What are you doing online right now? Do you have multiple tabs open? Are you chatting with someone on Facebook, reading this post, reading the news, and filing your taxes? If you’re like most people, chances are that yes, you are doing all of these things at the same time. We live in an era when everyone believes that their time is valuable and that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, while at the same time misusing much of that same time and convincing themselves that they are productive.
It’s almost impossible to gather data on just how much time the average American spends online. Between tablets, smartphones, and laptop/desktop computing, it’s difficult to quantify when and how people are using the Internet. What do Americans even consider time spent on the Internet? Do they count time spent just checking e-mail? (Which begs the question: does anyone just check his e-mail?) Whatever the total may actually be, clearly we are spending more and more time on the web.
Welcome to the era of the Internet, the era of what I like to call “little chunks” of time. I think you know what I mean by “little chunks.” These are those little moments when, distracted from a project or e-mail, you sneak away to Facebook and read your news feed. After a couple of minutes of browsing, you return to your project. Soon, you’re distracted again. This time you sneak away to ESPN to check out the sports scores. You go back to the project. While these little chunks of time feel insignificant, over the course of an entire day your little dalliances with Facebook, ESPN, and HuffPo add up.
Little chunks are the reason why I no longer accept excuses about time. I know that everyone does this (I also know that the average American watches nearly 3 hours of television a day). While we may be better at multi-tasking, our ability to focus on a single task has shrunk. Instead of completing that project (or this blog post!), we allow ourselves to be distracted by the ball of string: viral videos, Facebook, e-mail, sports, chat, etc. As the ball slowly unravels, the minutes slip by. For some, these little chunks may never amount to more than an hour. However, even a half-hour is enough time to write a letter or lose those extra pounds.
The next time that you catch yourself saying “I don’t have time,” remember that what you’re saying is only half true. You may truly not have time, but that’s a consequence of your own decisions. Learning to carve out an extra half-hour (or hour) is possible if you learn to cut out all the little chunks. The only way to win back your life is through conscious effort. This means fighting distraction and resisting the allure of that dangling ball of string.