“Reducing One’s Virtual Itinerary”

My friend M, who blogs at Mental Multivitamin, has been a resource and inspiration in my own quest to make (and take) time for things like reading, writing and balance. In her latest post on making time, she gave new emphasis to something she’s suggested before:

Ruthlessly trim your virtual itinerary.

In other words, enough with the boards, the endless email checking, the social networking tools, the blogs, and the like. Visit sites that provide you with information, insight, and/or inspiration. And then? Get off the computer and…

Read. Think. Learn.

I’ve long struggled with an overlong virtual itinerary. For a long time I read too many blogs, and had too many on my list of Google feeds. (Yes, those TED videos are awesome, but having them pile up in my feed list was discouraging and unhelpful.) Even when I weeded those, I’d keep checking email, because apparently every new email sends a little jolt of pleasure to my brain. Then Facebook came along, and I could read what other friends were doing and comment back and forth. Also, I could play Scrabble with my sister, which was a nice way to keep in touch as we live far apart. I signed up for Good Reads. I’m spending lots of time in front of my screen, but little of that doing the writing I must do on the computer.

It’s past time to trim my virtual itinerary, but I know myself well enough not to make vague, sweeping declarations of intent. I know my attempt will be one of trial and error, progression and regression, as was this mother’s in “I took my kids offline.” in The Guardian.

Here’s my current experiment. I have a timer on my watch set for 20 minutes. I try to remember to start it when I get online. Failing that (which is not infrequent) I start it when I remember. When it goes off, I save my work, hibernate my machine, and go do something else: switch out the laundry. Make lunch. Do a few yoga poses. Read a chapter in my book. I tried this yesterday and today, and have been much more productive, while still finding time to blog, read feeds, and email. I think this could be a way toward balance and away from wanking about if I can make it a habit.

7 Responses to ““Reducing One’s Virtual Itinerary””

  1. weirleader Says:

    that sounds like a great idea. I’ve managed to kick the Facebook habit and I do manage to keep my number of blogs to a minimum… but I had to quit reading the Freakonomics blog because I could read that one for hours each day.

    Nevertheless, I think I could stand to do something similar just to make time in the midst of all my ‘office-work’ that piles up at home. Especially to make sure I get to spend some ‘kid time’!

  2. sm Says:

    great post. maybe i’ll try that 20 min limit.
    in the past i’ve done a ‘ramadan’ of sorts for a month - no computer until the sun sets. it allowed me to check email, etc in the morning and then be present for my children for the day.

  3. Amy Says:

    It sounds like what you’re doing is a variation of the Pomodoro Technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/). I’ve heard lots of people have great success with it. I need to wean myself off a lot of this stuff too. Facebook isn’t so much a downfall for me as Twitter is. I could sit on Twitter all day.

  4. G. Grod Says:

    What we need is internet on our television so we can watch those TED videos instead of network shows at night.

  5. girldetective Says:

    Amy, not doing Twitter and not having a smart phone are conscious choices for me; I know they’d play to my weaknesses in such a way that I’d probably end up in a 12-step program.

  6. Amy Says:

    I’ve been trying to follow your good lead and turned Tweetdeck off while I work today. It’s killing me, but–surprise, surprise–I’m getting stuff done.

  7. GrandPa Says:

    Someone should write a browser add-on that automatically shuts it down after a preset time of say 20 minutes.