Reclaim 75% of Wasted Net Time With a Daily Ritual

Net Use

A great way to cut down on the amount of time spent online is by creating an internet ritual. Creating a ritual was crucial for me when I recently compressed my internet usage from as much as two hours a day into just thirty minutes. To eliminate 75% of my internet time and still stay on top of my inbox was difficult but having a ritual made it much easier.

Here are the basic steps to creating your own internet ritual to reclaim your time:

1) Make it Daily

Find a specific time of day you will leave for internet time. I usually complete my ritual right in the morning, although I’ve been considering moving it to later in the day. The point is that the ritual happens just once a day at a time that is familiar to me. Consistency is crucial when making a pattern of behavior, so constantly changing the time or conditions I run the ritual would make it less effective.

2) Prioritize

Write down on a piece of paper the numbers one through ten. Use this list to prioritize the importance of various sites, inboxes and forums you visit. In my list I have e-mail and my RSS reader first while site stats, income stats and other websites are ranked lower down. Making this list helps me to clarify what things need to be checked once a day and which ones won’t cause a disaster if they are left alone.

3) Queue It Up

Once I’ve created a list of internet sites to check, my next goal is to queue up all the places I will visit along my browsers toolbar. This cuts out time typing in address names or searching for a specific part of a larger site. The icons are arranged by their priority, so I know if I travel left to right I am already conducting my ritual as efficiently as possible.

Here’s a screen capture of what my toolbar looks like. Left to right I have items ranked in importance. This toolbar covers 90% of the web usage I need, with occasional inquiries I need to make being outside of my daily ritual.

Prioritized Net Ritual

4) Set a Time Limit

Your ritual may be a little faster, but it won’t really improve your productivity unless you set a time limit. Although recently I’ve been handling more net usage in dealing with my upcoming book launch, normally I keep my time limit between 30-45 minutes. Setting a time limit combined with a prioritized queue means that anything I don’t have time for wasn’t a critical process.

5) Group all Internet Activity into One Point

Grouping all your net activity onto your daily ritual keeps it from creeping out and stealing time from your day. With the recent book launch and some schedule gaps, my internet usage has spread outside of my daily ritual, so I may do a Thirty Day Trial to correct that after my routine becomes stable again.

I try to make sure that my RSS feeds and any voluntary subscriptions to new information can fit within my daily ritual or I cut off the excess. As for e-mail, you’ll have to develop your own system for prioritizing to fit into a daily block. Even if you can’t wrangle in all your internet usage down to one daily ritual, getting 80% of it there and having a few extra checking periods is still better than no control at all.

6) Make it a Habit

Take out a thirty day trial to help reinforce your new internet ritual. If you want tips on how to make it a habit, check out my Habitual Mastery series or stay tuned for my upcoming book, How to Change a Habit.

I’ve noticed that occasional periods of forced contraction can optimize my internet usage for several months. After this my ritual may degrade if my priorities change. This can happen if I shift to a different e-mail program, pick up a new revenue stream that needs monitoring or my levels of traffic/activity adjust.

I like to think of internet usage like a car. If it is well cared for it can stay in good shape, but it will still probably need occasional tune-ups to function perfectly.

Image courtesy of flickr


  • seagull

    It really shocks me after I used quanto (http://www.natara.com/Quanto/index.cfm)
    to record the time-usage of my day.

    There are 5 to 6 hours on the internet, so I will follow your suggestions to cut it down to about 1.5 hours a day .

    Fixed time and limited time;
    Streamline the things with priority;

    Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.fayobserver.com/blog?id=43 Landon

    Google reader is more important than GMail? haha.

    Great post, I’ll definitely have to try some of these tips out.

  • http://www.anotherblogger.com Aaron B. Hockley

    Instead of having to click each item on the toolbar, store them in a bookmarks folder in Firefox and use the “open all in tabs” feature to open them all at once.

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  • http://nickoli.name Nickoli

    Thanks for the thoughts: I’ll certainly find the concept useful.

    The conentlink ads, though, mean I’ll probably never come back. They’re just too irritating.

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  • http://evolutionspace.wordpress.com/ h3nry

    Good post. Personally I read my emails through out the day. RSS feeds is the most time-consuming one, which I read them all at once. I am still having problems managing RSS feeds – the posts and articles I read tend to be rather long. I suppose it is just a matter of do a quick scan and pick-and-choose.

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  • http://www.blog.benscamera.com Tucker

    Cheers for the tips I think like many I spend way too much time doing nothing on the internet with no priority and no direction.

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  • http://davidfinch.typepad.com David Finch

    Scott,
    Very interesting approach and tips. The challenge for me is to not get sucked down the rabbit trail called links. One link links to another and the next thing you know you’ve completely wasted meaningful time.

    One thing that works for me is to “star” items in my Google Reader and then go back and read them on the weekend (or at a later time). Often I realize that there are some items that will get deleted from that list even before I read them.

    The challenge in this space isn’t necessarily information overload, but being OK with not feeling like I have to bookmark everything, read everything and save everything. Easier said then done.

    Once again great post!
    David Finch
    http://davidfinch.typepad.com

  • Thomas Lang

    Even better than the “open all in tabs” feature is a Firefox Extension named MorningCoffee. You can assign your webistes a weekday or set it to daily and with a mouseclick you open them in tabs at once every day. You can even order the links to give them a priority and just work your way through the tabs.

  • Gilberto

    hi nice post, i enjoyed it

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