zen habits : breathe

3 Ways To Claim Your Life Back – How To Step Away From Your Computer

“You do anything long enough to escape the habit of living
until the escape becomes the habit.”– David Ryan

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Lea Woodward of the Location Independent Living blog.

There is no denying that the rise of the computer coupled with the increasing availability of high speed internet, has made one of the most significant impacts on our lives in the past few years.

I know for sure that I’d be lost without mine and I’m not alone…a survey earlier this year by Kelton Research reported that 84% of responders stated that they were “more dependent on their home computer now than they were just three years ago” and that 65% of them spend more time with their computer than their own spouse.

Ever since I realised that my chronic eye strain was getting worse to the extent that I couldn’t actually see straight on my screen when I was tired, I’ve been trying out different ways to limit the time I spend on my laptop. It’s not an easy task as a location independent professional who relies on my laptop to run my business, work with clients and stay in touch with friends and family.

So just how can you overcome your computer addiction, claim your real life back from your virtual one and step away from the screen?

Here are 3 of the most effective ways I’ve found…

Time yourself
The first step in reducing the amount of time you spend in front of your screen is to get an idea of just how much time you do actually spend there.

In some cases, this may be a real eye-opener. For example, I estimated that I spend an average of 6 or so hours at my laptop every day. The real time? Over the course of 5 days, it was closer to 10 hours each day. Talk about being in denial!

Once I realised this I started to keep a much closer eye on the time I spent doing specific tasks on my computer – aimless surfing, twittering, facebooking, blogging, product creation and client work. Doing this helped me deduce that a whopping 40% of the total time I spent on my laptop was really not that productive – instant things I could address to help cut down my computer usage and tighten up on becoming more efficient when I am sitting in front of it.

Simple tools like Togglr, Tick and yaTimer can help you keep track of how you spend your time.

Plan specific activities away from your computer
If you don’t plan specific activities for whilst you’re away from the computer, then you are much more likely to fall into the trap of aimless surfing or playing Solitaire when you have spare time to kill or just need a break from the work.

Planning something specific to do when you take a break from the computer will not only give you some structure to this time, it can help you structure your day more efficiently as a whole.

Some of the most effective activities to plan are ones which you’ll really enjoy – reading a book, a walk in the fresh air, playing with the kids, catching up with a friend on the phone or even just sitting down for a mug of tea in a more comfy chair. If you make these activities really pleasurable, you might even find that spending time away from the computer becomes something you begin to do more frequently.

Uninstall and remove unnecessary programs
This might seem an extreme solution but it’s also an effective one. Removing all the programs, services, tools and software that you don’t use for your work means that you won’t be tempted to spend unproductive time on the computer in your breaks or when your work is done.

Unplugging from the internet is the other biggie – reducing that temptation to spend an hour surfing aimlessly – and when you do go online to achieve a specific task, try using your time tracker to give yourself a limit and help focus you on the task at hand.

It is also a useful activity to spend time at the beginning of each day to review your planned activities, identify what you’ll do whilst at your computer and more importantly, see what could conceivably be completed away from it.

So if you’ve noticed yourself spending ridiculous amounts of time on the computer and thought about cutting down, try these tips and let me know how you get on.

Lea Woodward writes about escaping your location on her blog, Location Independent Living.

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