This is a guest post by Rose Haywood, an Internet tech blogger.
When Tim Berners-Lee launched his “World Wide Web” program in 1991, he developed it so physicists and other academics could share data instantaneously, but he also recognized the potential of allowing everyone with a computer to share any information they would like. He envisioned future Internet users as truth-seekers and dreamers, saying “Anyone who has lost track of time when using a computer knows the propensity to dream, the urge to make dreams come true and the tendency to miss lunch.”
While it is true that the Internet revolutionized academia and data transfer, it has also become home to a seemingly infinite amount of useless and inaccurate information, shallow entertainment, and general distraction. This becomes especially obvious when you’re faced with the task of actually being productive and learning online. Fear not, below is a handy guide of just how you can wrestle the tangled thicket of the Internet into submission!
How to be More Productive Online
Whether you’re studying for a big exam or just trying to stay on top of your daily homework, here are some general good study habits for being productive while studying online:
1. Work THEN Reward:
In the 1960’s and 70’s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments at Stanford University that examined children who were presented with a treat and told that they could either have one immediately or have two if they waited for fifteen minutes. These children were monitored over years and it was found that the children who originally opted to wait a little more time for more reward had more successful lives, as measured by SAT scores, academic achievements, physical fitness, and career advancement.
This idea of delayed gratification is key to productivity and is a relatively simple idea for one to take the things they enjoy and make them rewards for doing the not-so-fun things in life. Put this into practice by rewarding yourself when you complete an assignment – whether the reward is a piece of candy, watching a DVRed episode of Parks and Rec, or just perusing Facebook for 15 minutes.
Everyone has been told by a teacher or a boss to make a list and for good reason: because it works! The benefits of sitting down and determining what exactly has to be done and in what order saves time and creates organized work, which will help you focus and prioritize. Not to mention, it can be extremely satisfying to check things off a list once completed.
3. Minimize Distractions:
Distractions like conversation, music, even just background noise can break concentration for some, which is why it’s important to have a quiet area to do your work. Some people actually thrive with music and conversation sounds that some may consider a distraction, so it’s important to be self-aware of what works for you. You may also run into the temptation to do other stuff that actually needs to get done. Don’t give in! Trying to answer emails or perform quick tasks in an attempt to get more done will only slow you down.
While you may consider yourself an Internet whiz, there is actually a big difference between frequent mobile/social media use and true digital literacy. Here are some best practices for doing online research like a pro:
- Identify Strong Sources: There is a flood of useless content on the Internet and it is your duty as a citizen of the information age to develop the skills needed to determine what’s reliable and what’s not. This goes back to the simple distinction of opinion versus fact and you should always be very discriminatory in what information you utilize. As a rule of thumb, avoid open-forum submission-based sites like Wikipedia.
- Master the Search Engine: Searching for information is actually more complex than some would think and search engines have advanced search features that have existed for years but are not common knowledge. For example, if you type in “online learning articles” Google will look for “online”, “learning”, and “articles” separately and bring up any results, while putting the entire phrase in quotes will only look for “online learning articles” exactly. One might think this would be well known, but it is surprisingly absent from many web surfers’ arsenals.
Hard work is, well, just that: hard. It takes consistently good habits for your work to generate quality results. You can be studying online, writing, researching, or any other number of Internet-based activities for hours without truly accomplishing anything. It’s important to think about quality when it comes to your study hours and focus on how efficiently you are working.
Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger, marketing consultant and lifelong student. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time-being right outside of Atlanta, GA. Feel free to reach out to her directly via twitter.