It starts out innocently enough.
You sit down at your computer, check your email, check your social media outlets, comment on some LinkedIn discussions, explore some inspirational design sites, read an interesting post on increasing blog traffic, and geez…
…is it already 11am?
This, GDB readers, is what I’ve dubbed “business surfing.” It’s like personal internet surfing but with a business focus, so it’s easier to convince yourself you’re not wasting time.
Why Business Surfing is Good
Spending time throughout your week business surfing is an excellent, productive way to network, learn, and grow as designer.
Great Reasons to Business Surf
- Education — Whether you’re finding resources on jQuery or getting marketing tips, using business surfing time to increase your business knowledge or design skills is always an excellent choice.
- Inspiration — Looking at other designers’ work is not only fun, it helps us discover new avenues of creativity.
- Networking — Become a trusted peer. Contact potential vendors and get yourself known. Participate in a discussion.
How it Starts to Get Out of Control
It just happened to me – as I’m pondering my intro to this very post, I glance at the right monitor. OOOH. I have a new email; someone is following my portfolio. Curiosity piqued, I must check theirs out…
Time-wasting business surfing often sneaks up on you like this. One thing leads to another, and all of a sudden a half hour (okay, an hour) is lost in the wake of interesting links and websites.
Or, at first you’re only spending an hour a day. Before you know it, it’s two hours. And then every time you check your email, you compulsively check
three five other things.
How to Use Business Surfing Effectively
To get the most out of your business surfing, use these tips to harness your inner wanderer and remain focused as designer and entrepreneur.
- Set aside time specifically for business surfing. Plan it into your day or week as a quantified amount of time.
- Make notes. I used to feel compelled to interrupt my work for a seemingly small tangent because I was afraid I’d forget later. Jotting down a quick note keeps me on task without the frustration of having forgotten it.
- Check your email, then close it. I must work on one project before I’m allowed to check my email in the morning. If there’s something in my email I need, I copy/paste and close my email so I’m not tempted to procrastinate.
- Silence new email/text/social media noises. Without fail, when my tablet makes a new email ding, it’s nearly painful for me NOT to find out what it is.
- Close or minimize all browser windows when you’re working. This way you can’t accidentally begin business surfing in the middle of a design session.
- Clean up your bookmarks. If it’s a super-easy click away, it might be too easy to just go for a minute or two or ten, especially when your design project requires browsing. Either use a different browser (with no business surfing bookmarks) or hide those tantalizing links in folders to reduce temptation.
- Use tools to maximize your efficiency. Ifttt (If This Then That) is a great free tool for automation based on specific occurrences you set. LinkedIn allows you to set your groups emails preferences to prevent a bombardment of daily emails. Evernote allows you to make notes and save neat links for planned business surfing. Create email filters that automatically move messages into assigned folders for later viewing. And many, many more – share yours in the comments below!
- Be diligent and honest in your time log. Not only is it annoying to write down every little switch in my time log, I’m also ashamed when I review it later and resolve to be more focused.
These may seem like no-brainers, but setting a few simple limits has dramatically increased my productivity as a designer and helped me get the most out of my business surfing time.
What about you?
Have you ever been guilty of spending too much time business surfing? Have you used these tips or others to create boundaries for yourself? Let us know in the comments on this post!