Balancing Family Life And Online Activities

Managing Online Acitivity and Family

(Image by Rae Whitlock)

On a recent post, Tam from asked about how I manage my online life around the family. As noted in my monthly review last week, I actually need to readdress the issue of balance between work, rest and play.

I have been spending more time than desired in front of the computer recently and that has been due to:

  • Out of date online work plan – the work plan that I follow was pre-baby and no longer fitting in with the reality of my life.
  • Tiredness – I am less effective when tired and things take me longer to do.
  • Distractions – I have been allowing myself to become distracted by social media like Twitter, StumbleUpon etc.
  • Computer On – I usually work in the study and the Macbook stays in there. Recently though I had been having it on in the kitchen during the day.

To reduce my time on line and regain a better of balance of online and family activities, I have completed the following tasks:

Update Work Plan

Where possible I try to only be on the computer when the kids are asleep or if dad is around to be the primary carer. This does mean that the majority of my online activity is done at night or on the week end.

Previously when I have created a work plan I have just allocated blocks of time through out the week. Due to the other factors listed above impacting my efficiency online, I have also now allocated specific activities to the blocks of time.

In reality this is a flexible workplan. For example, although I have online activity scheduled for Mon night, if I have a school meeting to attend on a Mon, I would simply swap the nights around to fit these outside activities in. Also if things get incredibly busy like they have been for the last two weeks, having a work plan makes it easier to assess what online activities I need to forgo. And of course my baby doesn’t know this work plan so as is his right, he feeds whenever he wants!!!

The aim of the work plan is to give me boundaries for the amount of time that I spend online. This is what my new online work plan looks like:

20.15-21.45 General Online
20.15-21.45 General Online
20.15-21.45 General Online 12.00-16.00 Weekly Posts 14.00-16.00 Weekly Posts & Gen Online

The General Online task covers Twitter, Google Reader, replying to comments and emails, Stumble Upon, backing up blogs etc.

Get some more sleep!

The baby sleeps from 7pm until about 5am. If I am lucky he might have a feed and go back to sleep until about 6.30am, but more commonly my day starts at 5am. Going to bed after 11pm like I have been doing is crazy. I had been aiming to turn the off the computer at 10.15pm and then get ready for bed. I have set myself a new time line in the work plan of 21.45. Just need to stick to this now!

When I am working online feeling tired, I find it hard to keep focused, make mistakes and procrastinate. Getting more sleep will make me more productive when I actually am online, therefore reducing how long I need to be online for.

Eliminate Distractions

There has been a number of actions I have taken to decrease the number of distractions that I have when I am working online:

Single Focus Post Writing
When I am working on my posts for the week, I no longer have Tweetdeck running, nor do I have my email open. I think I saved over 30 minutes this weekend writing my posts due to this change.

Filtering Emails
I use Gmail and it is fantastic for organising your emails. I have now set up a number of filters to deliver particular emails straight to their label and skip the inbox. I like to keep emails in my inbox to a minimum, so can spend time flitting about sorting out emails that don’t need my immediate attention.

In particular email notices from Twitter, StumbleUpon, Regular Email Newsletters. So instead of acting upon these daily, I check these labels once a week and batch process them.

Rationalising Social Media
A couple of weeks ago, I took an online break and found that I survived quite well without any social media! There are always reasons that I can give myself as to why I should participate in them, however with finite time, I now have too many areas to participate in.

I have already pulled back on my activity on a number of forums, have reduced my time on Twitter and I am going to delete my new facebook account. I am the sort of person that once I have set something up, feel compelled to use it, so I find it difficult to see the facebook emails come in and not action them, so it is going to go.

Computer Off

It is amazing how much time I can waste when I have the computer on around me. 5 minutes here to check comments, 5 minutes there to check emails, etc etc. I only read the info, and don’t actually action it generally, which means in the end I double handle it, when I actually respond to it later on. Also these activities could easily wait until when I am next on.

I am confident that these changes will decrease the time that I am online and I already feel more in control of my online activities as opposed to them controlling me!

What do you do, to help manage your time online?