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.

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