5 Simple Disciplines

Have you ever sat down to do a project or complete a task and found yourself completely distracted from completing your work? Chances are you been through this routine often if not daily. With all the distractions available through Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Pinterest, Readit, LinkedIn, and a host of the 200 other social media sites that are listed on Wikipedia it's no wonder you don't get anything done.

If you don't have a plan then you'll be wasting time online. Most people, whether surfing at work or at home, don't have time to waste online. If you're going to make good use of your time you have to have a few simple disciplines. In his book, The Slight Edge, Jeff Olsen echoes the classic Jim Rohn phrase, "simple disciplines" which are simple tasks repeated daily that lead to success.

1. Focus

Focus is the first simple discipline and it's a no-brainer if you want to prevent yourself from wasting time online, but the reality is we often leave our brains behind when we log online to begin a project, check a reference or discover inspiration. A specific focus is crucial if you hope to accomplish anything. Personal Growth Expert and Coach Anthony Robbins talks about focus as being like a laser. A laser is nothing more than photons focused on a single objective. Ironically, unfocused photons are like the lights in your home; harmless in most cases. A laser on the other hand concentrates photons so intently that it can cut through material. In his workshops Robbins explains that a laser focus is essential to progress. If you want progress and you want to stop wasting time online you must have focus. 

2. Set a Goal 

Everyone knows a goal is important in accomplishing anything, this includes if you want to stop wasting time online, but few people set a goal before beginning a project. The list of reasons, rationales and excuses is longer than can be listed, but you're likely quite familiar with your own list. One reason many people don't set a goal to begin with is they simply do not believe it's important and this is why it's simple discipline #2. Unfortunately, this is the same reason that people end up wasting time online. The famous 6-P's are appropriate here, "Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance". Have you ever heard that statement?

Setting goals is simple and many gurus and self-help books teach a simple acronym. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym to  help you set a goal.

Time Limited

Using S.M.A.R.T. goals is a great way to ensure that you can take your focus and direct it toward productivity. Remember non-directed or mis-directed focus won't help you stop wasting time online. 

3. Set a Time Limit for Your Work

Once you've directed your focus through setting goals it's important to set a time limit for your work if you want to stop wasting time online. There are two ways to go about setting a time limit. 

Scenario 1. You set a time limit that represents the total time you'll work on the project. For example, you dedicate 2 hours to a project and hold yourself to that time limit.

Scenario 2. You set a shorter time limit that is the time you will work until you give yourself a reprieve from your work. For example, you dedicate 45 minutes of work before you take a 15 minute break.

The best way to handle this issue will vary depending on your work style, the project and your personality. Some people prefer a 2 hour block of time to hammer out their project. When it's set up this way you don't have any desire to be wasting time online by journeying down the rabbit hole of Facebook or StumpleUpon; however, it can be quite difficult to sit and focus for longer periods of time without a break. Conversely, scheduling a block of time that is too short, like 15 or 20 minutes, can prevent you from completing any work at all, so be mindful of setting a clear time limit. No matter what you choose, this simple discipline will help you focus your attention and achieve your goal.

4. One Window

The one window rule is perhaps the most effective simple discipline of them all. Focus, setting goals and setting time limits are great tools to keep you from wasting time online by getting distracted with social media; but what many people fail to realize is that you can easily distract yourself within unimportant details of your own project as well. 

In an age where speed is essential to focused attention it is easy to find yourself busy thinking about your project without actually getting anything done. So, here's the rule: "When working on a project you work in only one window at a time." For many people this rule seems like it is way too radical, but here's the reason why it's important. Wasting time online is the result of believing humans can multi-task. Because many people believe they can multi-task they attmempt to do too many things at once and end up getting nothing completed. The myth of multi-tasking has been debunked and is briefly explained in a recent NPR interview with Dr. Clifford Nass

NASS: ...in our research, the people who say they're the best at multitasking because they do it all the time. It's a little like smoking, you know, saying, I smoke all the time, so smoking can't be bad for me. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

FLATOW: And it's quite noticeable on tests. You can actually test for that and see the differences going on.

NASS: Yeah. It's...


NASS: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So we have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can't filter out irrelevancy. They can't manage a working memory. They're chronically distracted. 

So, knowing what that multi-tasking is not really a reality, the one window method is a sure fire way to make sure you stop wasting time online and direct your focus on accomplishing tasks that lead to your ultimate goal. 

5. Social Media Reward

Finally, once you've focused, set goals, set a time limit and committed to the one window method you deserve a reward! It's true, when rewards are used to reinforce behavior they tend to lead to better results. The simple discipline of rewarding yourself for your dedication to stop wasting time online is a great way to ensure you’ll commit to completing your projects with focus, goals, time limits and the one window method.

At this point, you choose the reward, you've earned it! Log in to Facebook and get lost in the newsfeed; let StumbleUpon take you on an adventure to the other side of the world or even the depths of outer space. Peruse through 1,000's of pins on Pinterest and waste all the time you want online.