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Strategic insights
The Internet is a Waste of Time

Written by on March 22, 2006

I have always been more or less addicted to the internet - and having to live without it for about a month is not something that I like. But, being offline has made me realize how much time I waste on the internet.

Note: I moved to a new house, and had to wait a month to get the connection set up.

In every sense, there was no practical difference between being online for only 1 hour a week, and being online all the time. In fact, it made me more productive to be offline - even though every single thing I do is based internet technologies.

What on earth did I spend all the remaining time on? Well...

Emails

I received well over 200 emails during the first week. Out of those only 7 of them required my attention and only one required me to act within the same day. That's a very low percentage of effectiveness.

Essentially I could open up my email program every day at - say - 2:00 PM and close it 10 minutes later - and still get as much done (if not more) than if it was open all the time.

RSS Feeds

I also received 814 feed items. Of those only 22 was about something I wanted to know more about - and only 3 of those was really interesting.

Most important thing about RSS feeds is that none of the items requires your immediate attention. I was not able get my feeds for about a week, and most astoundingly it made no real difference. In fact, checking only one time made RSS handling much faster.

Note: This makes me wonder why I have my RSS reader set to "check every 30 minutes"...

Browsing

I used to browse a lot. Often it would start because of some specific need - like fact-checking for an article - but I would easily get distracted.

Just a couple of weeks ago (before my offline period) I needed to get some information about how our brains work when things is accelerated (as part of a stress handling). During this fact-finding "mission" I stumbled over an article about how much G-force drag-racers experience, and that a drag-racer can accelerate to 100 mph in less than 1 second. Although this was completely unrelated, I was intrigued by that kind of force, and spend the next 20 minutes reading about that instead.

That is a big problem with the internet; there are too many things out there - without any barriers between different categories of information. It is too easy to get distracted and that is a serious time-waster.

Of course, much of this isn't exactly news. We all know that browsing, RSS and emails are causes of ineffectiveness. But, what I didn't know was how much ineffectiveness it accounts too.

For me more than 99% of all the time I spend handling emails and RSS is a waste. And, more than 60% of the time I spend browsing is keeping me away from more important things.

This is something that needs fixing - and fast too.

That said...

I wouldn't want live without the internet. It is truly a helpful tool - if you can ignore the many distractions.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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