Dealing with Email, Social Networks, and Other Online Tasks

Post written by Leo Babauta.

If Unprocrastination is focusing on the important tasks without switching to the little things like email, Facebook, and other things you like/need to do online … does that mean you never do them?

Not at all. There’s room for Unprocrastination focus, and the online stuff. You just need to set limits and do the online tasks consciously, instead of letting it take over your life.

I find things like email and other communications methods very useful, but if I allowed them to take up unlimited time each day, they’d overrun the other things I need to do. I find social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be fun, useful, interesting — but they will also expand to fill whatever time you let them. And they can be addicting.

So finding a balance is key. And the exact balance you find will be different than mine, or anyone else’s, because we all have different needs, schedules, interests, etc. The idea, though, is to consciously look for the balance, and not unconsciously let these things fill our days.

How do we do that? Some ideas:

1. Figure out what online activities are important to you. For example, many people rely on email, so that’s something they need to do every day or so, sometimes even multiple times a day. Or you might highly value the professional or personal contact you get on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter. I’d recommend limiting the “important” things to 3-4 sites.

2. Set some time to do those important activities. It’ll take some experimentation to figure out what time length and frequency work for you, but you might choose a setup like 30 minutes at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., for example. Or it might just be once or twice a day, if you don’t need it that much. Or 10 minutes at the end of each hour. Whatever you choose, set a time limit and times when you’ll do these important online activities, and hold yourself to them.

3. Set aside time for the fun or little things. Your life doesn’t have to be completely boring. Just set aside certain times of the day for the games, fun reading, guilty pleasures, or little tasks that you need to do. For example, you might take 30 minutes in the middle of the morning, afternoon and evening. Figure out what works for you.

4. Adjust. Whatever you choose from the beginning probably won’t be perfect. Try it for a day or three, or even a week, and see how it goes. If you find you need more time for certain things, change the schedule.

5. Rewards. You can also use the online stuff as a reward for getting the important, focused work done. For example, work for 15 minutes with focus, and get 5 minutes of online stuff as a reward. Just be sure not to take your reward without doing the work first.