You’re probably tired of hearing how much mindless surfing on the internet can maim your productivity efforts. Even so, that doesn’t change the fact that the internet and our use of it are an integral part of the work many of us do every single day. It cannot be removed completely (though using strategic no-internet time zones can give you a bit of both worlds). Because it is so ubiquitous, you need to have a way to enter and use the internet without hindering your ability to get things done.
Recently Lifehack.org published a blog post about how to start a productive workday with the right websites. The post’s author, Philip Viana, picked out new sites, corporate intranet sites, and Google Calendar as the “right websites.” While these will certainly be a valuable trifecta for some individuals, not everyone is going to have (or need) access to a corporate intranet, and some will be using a different calendar system than Google’s. To find the right websites for you, you can follow three basic guidelines.
A useful tip Viana embedded in his post was to “choose one website” (he used this in context of the news site he recommends). If you need a news website, find just one to check regularly. (You may need to check others occasionally to gain different perspectives, or perhaps you need to check industry news regularly and world news can be on a weekly basis.) This goes for sites other than news aggregators as well. There are hundreds of sites out there doing similar things: choose one to be your regular source of information. Work in the others when you have spare time or when you need to research a specific topic in-depth.
When you’re trimming your website choices to one per category, you need some criteria to help you discern which is best for you. Most of your criteria are going to be things you already know—gives you the right information, presents information in a way you can digest, etc.—but one standard you may not have considered is scanability. You need to be able to scan your chosen websites, find the information that’s useful to you, get the information, and leave. If the site’s format or retrieval system don’t make it easy for you to find what you need and get back to what you need to be doing, that site should not be on your trimmed-down essential list.
Another good trait for an internet-essential website is that it sticks to the point and has few interconnecting or outbound links (Wikipedia definitely does not make the cut). Of course various websites will have links to cite their sources or to give you an avenue to more information, but if the site you’re visiting is peppered with links that scream at you to click, click, click, you might have some difficulties. If there is a comparable site that uses fewer links, pick that one. Having fewer links will decrease your chances of following a trail of semi-related articles down a rabbit hole of lowered productivity.
If you trim your essential websites down to one of each type, with minimal linking and maximum scanability, you’ll be able to keep your web surfing without sacrificing your productivity in the bargain.
Image by Jeroen van Oostrom via FreeDitigalPhotos.net