The real dilemma is not that there’s a deficit of productive web pages on the internet, it’s that taking upper hand of those web pages is way difficult. What does it say about human beings that we really can get an Ivy League education for free online, but nearly nobody does it? The Coursera and Udacity and Khan Academy attrition rates are so phenomenal that it makes the completion rates look like round-off errors. We live in an attention-deficit culture, and the solution isn’t better websites, it’s better humans.
Given spending your time more efficiently, I suggest the following tips:
1. Completely cut Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and any other social sites out of your life. If you are unable to do this, strictly regulate the total time spent on these sites to 30 minutes to an hour each day. You can download Chrome extensions to help you with this like StayFocusd. But, I cannot emphasize enough how much these sites will ruin your life. Everyone always comes to the defense of social media with excuses like, “well, I use Facebook to keep in touch with my high school friends and relatives overseas,” or “Twitter is how I stay up-to-date with current events and so on. When you look at a distribution of how people allocate their time, nearly none of it is spent doing the very things that people point to when they justify their behavior. It’s always just mindless scrolling, animated gifs, cat videos, the first twenty seconds of an elegant lecture, and so on.
What could be a more destructive criticism of social media than the fact that nobody uses it for the reasons it was invented? This is, of course, auxiliary to the more important reality that research on Facebook consistently shows that it makes everyone sadder and less fulfilled with life on average.
2.Practice productive procrastination. If you need time to restore in between vigorous activities, find outlets in which you can still improve yourself as a person. For me, that’s chess. I’ll play a handful games of Blitz in between strategy to recharge, and, more significantly, I’m not watching cat videos. For other people, it might be practicing an instrument, or reading a book, or drawing.
3.To-do lists. There may be nothing more insanely useful than a to-do list. Write down what you have to do, prioritize the list by difficulty, and be excruciatingly detailed when you write down your objectives. Don’t get fancy, don’t use Evernote or a Chrome Extension, or some app, just use paper and pen. Don’t write “Finish research paper on ethics.” Write “Write one page on Chapter 3 of Peter Singer’s ‘Practical Ethics.” The smaller, more discrete the tasks, the more superable they become. Also, plan how you are going to procrastinate in between the tasks efficiently. Write “play chess,” “watch a Noam Chomsky lecture,” “do one lesson of DuoLingo,” and so forth in between big tasks. Take a power nap if you’re too exhausted to be efficient with your procrastination.
Remember: when you don’t plan your time, you fail to take advantage of opportunities that avail themselves, and you go for the path of least resistance — which usually happens to be AngryBirds and YouTube videos.
4.Who cares? This is perhaps the most important point. Next time you are about to post something to Facebook, or watch a funny video, or read a blog post, or get involved in an internet argument, ask yourself: Who cares? If something isn’t helping you to become a better you, don’t waste your time.
Today I read a BuzzFeed article on “Epic Twitter Comebacks.” I was baited into reading the article by the outrageous title and subsequently became angry at myself for finishing it. The article just didn’t matter. Nothing productive could come from reading or writing it. The most popular items shared anywhere — Facebook, Buzzfeed, and the countless copycat sites– are the journalistic equivalent of McDonald’s. Consuming them makes everybody worse off.
I have got myself knee-deep in an hour-long album of Vines, and twenty minutes in, I have to do a reality check: This shit does not signify. The world would be a better place if all of it just disappeared. What feasible prize could there be disbursing all your time senselessly watching 7-second videos for hours at a time? It doesn’t make you satisfied; it doesn’t leave a permanent feeling of joy; and it is just fresh, unfruitful consumption.
Now step back, and think of all the countless hours spent in front of screens, convincing yourself that it’s just one more video, or just one more picture, just one more.. and then remember that this is your life. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. This is it; this is all we have; you are the aggregate of your experiences. Do you want the standard of those events to be reviewed by a few URLs and some half-hearted promises to refine Yourself?
So be vigilant! When you find yourself immersed in mindless consumption, ask yourself: “Who cares?” If what you’re doing right isn’t helping you become a better you, do something else.