Online Time Management

When you’re working online time management becomes an important part of what you do.

After all, we all know how easy it is to become distracted by various notifications coming into our email. Bloggers usually get emails when someone leaves a comment, or a comment needs to be moderated. If you run a forum, you probably get notified when a new member registers. If you participate in forums, you have tons of notifications from threads you’ve participated in, telling you that someone has added a new post to the thread. And then there are the tons of emails you get out of the blue, or from lists you’ve subscribed to, that all want your attention.

This has become a big thing lately, and lots of people will offer you advice and coaching, generally for a fee.

But the key to managing your time online is easy: Don’t get distracted!

Working online, you probably have your email up constantly when you’re on the computer. It may even be one of those programs that plays a chime when you get new mail. New emails practically beg to be processed immediately. My first thought, when I check to see who the email is from, is, “I can reply to that in just a couple of minutes, why put it off?” Over time I’ve gotten a reputation for being prompt to reply to emails.

Those two minutes add up, though, when you count all the emails you need to reply to over the course of a day. More damaging by far, though, is that while you can answer that email in just two minutes, it will take you more than two minutes to get back into the mind-set of what you were doing before you took your email break. It’s like having the answer to a question on the tip of your tongue, and then having someone ask you an entirely unrelated question. It takes me days sometimes to remember what I was going to say.

Online time management is all about focus. You don’t have to schedule your day, but if you sit down and feel like working on a web site you are creating, block off an hour or two to do nothing but that. Close your email program, and don’t check email until your hour or two is finished (breathe, it’ll be okay…everyone can wait for a reply that long, or they would have called you instead). Don’t open up a web browser to pop onto another web site, unless it’s research you need to do for the one you’re creating.

After the hour or two you’ve allocated, take a break. The more time you spend on a particular task, the less you get done. You could process your emails during your break, but you’ll get more out of getting away from the computer and doing something physical. Get your blood moving and your heart pumping, even if you just take a walk around your neighborhood. You’ll be refreshed then, to sit down and spend another hour or two doing something online.

Other distractions are harder to cope with, such as kids and pets. But try to isolate yourself for the hour or two that you’ll be working, so you can focus and concentrate. You’ll get far more done that way.

We’ve become so used to reacting to online events as soon as they happen that it might take you a while to get comfortable with choosing when to process emails, post forum replies, etc. But the result in terms of productivity is well worth it!

8 Replies to “Online Time Management”

  1. That is one of my biggest hurdles when it comes to blogging. I say that I don’t have enough time but I’m not managing it well. I’m easily distracted and with Twitter, Plurk, emails, Facebook, games, etc. I can spend hours off task.

    Great suggestions that have got me thinking!

  2. Great tip about taking a break in going out for the walk. I often forget how much my productivity drops, and how strained my eyes become when I spent many hours trying to get work done. Regards the chimes for e-mail I got rid of that long time ago, way to distracting. I check my e-mail three times the day, nothing is that urgent.

    What I need to work on now the poster above mentioned “surfing other sites that might not be as useful than we think.” That is my main time drain right now. I get looking for things, doing research, and end up going from one thing to another to another to another. Next thing I know a couple hours have passed.

  3. Tom, I envy people who can work to a schedule. I’ve tried, but find that I’m most productive when I work on what I feel most motivated to do, rather than trying to stick to a schedule. It means I’m often working at the last minute, since that’s when motivation is highest!

Leave a Reply