For most writers, procrastination is a very real struggle, and the constant availability of the Internet has made it even harder, especially since most of our work needs to be conducted online. Does this sound familiar? You’re getting on with your day, but you decide to quickly check your Facebook or Twitter, and the next thing you know you’re on your 8th “Which Character Are You” quiz and you can’t even remember how you got there. This can be an especially difficult trap if you are writing a book or dissertation and therefore conducting much of your work on your own time. Here are some tips for breaking out of the procrastination spiral without having to cut yourself off altogether.
1) Make a list
List all the sites you won’t need to complete your work. Any site that is purely recreational should be on the list. Tape that list somewhere in your work station, then close all the sites on it, and don’t open them again until you have completed your work for the day.
2) Use the Internet as a reward
Use the above list to keep you motivated. Set goals and tell yourself that you cannot check any of the sites on the list until you have met those goals. Not only will this keep you from getting lost in the “Internet spiral,” but it will also help motivate you to get your work done. In addition, it should help clear up the distinction between using the Internet productively and allowing it to overwhelm your life. Stick with it—success builds upon itself!
3) Do whatever you can away from the computer
Draw up a list of tasks and determine which of them will require the use of the Internet, and therefore the computer, and which will not. Getting some distance from your computer can be helpful in many ways, both by removing the temptation to “just quickly check Facebook” and providing you with some clarity and refreshment in your working day. Staring at the computer screen for hours can be pretty tiring, and is often what triggers you to go Internet wandering in the first place—it can create the illusion that you’re getting away without skiving off completely. It really doesn’t help though, because you’re neither getting an actual break, nor are you getting anything done.
4) Take a real break
Go for a walk, go get a quick cup of coffee, call a friend. Do something entirely different from work and something that has a definite end point. The trouble with the Internet black hole is that it’s essentially endless, which is why it’s such a potent procrastination tool. And if you’re having too much trouble, maybe it’s time to seek expert advice.
Robin Field holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Cape Town where she is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Linguistics with a focus on gender and game studies.