05/15/2012 11:28 am ET Updated Jul 15, 2012

Reinventing Your Connection to the Web: Time Management in the Digital Age

Imagine how difficult it will be to unplug from the Internet in 2020, a mere eight years away. Since the web has gone mobile, the Internet is accessible everywhere. And when more reliable connectivity is no longer an issue, digital time management could become as important a subject as wealth management or small business consulting. Comprehensive courses on how to use the web might be taught in the classroom, or online tutorials on the subject could become a growth industry. Here are some thoughts on how to prepare for the coming digital immersion in the years (or days) ahead.

Set a Timer to Keep Track of Internet Usage.

If you're on a specific search, and you're Googling for longer than 15 minutes, it's probably time to redefine your search parameters. When you're on a roll and finding multiple threads and various versions of what you're after, this can also be a time trap. Looking up from your laptop or pad you notice more than an hour has gotten away from you. Sometimes it feels like the web is magnetized and you're a pile of metal shavings, compelled toward a highly attractive force. Listen for the timer, and when it goes off, get up and take a walk.

Write Out a To-Do List Before Going Online.

When you're going online to accomplish specific goals, it's good to make a list and check off everything as you go along. We've all been sidetracked by hyperlinks, and this is part of the addictive quality of the Internet. Spending time on the web can be like urban exploring in a cool part of town. Just following your nose, and finding new spots you'd never heard of before. The difference is when you're out in the world with your physical body time is always a factor, but random online browsing calls up a different type of mental and physical energy. Ask yourself where you want to go, and if you're in a playful or meandering mood, sometimes going with the flow of web traffic is just the right trip to take. But if you have a set number of tasks to get done and a deadline looming, back away from the hyperlink jungle.

Set Aside Time for Leisure Browsing.

If time isn't of the essence, sometimes going for a stroll in the digital metropolis is a perfect way to spend free time. The Internet is filled with loads of whatever anyone wants, needs, or will never have a need for. It's the lost library at Alexandria, the town dump, an ever-expanding encyclopedia, a closet full of junk about to topple onto your head, the river of knowledge, a cesspool of silliness, and so many more things. It's a repository of the entire world's changing-by-the-moment news, and increasing layers of information built up in pages upon pages of commerce and creativity. It's a digital map, showing where we've gotten to on this planet, and sometimes it leads us where we're going to next.

Figure Out New Ways to Make Time on the Web a Meaningful Experience.

The Internet is still a new tool, and the best possible invention people have come up with to exchange ideas in such a quick way. Whether you're fascinated with all the web can offer, have just signed up for your first email account, or think the whole thing is a time suck of the highest order... it's the current technology connecting lives together in a way they've never been able to meet and meld before. In the near future, the web could be sewn into clothing, available on transit center or restaurant walls, and configured to take over whole rooms of smart homes. The primary thing is for the web to remain open and easily accessible to people in every country. As long as there's freedom on the Internet, open and free communication will lead to more innovation and countless interesting possibilities on how to use it. Everyone's got their own take on the Internet, and it's whatever what one imagines it to be.