader. (Find out a little later how I knew this number.)

A lot of time can be lost exploring the internet. There are so many cool things to see, but surfing the internet is a time guzzler. To combat this, I have started to use two tools. Both of these tools came from a blog post on "The Art of Manliness" blog. Before I explain what these tools are, it's important to realize that using time wisely first starts with virtue and not tools.

Desiring Self Control 
Tools don't do the work. For instance, hammers do not hammer nails by themselves. If you don't try to use your time wisely then you won't regardless of how many sweet gadgets you have. Further more, it takes more then a momentary shot of motivation. You must be a dedication to developing the virtue of self control. The depth of this dedication is known only by going through temptations.

Thomas à Kempis was a medieval monk who wrote a classic devotional book called The Imitation of Christ. on a chapter titled "Resisting Temptation" à Kempis says, "We know not oftentimes what we are able to do, but temptations do show us what we are." It's easy to get started on a new habit or discipline. When the exoticism wears off over time, we begin to see how disciplined we are.

In Ephesians 5, Paul warns the flock in Ephesus to redeem the time and not be foolish. We reveal who we are in times of temptation, to be foolish or wise.

Being wise includes having the virtue of self control. Part of self control is being able to resist temptation.  It's in these times of temptation we see who we really are. In order to combat temptation you have to desire the virtue of self control. Just because you want it doesn't mean you have it but having a deep set desire is helpful in fighting temptations,

Lastly, this desire has to be an honest and deep. It can't be a spure of the moment thought. It has to be a desire which is willing to forgo short term pleasures like watching funny youtube videos or reading PhD Comics.

A quick note before I explain these two tools. These extensions only work for google chrome. I find Chrome to be a great web browser and recommend it to everyone. I'm sure there are similar extensions for other browsers that I talk about below. If not, just switch to chrome, it's probably better.

So, two extensions I found helpful.

Stay Focused - Chrome Extension 
I've started to use Stay Focused software on websites that can be huge time wasters like facebook. Using this software, I cut down my facebook time to about an hour in last four weeks. It's very simple and easy to use.

Stay Focused is a timer extension wich limits the of time you can spend on certain websites. You can change it so you're free to goof around on the weekends or certain days if you want. Also, you can change what websites are tracked, track parts of websites or track all websites. It allows a lot of freedom to decide what you want to track. When you use up your time, stay focused blocks those websites.

I have just listed google reader on my Stay Focused extension. It'll be a good experiment to see in the next couple weeks how much less time I spend on google reader. An update will come in a couple weeks.

Time Tracker - Chrome Extension 
This is also a very simple chrome extension. Time Tracker keeps track of the time you spend on different websites. It divides all the sites into a list of most time spent to least time spent. This is how I knew that I've been spending too much time on google reader.

Time Tacker isn't perfectly accurate since it continues to track pages if you have them open but aren't using them. Hence it says I've spent  most of my life on gmail. Other then this slight problem, I find it a good tool to track what websites I've spent most of my time on.

Final Comment
One last comment on internet time usage. These are just tools. If you do not want to save time, you won't. It takes a commitment to using your time wisely and having self control that time management tools become helpful. They don't do the work for you but help you do your work better.

For the Future 
As I continue to post, I am hoping to begin critiquing various time management philosophies from a Christian perspective as well as begin to write about what I believe is a Christian approach to time management and productivity. Stay tuned.

November 17, 2011

The Purpose of this Blog

About two years ago, I began reading productivity blogs. I followed blogs like Zen Habits, Study Hacks, Tim Farris, Life Hacker, Scott Young and Productive Flourishing. They were quite addicting. They provided me with the dream that if I put my mind to anything, I could achieve it if I had the correct system. Over time I realized this was only a partial truth. Life is much messier then it appears. "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

More importantly I found the ideas promoted on these blogs to be shallow. I quit reading most of them with the exception of Cal Newport's blog, but even his systen has various flaws. I realized that there is a key flaw in the productivity movement. It lacks an ultimate purpose. I found myself asking the question "why be efficient with time?"

Anyone can take Tim Farris' four hour work week and apply it to their lives. At first glance, this is great, but it nagged me that none of these writers offered a life style that had any ultimate purpose. I kept coming back to "who cares if you get all your work done in four hours or have a 4.0 in college, why does that matter?"

I realized none of these blogs were providing a direction for my life. What is the point of being productive? This where I began to develop the idea for a blog on productivity and time management from a Christian perspective.

It is important that I clarify what I mean by "a Christian perspective." What I mean by this phrase is that I am looking at the topic of productivity and time management from the viewpoint of one who believes that Jesus Christ lived, died and resurrected 2,000 years ago. He is both God and man. Because of man's sinful nature we are in danger of the wrath of God. Because of Christ's death and resurrection, we are able to come before the throne of God and be received into his kingdom by acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord.

This last part is very important for productivity and time management. Christianity provides a way of giving depth and meaning to life because Jesus Christ is King over all the earth. We who are a part of his kingdom now live to his glory. My question, "Why be productive" became "you are a servant of God, you have been given a gift, time. Use it wisely."

In writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul pushes the point that the church must live a wise life because we are living in an evil time. Part of this is watching where you step, redeeming the time:  
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Productive and time management have to do with knowing the will of God. This entails having wisdom. My goal for this blog is to bring forward a perspective of wisdom for Christ's people that we may be redeem the time given to us.