Monday, January 13, 2014

How Writers can Balance Time Spent Online

In a previous post, I wrote about the many distractions threatening our writing time. The overwhelming response in the comments was that the internet is the biggest threat. E J Wesley said it best:

"The internet is such a double-edged sword for most of us. It's hard to write without the resources it provides and almost impossible to reach an audience without it these days."

With a pinch of discipline and understanding, social media and all things internet don't need to take over, despite their lure and all the reasons we need to be there.

The tool vs. recreation.
To balance our time online, we need to be able to differentiate the internet from being a tool and being a recreational outlet. As a tool, it can help us achieve the goals we want. As a recreational outlet, it can distract us from the things we want to do most and even prevent us from achieving our goals.

For example: As much as I love blogging and Facebook, I need to remind myself, if I allow the time on those outlets to go past my daily allotment, then it falls into the recreational category and I only have myself to blame when I don't achieve my goals.

Know your weakness.
Only you know your weakness. For some, a weakness might be Twitter: You think you'll just pop on for a second, and an hour later you're still there chatting away with friends, having a great time and justifying it by calling it marketing. For others it might be less easy to justify, but just as much of a distraction, such as Facebook games.

If you are honest and acknowledge your weakness, then that's a big step toward dealing with the problem and making a change.

For example: If you're able to acknowledge your weakness is turning those seconds into hours, then don't 'just pop on'. Give yourself a specific time each day to indulge and stick to it. Set a timer if you have to, or turn off your alerts. Again, only you can know what solution works for you.

Fight the guilt.
Don't let guilt sway you from your goals. Building a large following happens over time, and with it comes a higher demand to maintain those connections. Your goals will remain the same, so that means something has to give. All too often, it's the writing time that get put on the backburner because guilt will creep in and tell us we have to visit a gazillion blogs a day.

A writer with no books out won't need to use social media as much as a writer with something to sell. Yes, a new writer needs to build a platform but, more importantly, that writer needs to write. In fact, all writers need to write. Individually, we need to work out how much time is needed to achieve each goal. And stick to it.

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself what you want from the limited time you have and how much you gain in return.

How do you manage your internet time vs your writing time?

Photo: my herb patch: Thyme (since this is a post about time management, lol)

90 comments:

  1. Nice choice for the photo, Lynski. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Suzeski. I get to show off my new macro pics and the herbs that have survived my love and care.

      Delete
  2. I think a lot of writers are having trouble balancing SM and writing. I started SM because of marketing, but stayed because I enjoyed it so much (which is lucky since it's not helping in marketing for squat). Have a great week, Lynda! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It feels that way initially, but it changes over time.

      Delete
  3. Great tips, Lynda. At the moment I use quiet times at work to catch up on blog reading and commenting, and also time waiting for my daughter at school to make notes of story ideas.
    This then leaves my evenings free to concentrate on proper writing time. I either switch the internet off altogether or use a good old fashioned pen and paper, thus saving me from the little distractions that I could be tempted with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes! using the ole paper and pen makes a big difference for me as well.

      Delete
  4. Wonderful advice. I was hoping you'd give me a schedule to follow - lol. I guess I have to do that myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hehe, unfortunately it's not that simple. Such a shame too!!

      Delete
  5. I really struggle with this... only way I can do it is to be physically away from the internet... so I write a cafes to get stories down on paper... editing I don't find a struggle against internet... it's just that first draft.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes, a bigger following does have a higher demand!
    Also, know when to take a break. Take vacations. Take days off. Like Christmas - no one should've been online at Christmas. (Except Gary, who was here for other lost souls.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. breaks are essential! I always take December off :)

      Delete
  7. Great advice, Lynda. And I really need to hear it. Because I try to be everywhere on SM and then all my little writing time goes. And I like Alex's idea of taking vacations from blogging. I planned to take a week off here and there but haven't scheduled it in yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yep, you need to take the breaks before you NEED to take the breaks ;)

      Delete
  8. Nice picture and great advice. I stay away from all games on Facebook, because it is too easy to spend hours playing them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Smart advice. Sometime you have to finish other duties before allowing yourself time online.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The internet can be a problem/distraction for non-writers too. My writing comes in the form of several blogs and I do have to stop myself from spending all day on it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm impressed you are able to maintain more than one blog.

      Delete
  11. 'Know your weakness.' Ooh, so true. I think the most valuable element you've mentioned is seeing the difference between social media as a tool and as recreation, while we're using it. Have a purpose, while using. If that purpose is simply to scan and be social, that's okay too. Seeing our true intentions with it can definitely help us manage it better. Thanks for the advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And being honest about our true intentions is essential.

      Delete
  12. I've gotten better at it, but still spend too much time on Facebook. But overall I fell good about how I divvy up the time spent.

    This year I want to finish two novellas so I will have to see my FB time shrink even more. No more cute little ninja kitties and such.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. no more cute little ninja kittens!?!!! Oh noes!! ;)
      It's great you feel good about your use of time.

      Delete
  13. what writing time, sweet sister, I'm constantly on the internet :) Somebody needs to send me to the middle ages with a quill and some paper... otherwise I'll never become a new Dostoyevski :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ticket to the middle ages, check! Look out middle ages!!!

      Delete
  14. I thought that was a great point about the Internet as a tool or as recreation. I do try to set limits on my social media time, and I find that doing it in chunks throughout the day instead of only one longer period often works well for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Breaking it up definitely helps me too.

      Delete
  15. I'm trying a reward system right now. When I reach a writing goal (hours or word count) then I get to take a break and peruse the webs for 15 minutes. I usually take 5-6 breaks a day. We'll see how it works!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to hear how your reward system pans out. Hope it works for you!

      Delete
  16. Guilt can be the weakness that weighs you down.
    Spending time with the wife and kids, while juggling responsibilities at work and feeling guilty you haven't met your personal goals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All those things are still important, but sometimes we need to train our immediate family so they can support us and give us the extra time we might need. That at least reduces a measure of guilt.

      Delete
  17. The cat takes lots of breaks, but it doesn't look like it, master the art of deception and you can play all day lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. cats were always the cleverer species ;)

      Delete
  18. LOL on the thyme. I definitely turn off my email alerts, and only let myself check my mail, FB, etc. after I've written a good chunk of paragraphs. I don't like FB or other games--except I've gotten slightly hooked on Spider Solitaire as a way to have a brain break. I've been telling myself No at times, and only ONE game (about 4 min), to take care of that. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I finally stopped playing Spider Solitaire. I couldn't seem to stop at just one game. Sigh.

      Delete
  19. Great post! I am terrible at balancing these, and am far too easily distracted :) I keep telling myself I'll get better, set a timer, etc., but that's yet to happen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the new year, a time of renewed resolutions.

      Delete
  20. Oh, I don't balance my internet time vs. my writing time. I balance the combination of them against my two-year-old. And he always wins.

    I know my weakness, and I embrace it. Er... him. After all, I'll always be able to write. He won't always be two.

    Once he turns three, however, all bets are off.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mondays are big Time Suck Days for me. Seems like so many bloggy friends blog on Monday. I was just thinking before I clicked here that I have already been on Blogger for hours and still haven't made it through my list. I am terrible at balancing my internet and my writing. Yep. I admit it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, sounds familiar. It can be a long, long list... ;)

      Delete
  22. I've been thinking of this for a long time. FaceBook is definitely my weakness, so I need to vow not to go there until I have written some words in my latest manuscript!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes what works is picking the best part of the day when you are most able to focus and write, then making sure that time isn't interrupted by things like FB. Treat that time as sacred.

      Delete
  23. Great points here. My problem is that I want to reading everything and I can't, then I need to find time to write. I'll be using these.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. reading is a good distraction, and in many ways it helps writing, but when it comes down to it, we still need to write.

      Delete
  24. Like with most things, I use high amounts of guilt to make sure I don't do things I shouldn't, like spend time on sites I know are distracting. Keeping a list of goals that I know I can get done if I'm not distracted also helps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that you use guilt as a means of getting things done. And keeping a list works wonders for me too.

      Delete
  25. Really wise tips...now if we can just remember to apply them, right? :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. I do get distracted sometimes but I'm getting better. I do set a firm goal about time spent on blogs and have better success with visiting facebook a few minutes every hour rather than a large junk of time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. getting better is a brilliant thing to be able to say. :)

      Delete
  27. I tend to 'play' on Social media (blogs and twitter) when I'm exhausted and wouldn't be much good for writing anyway. It is sooooo easy to get trapped in the vortex and get sucked in at other times too! great tips!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yep, that's exactly why my chosen time for social media is late afternoons. My mornings are for writing.

      Delete
  28. I need to better balance my time but I already have the great 'advantage of lacking access to a personal computer. Joy. I get to use someone else's computer at night.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Know your weaknesses...that is probably where I'll have to start in order to better balance my writing, work and the rest of this so-called-life of mine :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hehe, best of luck working it all out. Not always easy.

      Delete
  30. Knowing our weaknesses is very important. It's been harder for me to find time for online stuff these last few weeks . . . but I don't want to give it up. So, at the moment, I'm blogging randomly, hanging out at facebook in timed increments (yes, with a buzzer), and tweeting only once or twice a day. That's the plan, and then I'm either writing or living. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. fantastic plan. Sounds like you have a good handle on it.

      Delete
  31. Oh how I wish I could get off the internet. It's something that I really need to work on. I don't have a lot of followers but I do follow a lot of blogs and I feel guilty if I don't take time out to visit. I'm really trying to work on that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The guilt is a common thing. I could write a whole other blog post on that subject alone.

      Delete
  32. I allow myself some recreational time because I enjoy pictures and good news. Otherwise, I budget my time on social media. The best thing I did time-wise was when a few months ago I deleted my Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr (although since then someone took my old handle), and some other sites. Dealing with notifications was burdensome. Also, I wasn't effectively using those sites. I acknowledged that I do best blogging, tweeting, and Instagramming. This has saved me so much time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's truly wise to delete the social media outlets you don't enjoy and just focus on the ones you like. Too many is, well, too many.

      Delete
  33. What a good post, Lynda. Because I suffer from social mediaitis. (No such word) But I procrastinate terribly while I'm writing by surfing the internet. Not that it's all bad, but it I stayed focused and set a goal like you suggested time would be spent properly. Blogging takes up much of my time by visiting my online friends, which I do like. But need to take a break.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there is such a word. Let's petition to get it into the dictionary and make it official. ;)

      Delete
  34. Manage my time? Some days I do and some days I don't. I try to always keep my goal in mind. I want to be a published author, to do that I have to work, and not just play or read during work time. Also have to be forgiving. So I messed up and didn't work last night. That doesn't mean I have to give up since I won't meet my goal anyway. I just start from where I am and keep going.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. being forgiving and kind to ourselves is another important point. Doing that will also help to keep us moving forward.

      Delete
  35. I wish I had as much time as we have thyme growing in our herb bed. This is a great subject. I'm going to read the other comments as soon as I post this. I have to reconstruct my schedule every so often because my brain figures out how to destroy a schedule that works fine every single time. I'm back to writing in the mornings and blogging (my bugaboo) for no more than an hour a day in the afternoon. We'll see how long it lasts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a good plan and I hope it works for you.

      Delete
  36. I personally see connecting with people online, and writing music (which is my main creative output these days), as interrelated pieces of my effort to make a contribution to the world, and I'm at my best when I keep in mind the need for both pieces to be in play (to mix a bunch of metaphors).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yep, it's all about that balance thing again :)

      Delete
  37. This isn't the healthiest way, but if I find myself wasting too much time earlier in the day, I compensate by staying up later in the night.

    Not smart. But at least I eventually get my work done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, if it works for you, then it works.

      Delete
  38. I think you are really onto something with the "know your weakness" part. Definitely applies to me:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, took me a while to figure that one out ;)

      Delete
  39. Hah! This thing called balance... It doesn't really exist, does it? I think I'm constantly tilting one direction or the other, but eventually I'll figure it out. That, or I'll shut off my online access during certain hours. (But then how would I access my online thesaurus, or etymology dictionary? Rethinking now...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I turn off the internet for my first drafts. I don't need the online reference sites for my first drafts since I'm not aiming for perfection (or anywhere close to perfection tbh). It's during my edits, I need to be a lot more disciplined with internet useage.

      Delete
  40. I waste more time than ever on Facebook. Bet writers got way more done pre internet!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hi Lynda, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
    http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.ca/

    ReplyDelete
  42. To me social media is the necessary evil.

    Nas

    ReplyDelete
  43. You are absolutely correct that writers need to write. Sometimes even blogging takes valuable time from writing manuscripts. It's tough to find a balance!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Great words of advice there. Up until my world turned upside down, most of my social media distractions felt more like obligations. Now they feel more like a cocoon, but they're still distractions either way. All writers must find the time to write and especially the newer writers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you are finding the time (and will) to write, Jeff.

      Delete
  45. We do need FB and Twitter to connect with other writers and readers, otherwise we would be too lonely! But yes, balance is necessary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha, I hadn't thought of it that way. Writers definitely need other writers. FB and Twitter make a great support system. But ultimately if we want to write then we need to write.

      Delete

I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.