We all live busy lives, and spending time online probably isn't at the top of our priority list. However, if we're not careful, it's easy to spend more time browsing the internet than doing things that are high on our priority list.
Here are some of the ways I streamline my online time to get the most accomplished and have more time for my family and other duties!
1. Have a plan before you get online.
Know why you're getting online, and what you plan to accomplish. It's helpful to me when I have a list of things to do online before I even turn on the computer. For example, "Check email, reply to Sarah's email, type up apple crisp recipe, and check the weather." Then when I am online I do only those things, and start a new list for next time I'm online.
Even if you don't want to go to the effort of making up a detailed list, at least have a mental list of what you want to read or do. I know if I just get online and start reading blogs or googling things, I could spend so much time on those things that I don't get anything else accomplished!
2. Do important business online before leisure reading.
This one is really important, and I've learned it first hand. ;) If I have an important email to write, work to do on this website, or need to find some information on something, I make myself finish those important things before I allow myself to start reading blogs or emailing my friends. Often, this means that I run out of computer time before I've gotten to email my friends, and before I've commented on everyone's excellent articles or thoughts in their blogs.
That can make me sad, but it's really a matter of picking and choosing and realising that I can't do everything! I used to always, without fail, read all of my friends' blogs and journals (and even blogs of people I didn't know hardly anything about!) FIRST, before writing in my own journal. As a result, I only updated my journal a couple times a week, and I very rarely found the time to write articles or deeper thought-provoking entries. I realised that I must write before I read, or I will always be too tired to write, and I love writing!
I've also learned this: Don't start chatting with friends unless you really have nothing else you need to get done online. I love to chat with friends, but I rarely even start up my chat client, because I know I could spend hours just chatting!
3. Utilize things like RSS feeds, friends' pages, or update emails.
It takes time to visit a large number of websites each day. And it's a waste of time when you browse from blog to blog, hoping for new updates when there are none. Thankfully, there are some great tools out there which can allow you to access blogs or websites of your choice via only one program.
Feed Reader is a downloadable program that allows you to download updates from your selected websites and read them offline, much like reading your email through Outlook.
Bloglines is an online program that will allow you to make a list of your favorite blogs (or websites with RSS feeds, like ours!) and view their updates through a single browser window. It's amazingly quick to sign up for, too!
If you're blogging through a website that has a network of other bloggers from their site, you may be able to take advantage of adding users to a group of "friends" and view all of their blog updates on a single page through that link.
Various online forums, message boards, and blogging programs also have a feature where you can receive notification emails when someone has replied to a comment or post you have made. Enabling this feature can save you the hassle of going back and looking for replies, while ensuring that you aren't missing replies to your comments or posts!
4. Limit what you read on a daily basis.
Decide who your closest friends are, and what websites are the most edifying and beneficial to you, and limit yourself to a certain number of blogs or websites that you visit daily. Once a week, or even once a month, visiting other blogs or websites outside of your "core" will allow you to continue benefitting from them without taking too much time. As much as I might like to be friends with everyone, leave comments in everyone's blogs, and get to know lots of great, Godly moms and ladies, it's just not possible to be good friends with everyone.
5. Have a time limit.
If it helps, you can even set a timer. There is a seemingly endless supply of great Christian blogs and literature online, and there will always be another link you could follow, or another website you could explore. You have to stop somewhere! Having a time limit ensures that you won't accidentally spend more time browsing online than you truly want to.
6. Have some basic guidelines.
Some of my guidelines about using the computer (online or offline) include only using it when the children are asleep, and (at night) only after I've finished all my work for the night.
Too many times I would get online as soon as the children went to bed, thinking that I would "just check email real quick" and didn't stop browsing or reading until near midnight. I would walk downstairs and realise that the dinner dishes had never been done and the house was trashed. Of course, by then I was tired (why else would I have gotten off the computer?!) and didn't feel like cleaning. Getting up the next morning to a messy house, with dishes needing to be washed before breakfast, isn't a recipe for a relaxing and peaceful day. I knew I had to do things differently, and so now my rule is that I just don't even turn on the computer until the day's work is done.