How much time do you spend on e-mail, facebook, or twitter? Most surveys suggest an internet-savvy person spends between 2-4 hours online every day. On the higher end, that is 25% of our conscious lives. That’s a lot of time spent on one activity!
Email and social media can be a great tool if used the right way. Email in particular keeps a digital “paper” trail, sends and receives vast amounts of information, are easily referenced, allow you to contact multiple people at once, and are fast and convenient.
However, more often than not, we spend excessive amounts of time online. It makes us feel busy and productive. In actuality, we waste a lot of time sitting at a computer staring at information that just scrambles our mind and distracts from our true ambitions and goals. We feel like we are really busy, but by reacting to information like email we are not making any forward momentum. Like addicts we sit there and wait for the next message to come in to give us that emotional high that then gives us something to do by responding, reading or forwarding.
What are we actually creating though? How are we moving closer to the life of our dreams?
Here are some tools and ideas to consider that will enhance your digital freedom:
1. Understand what you want.
When you know what your goals are in life or business, it’s easier to stay focused online. What are your goals for the next 30, 60, 90 days. What are you doing this week and this day to support them? Fill your life with activities and ambitions that give you energy, maximize your strengths, and allow you to contribute in the greatest way to this planet.
2. Treat the computer as a tool with very specific purposes.
Think of your computer time as time in a meeting. Before you sit down in front of a computer, know what you want to achieve, stay on task, close your eyes and visualize your intended outcome. With this technique, you can accomplish a day’s worth of work in a single one – hour session. If you are an internet junkie with e-mail and facebook, try checking your email while standing up or go to a coffee shop with internet and use that as your internet time. Rescue time is a great free software that will monitor your online activity and create customized productivity reports.
3. Reduce, reuse, and recycle email.
Reduce incoming e-mails by not signing up for RSS feeds or special offer programs. Set up filters to block junk and irrelevant mail. Reply to e-mails only when it is needed.
Reuse e-mails by saving past responses to common inquiries. Gmail and other platforms will allow you to save template emails. If an e-mail is vague, send it back and ask for clarification, don’t waste time deciphering it.
Recycle – Sort old e-mails into folders for quick reference. A sparse inbox also helps you focus on current messages. If junk mail gets out of hand, switch to a new e-mail account. Set up an auto-responder advising people that a new account is being set up and provide your new address (replacing @ with “at” to prevent bots from copying the new address). Anything important enough will find its way to your new e-mail account.
Timothy Ferriss has written a great blog post on how to outsource email from your life 6 days a week. Check out his blog post entitled the holy grail.
4. Go online at specific times.
Never check your e-mail or social media accounts first thing in the morning; it will only train your mind to focus on what other people want. Reserve 30 minute periods at 11am and 4pm to participate in online activity such as incoming email and social media. Use the time pressure that lunch and dinner can create for you as motivators.
5. Know when digital communication is appropriate.
E-mail is a great tool for conveying facts and information, but it’s not well-suited for everything. Try using the phone for personal discussions and urgent matters, or meeting in person to build real connections with sincerity and rapport. A hand written thank you note can leave a lasting impression for someone, and will sit on their desk or book case for months and years to come. Make a habit of writing 1-2 to hand written notes per week and watch the quality of your relationships soar.
In summary, digital freedom is something that we can all have. The internet can enhance the quality of our lives if used approriately, but to create a meaningful difference in our lives we must have the discipline to let go and focus on the more important activities that are found offline.
To your success,