Daily Time Off-line

Sep 15, 2014

For a long time now, I've been feeling guilty about all the time I waste on the internet. I'm talking about the unintentional ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there where I'm doing absolutely nothing except mindlessly clicking and scrolling and watching and reading.

The key word here is unintentional (I've been thinking about this word (and its counterpart) a lot since finishing Notes From a Blue Bike). It's one thing to say, "I'm going to look on Pinterest for some dinner ideas" or "I'm going to read all the new posts on my favorite blogs" or even, "I just need to unwind for fifteen minutes and check facebook" and quite another to have my house and my children calling my name and still succumb to the magnetic pull of the virtual world.

My guilt was associated with the amount of time I was wasting on the internet and also the purposeless clicking I found myself doing (how many times do I really need to check my email?).

I decided I needed a set time of day that was strictly off-limits to online. In our house, we are most productive in the morning, so it's imperative that I am present and available during the hours of 8am to 1pm. I decided that those five hours should be completely internet free.

Now, I have to say, I've tried this kind of limiting before without more than a day or two of success. But I did four specific things this time, and they made all the difference:

1. No Internet Meant No Internet

That meant that if we decided to go to the library in the morning and I hadn't added our latest picture book favorites to Goodreads, well, I would just have to keep those books another week or write down the titles with pen and paper to be added later. Or, if we decided at 11:03 that we wanted to make a batch of play dough, but we didn't have the recipe, I'd have to call my mom and have her give it to me over the phone.

This might seem a little excessive, but I had learned from my past failures that it was those little "necessities" during the day that invariably sent me down the rabbit hole. So I decided that if I was going to make a "no internet rule," I wouldn't allow any exceptions.

The added bonus of this was that I planned ahead a little bit more. I thought about our plans for the morning before 8:00 so I could look up or print off anything I might need during those hours when the internet would be inaccessible.

2. Three Weeks or Bust

I've heard before that it takes three weeks to form a habit. So I decided that I would try this idea for three weeks and then reevaluate at the end of that time period. If it wasn't working, I could change some of my regulations, but I had to give it an honest, three-week effort first.

3. I Offered Myself a Reward

Yes, I really did. If I could go three weeks without losing my willpower, then I could buy myself a new pair of earrings. Yep, a $5 pair from Old Navy. That's how nice I am. (I can be a little tight-fisted when it comes to money.)

4. I Told Mike About My Plan

This ended up being the critical key for success. If I hadn't laid it all out for Mike (the 8:00-1:00 time frame, the three weeks, the reward), I probably would have cheated or given up. But knowing that he knew and that at any time he might ask, "So how's your goal coming?" made me push through the tough moments and earn my check mark every day.

And now . . . I'm five weeks on the other side, and I have no desire to ever go back to my old internet ways. I feel so good about using my time with greater intention and purpose.

Now lest you think 1:00 comes and I spend the rest of the afternoon and evening glued to the screen, I don't. I'm just more relaxed about letting myself look things up. Also, as of this writing, I do not own a smart phone, so when I am away from my house, I'm also away from all things virtual, which in most cases is really nice.

Oh, and I'm sure you're dying to know . . . did I really go out and buy myself a new $5 pair of earrings? Why, yes. Yes, I did.

How have you made the use of your time more intentional and less wasteful? Please share in the comments! 


  1. This is such a great idea, Amy, and good for you for sticking with it! I am experimenting with trying to come up with a version of internet-free time. It's hard, because a LOT of my work comes through my inbox... and that makes it necessary to check email. But it's crucial to have time where you're not distracted, because, as you say, one thing leads to another so easily, and before you know it, you've lost half an hour!

  2. What a great idea - I'll have to try this out myself!

  3. You go girl.

    I like to do this to my self from time to time too. So how often do you spend on the internet daily? Do you count phone usage?

    1. BTW cute earrings.

      I've been setting a timer lately. That keeps me from overdoing it.

  4. Great idea. I find myself hopping on to do just one thing (check the weather, renew library books, etc. and find 15-30 minutes passes by without thinking about it. Maybe a concrete goal will help me be more conscious about how long I end up spending online.


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