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|The Mindful Internet User - Page 2|
Keep your eye on your computer's clock, and make a mental note of when you began your online session. Keep track of what you're doing and how long you're spending on each task. Setting time limits helps keep you present, and prevents you from losing track of the time.
Consider keeping a task list for each time you sit in front of the computer. List no more than five specific items you want to accomplish for that online session, and allocate time for each. Your list might look like this:
-Check and reply to e-mail (10 minutes).
-Look up information on __________ (5 minutes).
-Update Facebook page and reply to Facebook inbox (5 minutes).
-Browse global and local news headlines on Google News (10 minutes).
Chunk Your Information
If you take in every bit of information with equal attention, it becomes harder to sort and track. Our brains don't process large amounts of random information well, but we can take in more if it's grouped—what psychologists call "chunking."
In the United States, we group our telephone numbers into three segments—a 3-digit area code, a 3-digit prefix, and a 4-digit suffix. This method divides a 10-digit number into easily managed "chunks" of information that our brains can store more easily for long-term use. You can use the same method for keeping track of new information. Organize it into smaller, more easily managed chunks, and you'll find it'll stick longer.
For instance, you can more quickly and easily locate saved web addresses by organizing them into logical subfolders in your Favorites or Bookmarks area, rather than using one long unorganized list. You can do the same with e-mails—using labels and automatic filtering to move e-mails into their respective organizational bins or folders for future action.
None of This Will Stop Information Flow
These suggestions won't stop the (over)flow of information from invading our lives—only we can do that. But we can make a conscious choice about how we spend our time online and consume the information available. By staying present and focused on our immediate online needs, we no longer have to feel that we're at the mercy of the Internet. Remember that change takes time, but with some patience, and a lot of repetition, you too can find yourself using the Internet in a more mindful manner.
John M. Grohol, Psy.D., is an expert in online psychology and behavior, a developer, researcher, author, and founder of one of the leading mental health networks online today, PsychCentral.com, named one of the 50 Best Websites of 2008 by TIME.com. He sits on the editorial board of the journal CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. Tell us what you think about this article by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.psychotherapynetworker.org. Log in and you'll find the comment section on every page of the online Magazine section.