Thursday, December 11, 2014

Managing Time Online

LUCY BURDETTE: As you guys heard yesterday, I went seven days without email, phone, texts, and Internet last month. Seven days! Remember when none of us had any email at all? But I was nervous about it. I like staying connected. And once you get connected, you worry about what you're going to miss when you're not. But on this trip, there was no choice. So to get ready, first I unsubscribed from a lot of newsletters and promotional emails. Then I put all my yahoo groups on hold.

Then, goodbye Facebook.

So long Twitter.

I'll miss you Pinterest.

Don't forget me, Gmail.

Oh, what will I miss while I'm gone Jungle Reds?

During the trip, it was interesting to notice the many times when there was a pause in the action. These were times when I would've been thumbing through my email messages, my text messages, my Facebook posts, and so on. And there were plenty of times when questions came up about Cuba that ordinarily we would've Googled, but we had no Wi-Fi. No Google maps to check directions.

The experience was good in some ways: I was forced to do what the yoga teachers are always advising— stay in the moment. And it was good to realize how much time does get eaten up with all my various social media networks. And then to notice how my free time might be better spent unspooling knotty problems in the book that's due next month. Being online is a time sink!
So question for the day red, how do you manage your time online? Are the rewards worth the cost? Just don't say you're going to quit coming to the blog…

HALLIE EPHRON: We went to a nature preserve on Trinidad (the fabulous Asa Wright Center) and I remember sitting in the room, just sitting, and feeling so peaceful and centered once I'd gotten used to being disconnected. On a day to day basis, I do not manage it well at all. Oh, I know HOW to manage it. I just don't because e-mail and messages and facebook... they're like a narcotic. Worst of all, they make you feel like you're doing work when you're not. (Like now...)

RHYS BOWEN: My days have to start with email, the Facebook, then Jungle Reds, then sometimes Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon to check my stats. Only after all that can I have breakfast and start to write. The problem is that social media has been so incredibly good to me and for me. I never dreamed that I could say something and have ten thousand people respond to me instantly. One post recently got 16,000 visits. And I actually love getting feedback from my readers, hearing what their Christmas traditions are, their favorite books.

Earlier this year I was on a cruise and only checked e-mail a couple of times. I can't say I missed it or stood at the Grand Canal in Venice thinking "I wonder what's happening on Facebook now." But I've found that the one day I ignore my emails I find three messages from editor or agent saying "The printers need to know by tomorrow" or "we've had a request for an interview from xxx and they can only do it on xxx."

So I stay connected.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, Rhys, yes, the dreaded missed email. ALWAYS. And I guess I am now accepting the reality for me--that it's a part of my life that I'm not really interested in undoing. Don't get me wrong--getting control of it is a beast! Because i can so easily get lured into Facebook and Twitter and doing "one more thing!" and making one more comment--and it's fun, you know?  

I now set a writing timer, for 30 minutes, and I don't allow myself to do anything but write. Then I can check emails. That lets me relax because that I wont miss anything,but my monkey-brain won't swing off to something else until the timer dings.Then I get five minutes, and I set the timer again.
(I know--everything that's important I learned in kindergarten.) 

DEBORAH CROMBIEI got so far behind on email and social media when I was on book tour that I'm still trying to catch up. (Hank, you are amazing. Could you share a little Hank-being-in-a-dozen-places-at-once-ness with the rest of us, please???) Maybe I'm having such a hard time catching up because I find I don't really mind being unconnected--although I miss keeping up with my friends on Facebook and seeing what's happening on Jungle Red... But more and more often I'm taking an unofficial "internet sabbath" on Sundays, and there's a great sense of freedom in not checking my phone all day. The phone for me is a worse time-sink than the computer. Is that true for everyone else that has smart phones, too? 

Reds, how do you do it?? Tips? Nightmare stories? We'd love to hear!


  1. Although I really like the ability to be connected that the Internet affords, I suspect that I may be in the minority when I say the truth of the matter is that I don't Twitter, I don't Pinterest, and I don't do much of anything on Facebook.
    I do check the email in the morning, but don't necessarily worry about it since I always know ahead of time if I'm going to be getting something sent to me that I will need to work on at home. I do keep an eye out for the important messages, but it's a fairly easy thing to quickly check the in box.
    I don't like talking on the phone and tend to avoid it like the plague. I keep my cell phone set to Driving Mode, so if one of the girls or my grandbaby sends a text, the phone tells me and I can respond, so I don't need to keep checking it, either.

    Of course, the only thing I always do without fail is to read the Jungle Reds blog . . . .

  2. So relieved to know other people check their email before doing anything else in the A.M. I thought I was hypnotized !!!! T. Straw in Manhattan

  3. Like others, I have to have my hour of internet in the morning first thing. But then I do hour sprints, joining Ramona DeFelice Long and other sprinters at 7 AM, which are like Hank's 30-minute timer. Nothing but writing for an hour. It really helps productivity.

    I also love being in touch with people far and wide on facebook, but I know I read less than I used to because I often get on the computer in the evening rather than curling up with a book.

    I love down times without connectivity. But a week with nothing, Lucy? I think that would also freak me out.

  4. I've learned through Mindful Magazine that email and social media all come from self-inflicted deadlines and, yes, addiction. In short, nearly all of it isn't important. So setting a time frame to work on it is ideal and that's what I try to do. That frees me up to write and focus on other things I love - like being present in the moment and enjoying my family and friends *in person*!

  5. I have to be really disciplined because reading social media posts seems like I am using my time wisely, but at the end of all those hours, I don't have a review to write and that is not good.

    I do have to stay on top of the "hot topics" in the mystery/thriller community, so that I can keep the blog relevant. But I also find that ever increasing requests for reviews are becoming over-whelming and I need to make sure I focus a dedicated time on the reading of those books or nothing will get done.

    The big problem for me is that since it is really not my JOB (in that I don't get paid for it), so it seems easier to justify other "fun" activities sometimes. If my livelihood depended on meeting a reading quota (similar to the writing minimum for full-time authors), I'd like to think that I would be more regimented. That is a theory only, of course. I suspect the reality would differ.

  6. Since I spend a lot of time alone, social media helps keep me connected, when I would otherwise spend my life holed up in a virtual cave. :-)

    That said, when I travel it is way less likely that I will make an effort to stay connected. In fact, last year when we were in Tanzania I was so frustrated trying to get my husband's email that I finally told him to forget it. Nobody would die if he didn't get an email from the office, and I was tired of spending every evening cocktail hour waiting for the dial-up speed Internet to upload a bunch of spam. I missed three incredible sunsets, and it made me mad.

    When my sister-in-law and I went to South America, we were out of range for 90% of the time, especially when we were on the boat in the Galapagos.

    The other issue I found when traveling, in prior years, was that keyboards in Internet cafes were generic to the local language, and with different keys, or familiar keys in different places. Super frustrating, so I had to live with limiting communications to only what was vital. Once you get to that point it's way easier to stop worrying about it, I think.

  7. I still have a day job, so I start my morning by checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and yes, Jungle Reds. Then it's work-work. Except when I get bored, which is pretty frequently. =)

    Lunch is my writing hour. I can't connect to office Wi-Fi, but there's a Bruegger's right downstairs and if I don't connect, the annoying "we have free Wi-Fi!" message will pop-up right in the middle of what I'm doing. So I usually connect, but I close my browser. That hour is for writing.

    Oddly, when I'm at home, I'll wander through the dining room and check the computer. I check my phone too, and each family member has a text tone, so I know who sent me a message and how fast to respond (kids/husband > almost immediately; dad can often wait).

    But as soon as I flip open Scrivener, it's lights-out Internet. I don't need a fancy app or anything. I just don't go there - usually for at least an hour sprint, when I come up for air.

    I've gone on vacations or retreats where I've disconnected. I don't try to catch up once I get back. In general, I find I haven't missed much. =)

  8. Hank - I use a timer, too. except I set mine in 15 - 30 minute increments because I have the attention span of a frantic squirrel crossing the road in traffic. Makes me feel accomplished when the bell dings and I keep going.

  9. Hank, I love the timer idea. I will have to try that, starting today.

  10. I don't have a smart phone for this very reason. Bad enough that I'm addicted to Facebook when I'm on my computer or netbook.

    Every time I joyfully take some time away from checking in, I miss one of those "we need this and we need it yesterday" emails.

  11. Facebook. I've become obsessed with helping save dogs. And I use it to keep track of my cousins. And just last night I was wondering if I dared disconnect from it.

  12. Karen, yes, if you go into the vacation assuming you'll be out of touch, it's easier to manage!

    Lynn, I have the attention span of a hamster on a wheel. I go online to check one fact for the book, and half an hour later, I've looked at all the social media sites and forgotten the original question!

  13. Mary Sutton, I use Scrivener, too, and for some reason that seems to help keep the temptation to check social media at bay. No reason why I can't--I'm just less likely to do it.

    As for the smart phone, I've disabled push email, which has made a huge difference. I have to hit the little refresh icon in my email app when I want to check email. It takes a couple of seconds. And now I'm not constantly listening for the ding of incoming email, and feeling forced to check it, like one of BF Skinner's rats!

  14. Just one more thing. Been there done that way too many times, including staying up too late at night most nights.

    I've gotten to the point where I am usually on the computer while I'm watching TV.

    However, when I do go somewhere without access, I enjoy the time away. When camping with my family, they often have access and I don't, yet I find the break refreshing. When I am coming back to the internet, however, I find myself itching to reconnect and see what all is happening, but when I am without it, I don't mind that much.

  15. Deborah, do you use the "full-screen" mode in Scrivener, the one that blocks out everything else on your desktop? I've fiddled with it, but not used it.

    And yes, for some reason, it keeps the temptation to check the web at bay.

    I put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode if the dings get annoying, but I'm pretty good about not reacting like Pavlov's dog. =)

  16. My first stop on the computer every day is Jungle Reds. This blog is such a treat, and why not start my computer time with a treat. The authors and people here are like another family that I get to check in with daily. And, it actually gives my mental faculties a kick-start with the reading of the blog, comments, and writing my own (usually lengthy) response.

    Then there's Facebook. I spend way too much time on there, and it's playing havoc with my reading time, which affects writing reviews and my blog. I think I am going to use your idea, Hank, about a timer. I just have to wean myself off of FB some, but it's so hard because I connect with family, long-time friends, authors, book lovers, and interesting pages. I also have a Bookaholics page for book related conversations.

    I have weaned myself of Pinterest, or my obsession with it, but let me get back on there, and the time adds up flapjacks on a hungry logger's plate. Twitter is one that I'm fairly in control of, although it's probably one that I actually need to check more. I'm not too bad about my email checking. The problem I have with email is letting it build up and then having to spend time going through to see what I actually want to read and what I can delete.

    Oh, and Ellen, the rescued dogs! I follow several different pages, and that is a slippery slope indeed. One of my favorite is a senior dog site.

    I do try to stay off of the computer when the grandgirls are visiting. I try to set a good example there, that they are far more important, that people are far more important, than the computer.

    Now, to dig out that timer!

  17. Reading these comments, I'm realizing I probably got more writing done when I had a full time job and kids and I had to squeeze it in. (Of course that was also before Facebook and blogs and ...)

  18. The only social media I do is Facebook. I don't even use my cellphone that much ... usually to ask my husband if he needs anything while I'm getting groceries or rescue me if the car died. :)
    The Internet in general, on the other hand, I'm an info/news junkie. What a great resource. I did grow up in the time when there wasn't this access but I enjoy it. And, yes, I'd go a little crazy if I didn't have it for a while.

    I read a sample of an interesting SFF book called THE WORD EXCHANGE by Alena Graedon - "In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange." Sounds interesting and now in my Kindle TBR.

  19. If there is someone whose post I don't want to miss, then I go to their FB page and click on notifications. Otherwise I cruise FB in the morning, looking for blogging inspiration, when I'm on hold, when I'm in line at post office or grocery store and again in the evening.

  20. I don't manage, I hop on and off when I'm doing other things, or if I sit down to watch a movie

    I don't twitter, wouldn't know how

    I do Pinterest if there is nothing on TV and I'm not feeling like reading, but OMG so easy to get sucked in and all of a sudden I've been on there 3 or 4 hours eeeeek


    and for those who do not celebrate Christmas, or celebrate other December holiday - I wish you a very
    Happy Holiday Season !!

  21. PK I hate to hear people are online instead of reading, but I see it a little myself...sigh

    1. I find I waste time on Facebook that in the past would have been spent reading. But I can also now do Books on Tape or Audible at times when it would have been impossible to beat otherwise. So one step forward one step back.

  22. Keenan and Mar, sounds like you have good handles on things. Except for the Pinterest, LOL. why are streams of photos so appealing? but they are! Especially food for me...

  23. I'm with Hank in using a kitchen timer or alarm on my computer itself, not only to try to control my social media/email time but also to remind me to get up and move around so I don't stiffen up.

    I hate the phone and am getting to where I almost feel the same about email. The phone is the biggest timesink of all. I won't do chat or IM because, like the phone, it's difficult to leave the conversation when you need to. Email's better, but my inbox fills up so fast every hour, and I still haven't finished digging out from the thousands of emails I came back to after multiple surgeries that kept me off the computer altogether. And when I'm pushing on a first draft, like now, I really try to limit my time online to a minimum.