Conquering your internet addiction: A 12-step process

In this scenario, you are a knight who defends the noble kingdom called “your productivity.” A dragon named “the internet” poses one of the biggest threats to your productivity.

This dragon does not overthrow you with the size or sharpness of its fangs, the strength of its jaws or with its fiery breath. Rather, its most powerful weapon is its ability to distract and manipulate you.

Many sources suggest that our brains can become addicted to distraction after too much time on the internet, and it can make it more difficult to invest in activities that require focus, such as reading. I’ve learned this from personal experience.

In this New York Times article, author Tony Schwartz writes, “The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation, and immediate gratification creates something called a ‘compulsion loop.’ Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.”

When we consume media that appeals to our desire for immediate pleasure and non-stop stimulus, we are more likely to want more. And more. And more.

Over winter break, the dragon’s effect on you likely grew even stronger, but I have a few suggestions that might help. With this 12-step program, perhaps you can overthrow the dragon and boost your productivity.

1. Realize that if the internet hampers your ability to focus and get things done, you need to conquer it.

The internet can be a useful tool. However, if you find yourself reliant on the internet as a distraction rather than as a tool, it has become your enemy, not your friend.

2. What is your biggest distraction?

Is it Netflix? Facebook? Instagram? Figure out what it is, and understand it does not enhance the quality of your life. Distractions do not allow you to appreciate each moment as much, and you often don’t feel as happy. According to this Huffington Post article, studies suggest that social media can leave us with negative emotions. Some researchers have even coined the phrase “Facebook depression.”

3. Limit the amount of time you spend on the internet.

Yes, it is difficult to part with the delights of free streaming and social media, but it will increase your productivity. You don’t need to completely eliminate the “fun” of internet from your life, but try to spend less time each day. For example, on the first day, spend no more than 2 hours on the internet. On the second day, spend no more than 1 hour and forty-five minutes on the internet, and so on. If you wean yourself off of the internet bit by bit rather than all at once, lost internet time will be less of a shock to your system. Your brain and your productivity will thank you.

4. If necessary, call for reinforcement.

Spend more time with your friends, family and other loved ones, and ask them to help keep you on track.

5. Make more time to do the things you love.

Before you get on the internet to check social media or stream a TV show, think of something you love to do that will leave you feeling productive, fulfilled, happy and refreshed.

6. Spend a bit of time each day alone with your thoughts, without your cell phone.

Write your thoughts down, or simply ponder them. Do not be afraid to be alone and uninterrupted with yourself.

7. Do one activity a day without your cell phone.

Hang out with your friends and leave your phone behind. You will have more fun if you give your friends your full attention. Take a walk and enjoy the scenery and fresh air without the distraction of a screen. Turn your phone and other devices off and read a book. You’ll be able to focus better without your devices buzzing and dinging at you.

8. Exercise.

Exercise makes you feel happier and less stressed. Carrying a source of limitless information and constant access to others around in your pocket can be useful, but it can also be stressful.

9. Breathe.

Unless it is urgent, it is probably okay if you don’t answer that email or text immediately. You do not need to constantly check for new messages.

10. Make time for others in real life.

It is easier and more fulfilling to talk to someone face-to-face, and it allows for deeper, more personal conversations. It also decreases the likelihood of miscommunication.

11. When you work, put your phone down.

This will help you invest yourself into what you are doing without interruptions.

12. Focus on your work.

Work may not strike you as enjoyable, but after you put in the effort of a job well done, you will feel satisfied and accomplished. Your work is more important than spending unproductive time on the internet, but do not forget to make time for yourself.

With this 12-step program, you will bring the dragon to its knees and sword-fight your way to productivity in no time.