Organizing my Internet life to minimize my online time

September 22, 2010 · 5 comments

I’m back at The Hambidge Center, in a studio with no Internet access. (New to this blog? Check out some of the posts I’ve written about the artist’s colony.)

Having no Internet access is good because it helps me focus on my book; I get so much more done when I can’t click over to e-mail or Twitter or Google Reader. But it’s also a thorn in my side, because I recently started my own social media business and I need Internet access to keep up with my clients’ accounts.

Hambidge's Rock House

Lucky for me, this artist’s colony has WiFi in a common area called The Rock House, which is about a half mile away from my studio. Residents — there are usually eight or nine of us here at once — meet there four nights a week for a dinner prepared by Hambidge’s vegetarian chef. While I’m at the Rock House, I can spend some time connected to the online world.

But I want to minimize my online time as much as possible while I’m here so I can focus on my manuscript. My goal is to complete both my personal and professional online business in less than an hour a day. So I devised a plan to make that happen. I’m sharing it with you because I think a lot of of writers want to disconnect once in a while, and being efficient with our Internet can help us do that.

How I’m minimizing my Internet time over these two weeks:

Before leaving for Hambidge, I worked extra hours to complete any work that could be done ahead of time, both for this blog and for my clients’ accounts.

  • I scheduled a ton of tweets with Hootsuite, my preferred social-media management tool.
  • I wrote and scheduled blog posts, including this one. Both WordPress and Blogger have a scheduling option.

As much as possible, I cleared my plate so I could focus on writing during my residency.

I also made a list of everything that absolutely has to get done at Hambidge. When I go to The Rock House for my daily Internet check (which I’m hoping to do only only weekdays), I’ll keep this list next to me so I can quickly check off items and feel confident that I didn’t forget anything. I’m juggling a lot of balls right now, and it helps to be organized.

Here’s what my Internet to-do list looks like:

  • Check e-mail. I’ll respond to my clients and maybe shoot a note off to my family, but everything else will have to wait. My main form of communication is e-mail, so I’m expecting my inbox to fill up pretty fast. I’m usually super attentive to e-mail, deleting and archiving messages all day to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed, so I don’t even know how many e-mails I get each day. This will be a chance to find out.
  • Deal with my clients’ accounts. This includes everything that couldn’t be scheduled ahead of time, like tweeting and responding to @replies and Direct Messages on Twitter, responding to fans’ comments on Facebook pages and generally making sure everything’s running smoothly.
  • Blog. I’ve scheduled several blog posts, but I want to keep you up-to-date on how my writer’s residency is going, and hopefully post a few photos. I’ll also want to respond to comments and tweet my posts (I prefer to do it by hand rather than through an automated service).

Online responsibilities I plan to neglect while I’m at Hambidge:

  • E-mails that aren’t urgent. Most anything that’s not from clients or family.
  • Google Reader. About 180 new posts pop up in my feed each day. I’ll probably look at my top three favorite blogs when I get back home, but I certainly won’t try to read all of the posts I missed. Instead, I’ll mark everything as read and start from scratch. Can’t keep up with everything.
  • Twitter. I’ll tweet my blog posts and an occasional photo, but other than that I’m on Twitter break.
  • Facebook & LinkedIn. I use these two networks on an if-I-have-time basis, so they’re both off my plate for these two weeks.

As the days pass, I’m sure I’ll think of more forms of online communication that I’m neglecting, since I never realize just how much I use the Internet until I’m away from it. But while it seems inconvenient to be disconnected, having Internet-free time also helps me re-evaluate, helps me think about how much of the time I spend online is really necessary.

Your turn: How do you organize your Internet life? What would you do if you didn’t have access for an extended period of time?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea September 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

Thank you for sharing!!

And, oooh, there’s got to be a Zen lesson in this: “Instead, I’ll mark everything as read and start from scratch. Can’t keep up with everything.”
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Jennifer September 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

Wonderful organizing tips (and reminder that I CAN schedule blog posts :D)

Enjoy your time at the writer’s retreat.

Right now, with my job, if I don’t have the Internet for long periods of time, I pray I have a notebook with me because I go stir crazy if I can’t do research! But on the weekends, it’s a no Internet rule for me. I’m in front of it for 8+ hours a day at work so the downtime is very much needed.

Jen
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Andi September 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

Such great tips for when I’m traveling! Way to stay focused and get your work done. Best wishes!!!

PS Jealous about the veggie chef!
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Becky September 24, 2010 at 11:23 am

Hi Alexis,
I just wrote about a forced time-out. My parents mistakenly brought my laptop back to CT with them. I live in DC. I am job hunting and am a stay-at-home mom so my computer feels like the only connection to the great big world sometimes. What surprised me was how much I liked having no access–less to do, more time to just think, slower life. I wish I could enforce such time-outs once in a while. Internet, etc. is so necessary to our lives, but I wish I did not rely so heavily…

Thank you!

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Jessie Carty September 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Being away but needing to use the Internet is such a delicate balance :) the blog reading is the one i feel most guilty about but it is the easiest to solve by just what you describe. Have fun!
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