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Online Junkie

Addicted to the Net.

There's a fine line between being distracted by the Net and actually being addicted to it. Either way, your productivity--and business--suffers. "With a start-up business, there's a threat of playing rather than working," says Kimberly S. Young, owner of the Center for On-Line Addiction in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

Young says the warning signs of Internet addiction are similar to those of other addictions: "a preoccupation with the Internet while offline, a constant anticipation of the next online session, lying about the extent of use to others. For compulsive users, their whole life becomes the Internet."

Bellingham, Washington, entrepreneur Heather Martin says the depth of information available online cut into her productivity. "I would research articles [online] and start surfing completely unrelated sites," recalls the 30-year-old writer and marketing consultant. "Hours later, I realized I had no article, but my butt was sure sore! Suddenly, I was working nights and weekends [to make up for time wasted online]."

The first step toward breaking this destructive pattern is to keep track of what you're doing with your online time. Young suggests estimating time spent on essential versus nonessential use. Note your results: What are you accomplishing? Are you working productively or unproductively?

Next, put time-management skills into practice. "Structure how you work. If you spend two hours per day [online] for work, allow yourself 15 minutes just for fun," says Young. "Plan the time very specifically. This is a behavior-controlling approach. Be mindful of the addictive activity and regulate the behavior."

Martin used these strategies when she realized she needed to cut her online time and concentrate on running her company, Success Works. "Now I actually structure playtime into my day where I can read, watch TV or . . . yes . . . even mindlessly surf!" she says. "It's made a huge difference."


Shannon Kinnard (shannon@ideastation.com) is the owner of Idea Station, an editorial services company in Decatur, Georgia, that specializes in e-mail newsletters. She is the assistant editor of digitalsouth magazine (http://www.digitalsouth.com) and is working on her first book, which deals with marketing via e-mail.

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