Five things that can happen to you when you use the Internet and how they impact upon your ability to manage time:
- Altered sense of time. Using the Internet appears to distort our sense of time. In studies where people have been asked to perform an online task and report how long it took them once they had finished, they regularly underestimate the time taken. What people believe took them “about five minutes” tends to last about 25 minutes.
- Repetitive working. People tend to do the same thing more than once when using online technologies. They read an email. Then go back to it some hours later to read it again and deal with it. Or people visit a web page, save it as a bookmark and then go back on another date to read it again. The Internet encourages “double work”.
- Poor searching. Around one in three people who search for something never click on any of the results provided. They realise that these search results are not what they wanted and so revisit their search engine again to search for different words. Even when a search result is clicked on, around 80% of people revisit the search engine to perform another search as they were not satisfied with the results. Repetitive searching due to poor search behaviour is estimated to be taking most people an hour each day.
- Lack of concentration. The Internet is one of the main providers of “sensory overload”. This can happen when our senses just find it difficult to cope with any more input. Sensory overload can lead to a range of symptoms including irritability, restlessness and poor sleep. However, one of the main effects is a difficulty to concentrate. The more you use the Internet the less capable you become at concentrating on your work, plus it hampers your ability to remember things.
- Sleep deprivation. Internet users are frequently sleep-deprived. Often they are checking for messages late at night, which can make the brain’s timing mechanisms prevent the start of sleep. When sleep does come, it is generally poor quality and the next day the Internet user is too tired to pay proper attention to things or to make good decisions.
Time management techniques require you to be relatively organised in the first place. The way we use the Internet and the impact of the technology on our behaviour means that our ability to manage time is hampered, no matter which techniques you use. Only by getting to grips with the way we use the Internet will we be able to use time management techniques effectively in our digital world.