rebelling against low expectations

11 Practical Tips for Wasting Less Time Online


The other morning I hopped on the computer to check something.

Within 15 seconds I had all the information I was looking for.

But instead of closing my laptop and moving on, I clicked on something else. Then I clicked on something else. Then I clicked on something else.

Click, click, click.

AAAAAAH!!! Where have the last 45 minutes gone?!? I have things to do!!

Almost everyone who uses the Internet can relate to this experience.

But as Christians who are commanded to make the best use of our time — we must take our Internet browsing seriously.

With that in mind, here are eleven practicals tricks for wasting less time online. These are all techniques I have personally used with great success.

I’m far from perfect (obviously) but I have saved untold hours by doing these eleven things. And I believe they’ll work for you too.

[Keep in mind, you don’t have to do all of them. In fact, picking just one item off this list and actually doing it will save you tons of time and help you get important things accomplished.]

1. Use the Internet for a purpose (don’t just browse)

Every day 53% of young adults ages 18-29 go online for no particular reason, according to a 2011 study by the The Pew Research Center.

These aimless Internet forays can easily account for hours of wasted time each week.

The alternative is to use the Internet on purpose. I’ve found it very effective to consciously tell myself, “I’m here to do such-and-such. Don’t waste time. Don’t get distracted.”

2. Turn off distracting notifications

It’s hard enough to ignore Internet distractions without giving them permission to constantly interrupt us and send push notifications right to our desktops and phones.

Take a few minutes to ask yourself which notifications are actually important and which tempt you to waste time — then disable the distracting ones.

What you’ll find is that by eliminating unimportant notifications you’ll actually free yourself to pay more attention to the ones that really matter.

For example, I used to receive so many random notifications from different apps and email accounts that I started ignoring notifications on my iPhone. Because of that I would often miss important things like text messages from family and friends.

Since I’ve eliminated all the unimportant and distracting notifications from my iPhone, I am actually more connected to the people and things that matter most.

(And I’m not distracted by my phone all the time).

3. Sign out of your accounts (and close tabs)

We make it easy to get distracted by staying signed-in to distracting websites and by leaving those tabs open on our browsers. We smooth the path towards wasted time.

The alternative is to throw some small obstacles into that path — obstacles like needing to type in a web address and enter our username and password.

These small tasks make it harder to waste time impulsively, which is exactly what we want.

4. Take a break from social media

A 2013 Pew Research Center report revealed that 61% of Facebook users have taken a voluntary break from the site for several weeks or more.

If you aren’t part of that 61% you should be. You don’t have to delete your account. Just post an update letting people know you’ll be gone for a few weeks — and then walk away.

Depending on your level of self-control you may need to actually block yourself from accessing your social media accounts. At the very least it is a good idea to tell several people about your break and ask them to hold you accountable to follow through to the end.

5. Streamline your smartphone

At some point I realized that I rarely used the Internet on my iPhone for anything important. In fact, I mostly used it to get distracted and ignore people around me.

Since then I have been on a quest to streamline my iPhone — installing apps and tweaking settings that help me be productive, while eliminating those apps that waste my time.

Today my iPhone doesn’t have any Internet browsers or social media apps. Instead I have apps that help me develop new habits, track my progress towards important goals, remind me to drink more water, etc.

At this point, instead of being a constant distraction, my iPhone is something that helps me get back on track with what really matters and what I actually want to accomplish that day.

6. Switch from wireless to wired Internet

At the beginning of our marriage my wife and I decided not to have wireless Internet — opting instead to plug our laptops into the single Ethernet outlet behind our desk in the living room.

People probably thought we were crazy, but we loved it. This single decision forced us to be purposeful about our Internet usage because we couldn’t connect from anywhere in our apartment.

Since then our living arrangements have changed due to my wife’s battle with Lyme Disease, but we both intend to return to wired Internet whenever we live on our own again.

7. Install free productivity software

There are dozens of amazing applications and browser extensions that allow you to block time-wasting websites and/or limit the amount of time you can spend on them each day.

These tools are easy to install and free — which means you have absolutely zero excuse for not using them.

StayFocused (Chrome), WasteNoTime (Safari), and LeechBlock (Firefox) are all popular browser extensions with similar features, including block/allow lists, time quotas, schedulers, etc.

Desktop applications like SelfControl for Mac and Cold Turkey for PC allow you to block the entire Internet or block specific lists of websites for specific periods of time — and work across all browsers and applications.

Here’s my personal setup: I use StayFocused to limit the amount of time I can visit certain websites each day. These are the websites I automatically visit when I hop on the computer or that tend to distract me when I’m working. If I exceed the daily time-limit, StayFocused will block those sites entirely for 48 hours.

Then, when I need to be seriously productive, I use SelfControl to block the entire Internet (across all browsers) for a set period of time. This removes all temptation to get distracted with a click of a button. I love it.

8. Set a timer

My problem the other day was time-creep. I let something that should have taken 15 seconds drag on and expand into a serious waste of time.

One way to avoid this is to set a timer. Decide how long you want to spend online and stop when your timer goes off.

I recommend using since it’s simple, operates within your web browser, and interrupts you with a nice alarm and dialogue box when your allotted time expires.

9. Block online advertisements

When I first installed the Adblock browser extension I was shocked. There were no more banner ads, no more sidebar ads, and no more ads playing before the videos I wanted to watch.

It was amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d been using the Internet for so many years and had viewed so many thousands of advertisements when I didn’t actually have to.

You too can enjoy this amazing experience with just two clicks. One to visit the Adblock Plus website and another to install the extension. It works for every major web browser.

10. Have an off-line day each week

Unplugging from the Internet on a regular basis is good for you. There are probably scientific studies to back this up, but I can’t get distracted trying to find them because SelfControl is blocking my Internet.

Pick a day each week (most people choose either Saturday or Sunday) and use one of the free tools I recommend to disconnect yourself from the Interweb.

You may experience Internet withdrawal symptoms at first, but eventually you will feel like doing something in the real world like getting together with a friend, learning a new hobby, or cracking open one of the books you keep telling people you’re going to read someday.

11. Don’t just sit there. Do something!

The simplest way to waste less time online is to spend more time doing things you enjoy offline.

Most people would rather hang out with a friend or read an engrossing novel than mindlessly surf the Internet. But the Internet often wins because it’s easy.

The goal of many of these tricks is to make wasting time online harder. But we also need to work on making better things easier.

What activities would you like to do more often? Play the guitar? Run outdoors? Volunteer in your community? Hang out with friends?

Take the time to identify your preferred activities and then work on smoothing the path towards them. Recruit your family and friends to help and advise you. Even baby steps can make a big difference.

What would you like to spend more time doing? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

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Photo courtesy of Paul Walsh and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • This was something I never saw myself doing: reading an online article about how to waste less time online! 🙂

    Thank you, Brett! These are great ideas to help me combat one thing I really struggle with! I think number 1 is probably the biggest thing, especially for me. Just getting on with no fixed intention can lead me to waste so much time! Thanks!

    • You’re welcome, Taylor!

      It is a funny idea to read an online article about how to waste less time online. But if you implement some of the suggestions it won’t be a waste of time! 😉

  • I haven’t really used the Internet as a way to avoid people, but, I think, this still can apply. Good advice, I do some of these.

    “What would you like to spend more time doing?”

    Reaching out to people in meaningful life-building conversation.

    Spend more time learning languages.

    Building relationships, spiritual and otherwise.

    Reading my Bible.

    Finishing things I start.

    Ect… etc…

  • This is great! Procrastination is a sin I struggle with, so I will use this. Does anyone know a site blocker for silk? I can’t find one.

  • I have started not turning my laptop on until after I’m done school (unless I actually need it for school, which I sometimes do). Then I just have my (fairly slow!) kobo arc to hop online for something important or receive texts during the day. I feel it helps me get a little internet socialization in, without me mindlessly clicking from blog to blog when I should be working. (Because that would always happen!)

    • Sounds like you’re following the same strategy I am, Rebecca: trying to make it harder to get distracted so that you do it less. Thanks for sharing!

    • Haha, I wish I could do that, too, but it seems like EVERYTHING I have to work on school-wise in on the computer somehow. =P

      • Really? ‘Cause I always take paper notes, but I just got a MacBook Air (thank you, Grandpa lol) and was wishing I had taken notes on the computer. =P

        • Oh yeah I just use basic outline for my notes because if I did anything too fancy I wouldn’t be able to understand it haha

      • I started the year taking notes on my laptop… Then I would just end up on Facebook (or Pinterest…) the whole time so I have had to stop.

      • Haha that can happen! I’ve had a typing course the last two years, and the temptation of the internet can get really distracting when you get bored of typing…

        • Haha, for me I’m doing dual enrollment, and all my assignments/grades/etc are on this special website…that and I have to type up a lot of stuff anyway. =P

          • Wow that would be a lot on the computer! As much as I like the idea of computer based learning, I’m thankful that not all my work is on there! There is nothing better than a computer for long writing assignments though!

  • I guess I do spend to much time on the Internet. I’ve been on here a hour and half and half this morning adds up to 2 hours some days I might spend longer some days. yes I to sometimes think I won’t be on here for very long but then I stay on here for longer. You have gave me something to think about.

  • Thank you for this, Brett! I definitely needed to read this today. The DHTU session of a related topic really helped me as well. Now, I should leave, and stop wasting time to get back to my schoolwork. My attention span is dwindling severely and my blog is calling out to me to write a post for tomorrow, which I must do *after* finishing school. Which will be a while away if I do not stop wasting my time…

  • This is seriously amazing. I am going to try some of those things this week! 🙂 🙂 🙂 This is perfect, too, because just a few days ago, my parents gave all of us kids a computer rule: you must ask before you get on. I have my own computer (and no phone) so it made me upset at first, but then realized this week, hey! I’m not getting on as much! Unless I get permission, I’m not allowed to get on but when I do get on, unless I have a time crunch, I tend to spend too much time online. Thanks so much!!!!!

  • @programguy:disqus I’m actually interested in how you block ads. Are there any more details you can give? Or a video? Thanks!

    • I’m using Windows 7. I don’t know which is better, simple or technical. I have some programming experience, but only with physical robots….so how about simple right now 🙂

    • Hi Sam,
      That’s ok, I understand! I know it takes time, so no worries. I don’t actually need it, it is just thing I’d like to learn. So, if it doesn’t work for you, I completely understand!

  • Lately I’ve been thinking about this a lot there’s always something on revive or the rebelution I want to check out and a couple months ago I totally ignored my schoolwork because of it. So now I don’t have internet, email, apps, or even iTunes on my phone, and when the battery on my phone starts to die I put it aside till it’s charged again. It’s really helped me to focus on my schoolwork and spend more time with my family. And I’m getting waaay better grades on the tests I’m taking now that I’ve taken the time to study instead of playing mindless games.

  • Great post Brett! I’ve used ad block for a few years i couldn’t live with out it!! I struggle at times with my internet time i really need to cut it down a bit. I will be trying some of the things you have said about.

  • Wow, thanks so much for the wise advice, Brett!

    These are fantastic tips that I look forward to using to help me use the Internet/technology/social media productively, rather than letting it drain my time!

    While the Internet and social media can be such a powerful tool to positively impact and influence an incredible amount of people, it can also work the opposite and prevent us from fulfilling God’s higher calling on our lives, if we get distracted and don’t stay focused on our mission.

    Thank you SO much, Brett, for always sharing such wise and encouraging insight- you never stop inspiring me and being such an incredible example of rising above to take action and fulfill the mighty calling God has placed on each of our lives! You’re amazing, Brett! You’re always properly aligning our perspective and faithfully obeying The Lord and sharing the wise insight He has revealed to you- a beautiful example to us all! Thank you! 🙂

  • Wow Brett, these are VERY helpful tips. I don’t like admitting it, but I am definetly a time waster. When people ask what I do, other than school and chores, I go silent. “I actual have no idea” is usual my response. I certainly get sidetracked and greatly distracted. One of Gandalf’s quotes I find helpful is “all we have to decide is what we do with the time that is given us.” (I found that quote when I was wasting my time). As mortals we only have so little time to accomplish great things. Near the end of our lives, when people ask what we’ve done during our lifetime, we don’t want our response to be “I actually have no idea”.

    • Excellent point, Zipporah. God’s Word calls us to make the best use of the time we’ve been given. My perspective is that this isn’t just a personal preference thing, but an issue of obedience. At the end of our lives we’ll not only be answering to other people for how we spent our lives, we’ll be answering to God Himself.

      • Yes! You are definitely right! the more aware we are of the precious time we have, the more we want to use it to the glory of God. Thanks again!

  • I get distracted by the internet all the time. It’s actually gotten really bad.

    I recently changed my desktop background to “GET BACK TO WORK!” in bold text as a reminder. I also downloaded Cold Turkey to block Youtube, (super distracting!) and created a notification bar to pop up every ten minutes saying, “YOUR NOT WORKING!” as a extra push.

    I still get distracted alot, but these things have helped immensely.

  • Well, if it says anything… I saw this article while trying to waste time on the internet. Guess other plans were in order. 😀 Thanks for reminding me to keep on track, Brett!

  • Thanks for the help. I needed a reminder and a way out of my habit of spending too much time online. The support everyone brings is very God given. Thank you Brett and everyone who has commented. I needed something like this to come my way.

  • Hello Y’all! Just poppin’ in to say that i’m actually gonna take a break from the Reb for a bit. Don’t get me wrong, this is the coolest website i’ve ever joined, but i need some time to focus on school and my relationship with God and my family. I’ll be back sometime 🙂 Thank you all for being so encouraging in Christ. Never stop!

    • Wow, first @mimeforjesus:disqus then Emma then @calebnorman:disqus now you lol…there’s not going to be anyone left soon. XD But good luck – it’ll be harder than you think. =)

  • Thanks Brett – really helpful (I’ve got a lot to improve on)! I’ve been thinking it might be a good idea to set aside some time each week (e.g. on Saturday morning) to go through my past week’s browsing history to see how I’ve been doing. This way, I’ll be able to “rub in” to myself the significance how I spend my time. Also, the less time I waste online each week, the less time I’ll have to spend at the end of the week reviewing it – and the more time I’ll have to do worthwhile things. (Not sure if it’ll work though – haven’t tried it yet!)

  • I have a guitar but I haven’t played it since Easter week cause of… Internet. Burned….

    I’m getting that add block. I HATE ADDS! THANK YOU!

      • Yeah. I play acoustic guitar

        (which to those who haven’t learned musical terms, it’s the fat-bodied one, as opposed to thin and electric.)

        and I love it. It just hasn’t been a priority recently.

        • Kewl! What type of guitar do you have? (ya know, for whatever reason, I just typed in “car” instead of “guitar” lol)

        • I love the guitar. You should start playing again. I am not much of a musician so I always admire people who are and don’t like to see them give up there talent, so don’t stop playing. 😉 I did try to learn to play the guitar myself a couple different times, but it was a little tedious because I am a lefty, but everyone else in my family (there is 11 of us) is right-handed and so we only own right hand guitars. As you can probably imagine it didn’t workout very well for me. I think I could have gotten it if I kept trying, but there were so many others in my family to play the guitar already that I figured I’d leave it to them. Haha!

    • I want to play guitar but I I’m supposed to master some other instrument first I started playing piano but I am not good with doing two different things at once with both hands haha so now I’m learning violin

  • I’ve noticed how reliant i am on the internet and it scares me. My internet was down for a day and i didn’t know what to do. I was bored so I actually did yard work and was able to bless my mom on her birthday. Since then, I have just continued to rely on the internet to keep me busy when there is so much i could be doing. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Well Thomas Jefferson once said “Determine never to be idle. No person will have an occasional complaint of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.” That would be a big factor in this nation.

  • Hey, this is so true! I used to be an “internet addict” so to speak, and by doing some (if not all) of these things I’ve really seen a change in myself, my attitude, how I treat others, the amazing list of stuff I get done!! It’s really helped me to get closer to my family, have more time for school, music, church activities, a closer relationship with my Lord! I just can’t believe the amount of time I spent worrying about how fast I could get to the internet instead of reaching for my Bible.
    So thanks for reminding me that electronics isn’t everything and should never have first place in our lives 🙂

  • Sometimes I realize that I do spend too much time on the Internet. The Internet is constantly changing, and it can be called the IoT. This is the Internet of Things. The internet has so many ways to lose time, and I agree that it is good to set limits.

  • Wow. I was reading this when I was supposed to be taking a shower 😛 Reading how to stop being distracted, while being distracted. Lol. Great subject! I will use these..maybe 🙂

  • Hey @programguy:disqus, I’ve been thinking about your questions because there isn’t a quick and easy answer. And, of course, I don’t know all the details about your situation, so my advice may not apply. But here are a few thoughts:

    1) People can learn to work around your boundaries. If you make yourself available to answer urgent text messages throughout the day, then people will send you urgent text messages throughout the day. If you tell people that you don’t have your phone on during a certain window of time, then they will probably not text you during that window of time.

    2) In terms of avoiding anything tragic on, I largely depend on Disqus’s built-in moderation and the community’s self-policing. I’ve worked to encourage a certain environment where problematic behavior just doesn’t happen. And I’ve tried to always make myself accessible so that anyone feels free to email me or tag me and bring something to my attention.

    However, as the website continues to grow rapidly I will need new systems and more help. I am thinking about opening up nominations for moderators and have an application process for several intern positions.

    Hope this is somewhat helpful!

  • This is an awesome list of suggestions. The past couple of months I have been tracking the amount of time I spend doing school, and have been ashamed by how few hours I’m actually spending. But at the same time, I’ve felt like I really didn’t have time to add anything else to my schedule. Because of this post I’m coming to realize that what has been stealing my time is more than likely my internet use. (Oh how easy it is to pointlessly browse Facebook and waste exorbitant amounts of time doing so.)

    Anyway, Brett in point 5 you mentioned that you have started using apps on your phone to help you build new habits, and track progress toward goals. I was wondering if you’d mind sharing with us some apps along these lines that you’d recommend?

    • Hey @disqus_T9gK6NflcO:disqus! Sorry for not seeing this sooner. The apps I’ve been using on my iPhone are Habit List, Strides, and WaterMinder. I use Habit List for new habits I want to develop, Strides for working towards goals, and WaterMinder to help me drink more water. =)

    • Ain’t dat the truth. I’m on wireless, and with four or five people using it at once (big family) it gets really slooowwwwww…

  • I also find that I spend way less time on-screen if I just read the article and don’t stop to type my opinion or browse through endless comments. If I tell myself, “Just read the article. Skip the comments section”, I save a lot more time.

    Is it wrong to post this in the comments section? Lol

  • I have really bad ADD, so you can imagine how much I struggle with this. One of my solutions is to tell myself that rebloging pointless text posts on tumblr isn’t bringing me closer to God, and therefore isn’t benefitting me at all.

  • This is something I am ashamed to say I struggled with wasting time on the internet, I was checking my email every time I got the opportunity to do so! But thanks to DHTU and a little more adjusting after I read this several weeks back now, I can thankfully say my time on the internet is used a little wiser now. So a great big thanks to Brett, for being the best teacher in the world!

  • This may seem lame, but I’ve recently developed an “internet use score chart.” And so far, it seems to be working.

rebelling against low expectations

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