In pursuit of single-tasking

My Internet vacation last weekend left a lasting impression. It didn’t change my behavior as much as I would’ve liked, but I’m working on that.

During the week, I came across the article Is the Web Driving Us Mad? through a link on Facebook. It’s worthwhile reading. If you read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

For me, the biggest two pitfalls of the Web are (1) procrastination and (2) distraction. As I’ve mentioned before, when starting work seems hard it’s very easy to say “I’ll just take a minute to scan the headlines” and then get sucked into a maze of stories and links and blogs and more links and videos . . . I end up with several windows and tabs open, switching back and forth and never fully absorbing any of it. Before I know it, I’ve spent half an hour reading Postcards from Yo Momma (admittedly hilarious, with the added benefit of making me feel like one of the same moms) or some other site. And my writing time is slipping away.

Writing a novel takes concentration. It takes immersion in the world of my characters, so I feel like I’m there with them, recording what they’re saying and doing. If I’m constantly pulling myself away to finish a blog post or check my email, I break that spell. Besides, it’s rude, like someone who can’t stop texting when you’re trying to have a conversation. 🙂

So I’m going to continue to limit my Internet time in order to improve my focus. Multitasking is great, if you can do it. I can’t. It leaves me feeling scatterbrained and grumpy–qualities that getting older is already supplying me with, thank you very much. So my new motto is “One thing at a time.”

Here’s my plan: On weekdays, I’ll restrict online time to afternoons and evenings. That will let me get my writing done in the morning, which is when I seem to work best. On weekends, I’ll stay off the Internet altogether. I want to try doing this strictly at first, because it’s so easy to slip back into old habits. If things go well, maybe I’ll loosen up eventually–or maybe I’ll prefer the new way. Anyway, if I’m not around in the mornings and on weekends, you’ll know why.

One of the benefits of my Internet hiatus last weekend was that time stretched out before me almost the way it used to when I was a kid. I could actually stop and think, “What do I want to do now?” (As opposed to my usual, “Oh, no! Look how late it’s gotten! And I still have x, y, and z to do!”) I hope to use that time to write, to read, to spend more time with my husband and friends, and to do some creative idling. Sounds good, doesn’t it?



About nancyholzner

8 responses to “In pursuit of single-tasking

  • sharonstogner

    sounds like a great idea 🙂 I constantly use the web as a distraction from house work and writing reviews (funny I always have time to read though ). I need absolute quiet to write anything and with the kids home all summer there really isn’t a moment that someone’s mouth isn’t moving or the TV is blaring. BUT this Monday I get back those beautiful 6 hours of silence 🙂

    • nancyholzner

      Congrats on getting the house back to yourself! I need quiet to write, too. Even though (as you know) I’m an opera buff, I can’t listen to music while I write. Too distracting.

  • MelanieL

    My children start school in 10 days.

    I am going to do some plotting during this time and Sept. 4th is going to be “me” day. After that I’m making a schedule that is going to include a large chunk of my mornings being internet free.

    I read the article (thanks for the link) and I have to say… never mind, that might take it’s own article. The internet should be a tool for me and I want to make it just that.

  • Deborah Blake

    I used to be much better at multitasking. These days, I’m lucky if i can do ONE thing 🙂 And I find that I am often trying to talk on the phone (to a friend or family member) and check email/read something online at the same time. As you said, rude. I have one friend who hangs up on you if he hears keyboard tapping, and rightly so.

    I’m not going to be able to be offline completely this weekend, because I have an online class starting Monday and there is prep to do. I am, however, planning to keep it to a minimum. And trying to set a “get off by 9 PM” deadline, since the computer almost always seems to keep me up past my bedtime!

    Good for you. And thanks for inspiring me to do what I’ve been saying I needed to do for ages. Let me know how it goes. You know–Monday.

    • nancyholzner

      I’ve given up on multitasking. I’d rather cultivate focus, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do that.

      Let’s touch base next week and tell each other how we’re doing!

  • twimom227

    I’ve not read the article yet, but plan to. I have cut back my internet time significantly since I started blogging a couple years ago. I used to Twitter and blog hop and comment, etc. everywhere – thinking that was how best to build up my followers… I needed to get myself out there. But after a while, I realized 1) it really wasn’t helping my blog and 2) I was cutting into reading time by being online so much. I do get sucked in still, but I’m trying!

    • nancyholzner

      Hi, Jen!

      I wasn’t perfect over the weekend, but I did pretty well. (Worse today, tho.) I think your realizations are perceptive. The time I spend online really cuts into my writing time, and I’m pretty sure that readers who like my books would rather I be writing than chatting on Twitter or reading news stories and blog posts that take me waaaay far away from my story. Like you, I’m trying. I’ve set an ambitious word count goal for the week, and I’ll have to really focus if I have any hope of making it.

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