Why “Wasting Time Online” is Absolutely Worth Your Time

February 4, 2014

We hear again and again that we shouldn’t waste time online. In fact, I bet that’s one of your resolutions for 2014, isn’t it? To stay on task?

While it’s important to stay focused 95 percent of the time so you can deliver your best work, here’s a secret most productivity hacks won’t let you in on: some distraction is actually good for you. (Click to tweet this idea.)

Sure, creating and shipping is essential, whether you’re working for yourself or someone else. But know how I learn the skills that propel me to the next level of my career? Know when I come up with some of my best ideas for my business? When I allow myself to browse the Internet with no particular purpose — otherwise known as wasting time online.

Image: Did you know "wasting time online" can be good for you?

Did you know “wasting time online” can be good for you?

How exploring online helps you learn

When I give myself the freedom to click on links in Twitter that interest me, or follow one Facebook link to the next to the next, sometimes getting lost and forgetting what I started out looking for… that’s when I learn the little things that make a big difference in my work.

That’s when I pick up new strategies for SEO or traffic-building. It’s when I try out new tools, some of which become part of my workflow. It’s when I learn new skills that make me better at my job so I’m able to land higher-paying clients, create better ebooks and courses, and become known as a thought-leader in my field.

Crazy as it sounds, I believe that occasionally allowing myself to be distracted — coupled with being highly productive when I truly need to focus on one task — gives me an edge in the online world.

Of course, many of the ideas and strategies and tools I try while poking around online lead to dead ends and never make it into my daily routine, and critics will say that’s what qualifies as wasting precious time. But I don’t see those as losses; I see them as experiments. If you don’t give yourself the chance to experiment, you’ll miss out on opportunities to gain game-changing skills or ideas.

So the question is, how do you fit exploring the Internet into your daily routine?

If you’re good at structuring your time, you might set aside twenty minutes or a half hour just for poking around. But I know myself and my work habits, and I gain more from exploring if I do it when I’m inspired, when I see something interesting that will help me grow, even if I’m in the middle of another task. Because of this, I’ve made the conscious decision to allow myself to be distracted (unless I’ve set aside a block of time to work on one specific project). Not all the time, but enough to help me grow. It’s all about finding the right balance between executing and experimenting.

If you work a day job where exploring and discovering, aka “wasting time online,” is discouraged, set aside time to do so outside of your work hours, either in the morning before work, after work or even on weekends.

So long as you don’t spend too much time experimenting and allow yourself to enjoy it without feeling guilty, you might find that wasting time on the Internet is the best thing you can do for your career.

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