Stephen Elliott kicked his “addiction to continual bursts of small information” by spending a month offline. In the current Poets & Writers, he’s got some suggestions for those of us who pass whole days cruising the so-called information superhighway in search of our next fix.
Divide your day into online and offline. Studies have consistently shown that people with more screens open get less done. Multitasking slows down productivity. As long as you read your e-mail and respond once every twenty-four hours, nobody is likely to notice. Dedicate at least half of your day to handling non-Internet tasks exclusively. Write a list of things you need to do when you do get online so your Internet time will be more productive. If the main thing I was doing in my life was writing a novel, I would resolve not to be online at all. I know people who have moved “off the grid,” to rural areas to escape any distractions to their work. But the reality is you don’t need to go anywhere, you just need a computer without a Wi-Fi hookup. The urge to screw around is always strongest when the work’s not going well. And if you work at a computer, screwing around is only a click away. But when the work’s not going well is exactly the time to turn the Internet off.