How To Escape The Internet Jungle In 5 Small Steps

This is my first post by request. One of my readers, “an occasional blogger and a coach”, who runs the EffectivenessCoach blog, send me an email the other day. Besides the usual “hi, I saw we have similar interests and I’m also a blogger” the message had also a question:

How can you structure your learning process on the Internet? I end up buried under tons of websites, blogs, webinars and you name it. Do you have any thoughts on this? Maybe a blog post about it?

Well, the magic words were spoken: “a blog post about this”. Without further ado, let’s see how can we structure our learning process on the Internet:

Personal History

I am on the Internet for more than 14 years. Since the very beginning. I won’t tell you my Internet history here, as it has little to do with our main topic. But I will tell you a little story about my first Internet full-contact.

10 years ago I started my own web company. Part of it was of course, internet access. Maybe it sounds pre-historical, but believe me, that was a time when dial-up was mainstream. Having cable internet was still a dream. So, I had the chance to get an office in the same building with an Internet Service Provider. A simple ethernet link from them and voila: I had 10 mbs internet access. Wow! And I mean, WOW!

To make a long story short, the following 3 weeks are a black hole in my mind. I hardly remember anything from that time other than dumbly looking at hundreds and hundreds of websites. Without recollecting any of them, of course. At some point, I realized I started to lose weight, to stare at people without a specific reason and that also my sleep was completely screwed.

That was the moment I started to structure my own Internet learning strategy.

1. Isolate From It For A While

Internet is highly addictive. If you really want to take advantage of it, you must first isolate from it for a while. Find out what you really need first. Go online only when you have a clear image about what you want to incorporate. During the first 3 weeks of full-contact Internet I was looking at anything: graphics, forums, cars, tech, directory. Everything. After the first 3 weeks, I decided it’s time to focus on only several areas: learning the basics of server maintenance and PHP. For the next 6 months I didn’t do anything on the Internet except that.

Over the years I found this approach extremely effective. When I decided to start blogging I took a little bit of a break from my regular browsing habits. I just isolated for a few weeks and then I started to browse only blogs. And from blogs, only personal development blogs. And from personal development blogs, only the ones that I liked. Taking some distance from the source will surely help you decide how do you really want to use the source.

2. Restrain Your Insertion Points

How’s the home page of your browser looking? How are your bookmarks organized? How many feeds do you have in your feed reader? I ask because those are your insertion points on the Internet. You are entering the information highway through those roads. And if you have too many access roads you’ll be tempted to use them regardless of their value. Hence, losing precious time just browsing around.

I recommend having under 5 insertion points. One of them would be your feed reader, of course, and it’s your job to constantly peruse it and get rid of old or uninteresting content. The next ones are based on what I call “functional web”. For instance, I do a lot of research. And for research I use only Google. Usually the front page does the trick if I ask the good question. For interaction and human advice I use Twitter. And for growing relationships I use Facebook. As you may see, I still have one spot open. 🙂

3. Pick The Right Tools

Harvesting information is one of the most difficult tasks ever. Much more difficult than harvesting crops. This is why you’re going to need some tools. And your tools will be influenced by the type of information you’re harvesting. If you’re after design or art, you’re going to have a good image storing application. If you’re into writing, then some sort of database will have to be at hand. I use only 2 tools to organize my work, and those are Evernote and MacJournal.

Regardless of what type of information you’re harvesting, I think that, as a rule of thumb, any tool you’ll use needs to have at least those features:

  • some sort of tagging or category grouping
  • integrated search
  • export capabilities in other formats
  • online / backup capabilities

4. Transform It

After you have this setup in place, start to transform all this information into something useful. It could be a research project, a new career, a new business, whatever. Just make sure you use all the info and you’re not letting it slip away. A learning process must end with something comparable. Keeping a log of your learning activities will definitely help, but most of the time just assessing yourself at certain time intervals will do it too.

From my experience, feeling lost in the jungle of the Internet is often just an expression of a slow progress. Kind of like frustration. The information wave we’re trying to ride is so big that our efforts are looking insignificant. Having a clear way to assess progress will dramatically decrease frustration. Sometimes, just feeling good about what you’ve find on the Internet will alleviate your feelings of being lost in this jungle.

5. Create An Internet Free Day

Remember, your muscle grows not when you lift weights, but when you rest. Staying in contact with your learning source too much won’t make you smarter. On the contrary. You need time to incorporate that new information. You need distance to start making comparisons. You need some space to start making experiments. Staying away from the Internet is equally important if you’re really trying to learn something out of it.

Depending on your schedule and regular work, this Internet free day  may be a weekly day, or monthly day. What counts is that during that day you’re totally offline. A subtle effect is that you’re letting those outer energies work by themselves. I often find traffic spikes on my blog after taking an internet day off. It seems like if you’re staying too long there you start getting in the way of something. 🙂 So, take a day off every once in a while.


That’s it. It’s only 5 steps but I’m sure it can be refined. Use it a starting point and create your own. And of course, add your suggestions in the comments.

I have to admit it was really fun to write a blog post on request. So, if you feel I may know the answer to a question that bothers you, feel also free to use the contact page and let me know about it. It might even get a public answer, like this one. 🙂

28 thoughts on “How To Escape The Internet Jungle In 5 Small Steps”

  1. I’ve been thinking a LOT about this lately and had already decided to create an internet from day. I feel no addiction to it at all, quite the contrary, but most of my work has to be done online. I can easily walk away from it, but when I AM on it I still often feel that there is a “pulling” coming at me from a million grasping hands. So, like you suggest here, I go on line with clear knowing of what I am going to accomplish and I don’t multi-task. Only the window open that I need right now. Good post Dragos. It’s important. Thank you.
    .-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..When I Die I Want… =-.

  2. Dragos, After many years of being online, I am implementing what you are suggesting as I have limited my online presense only now to benifit from on the knowledge level especially from blogs but I can’t deny the curiosity of discovering other people especially via reading thier blogs. Anyway quality blogs are filtered from my visits and those only whom I keep on reading!
    .-= Hicham Maged´s last blog ..Beauty of the Mind =-.

  3. Hey Dragos!

    Nice post. I like the idea of an internet free day to relax the mind. Im online 7 days a week, except for when Im out. Its nice to take a break every now and then.

    Learning is a constant process of sifting through information, and it helps making some connections with people who already are succcessful online so they can help you out or you can look at the work they are doing and how they are doing it!

    .-= Diggy –´s last blog ..Take Advantage of Wasted Time =-.

    • Interesting how learning has different meanings for different people. For younger guys, like you, Gen Y people, it means learning from the experience of older, allegedly successful people. For me, it means incorporating as much information as I can, while trying to verify this in the real world afterwords.

      Thanks for stopping by, your contribution is appreciated 🙂

  4. Hello Dragos, another good article. I recently started using chrome and starting minimalist to try and remove some distractions.
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Irrational Decisions – Anchoring and Arbitrary Coherence =-.

  5. Yes, as someone who makes a living in the technology industry, it’s easy for me to aimlessly browse the internet while simultaneously using “hey, it’s part of my job” as an excuse.

    “Internet-free day?” Hmm, that would be tough for me, but I can do a 30-day trial, heh.

    I’m always looking for ways to streamline and organize information effectively, that’s why I ended up switching to Mac (with stuff like Evernote, DevonThink, OmniFocus/Things/The Hit List, MacJournal, etc.) If you come across more interesting things like that I’m sure it would make a nice blog post 🙂

    [Btw it’s Brian from Steve Pavlina’s workshop. I hope your trip to New Zealand went well.]

    • hey Brian,

      How nice from you to stop by 🙂 My trip to NZ went great, albeit a little bit too much effort: 9 hours ahead of my time in Auckland, while in Vegas I had 8 hours behind of my time. Felt like in a time carousel.

      As for the Mac tools, feel free to look at the Apple categoriy in my blog, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of nice stuff.

  6. Dragos, I suspect that we can all benefit from these guidelines. Our curious nature can easily fill our lives with information and activities we don’t really need. When that happens then we end up making sacrifices in more important areas. It’s something I need to watch, and these points will help me stay on top of it. Great feature by the way, answering your readers questions.
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..15 Funny Reasons Not to Take Him Shopping =-.

  7. #1 is so true. I always ended up browsing for things that neither are important nor was I actually looking for it in the first place. It sort of happen and when I realized it, I have procrastinated for an hour at least. These days I try my best not to deviate much from my objectives. Though being human, I am not without flaws 🙁
    .-= Karlil´s last blog ..How To Find The Right Hobby And The Benefits =-.

    • We’re all human, I guess. Last time I checked my bones there wasn’t any alien cyber-implant there, so, yes, we’re humans. We make mistakes or go overboard. That’s it. Get up and move on 🙂

  8. Dear Dragos,
    Quite personal as it is, this comment has to be ‘open to public’
    Today IS my day without a computer and when my husband opened the computer to check the weather forecast (everyhting’s on the Internet ;)) I saw 1 message on my SU mail-box. Actually, I expected it to be from Rocketbunny, Redamazon or JanineFlynn 🙂 and ……… was you. We got a delightful surprise wedding anniversary present. Today’s post is a “limousine for driving in the Internet world” (my man said) 😀 Have a wonderful time, Dragos

    • Wow, thanks a lot, that’s one fine compliment 🙂 Congrats on your wedding anniversary and get away from Internet. And I mean, now!

  9. ahhhhhgg an internet free day, that’s just not possible 🙂 actually it’s a great idea Dragos. I’ve done it for 9 days before when I was forced to by my telephone company and it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
    .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..Ask The Coach 9 – (50 Ways To Spend Your Time Productively) =-.

  10. Wow…internet free days 🙂 It sounds great !!! I like Bunnys suggestion Internet free weekends.even better. More time to spend with the family.
    I recently was forced to be off the internet for a few days while i was relocating…at first I missed it, but then I had so much to do, that it didnt matter after the first day passed. I kept thinking, “everything and everyone will still be there when i get back, so why worry, just enjoy and set up the house at ease”.
    I liked the spring cleaning of my ‘internet mind’ of sorts. When i did come back online after the few days break, I was all charged up….and had already thought of more productive ways to spend my time online. My new beginning and my blogs new beginning of sorts 🙂
    .-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..Common Cold-Natural Cures =-.

    • That’s an even brighter idea: spring cleaning your Internet. It’s fall here in Romania, but I’m sure I’ll accumulate a lot of Internet garbage until spring, so I’ll out a reminder and I’ll do at least one week of Internet spring cleaning 🙂

  11. Hi, Dragos! I thought about internet free day just yesterday, you read my thoughts:) Don’t know yet how to do it, I have everything online, but I am positive it CAN be done:) Thanks for a great post!
    .-= Lana – DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Relationships Advice – Other People Are Just Mirror Images Of You =-.

  12. Woah, an internet free day… how about I start that… say, tomorrow 😀

    But seriously, great advice – I often feel overwhelmed at all the information. Can barely keep up with RSS reader. Even my ‘Must Read’ category I often have to check Mark All Read!
    .-= Eric D. Greene´s last blog ..How to use Oil Pastels =-.

  13. Hi Dragos,

    Well this is a great idea. An Internet free day should be an Internet free weekend.
    Funny thing is, I just got off a girlfriend’ s blog that has a post about how most women would rather give up 2 weeks of intimacy then 2 weeks of the Internet.
    I have no idea who these women are BUT I feel they must be doing “something” very wrong.
    Anyways, I am now going to check out Eduard post. Catchy title.
    .-= Bunnygotblog´s last blog ..12 On Blogging: Katie Clemons, “Making This Home” =-.

    • That’s even better: a full week-end. That sounds like a one month holiday for me, to be honest. As for that intimacy vs internet thing, I can relate. I mean, I know a lot of women who share this approach. Unfortunately. But I do know a few who doesn’t 😉

      As for the catchy title, it’s a Figth Club line. 😉

    • Thanks for the nice words, Eduard and glad you’re finding some inspiration. From what I read on your blog, you’re doing fine though 🙂


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