Are you making the most of your aimless online wandering?
We all know that feeling. The pang of guilt or shame as we catch ourselves aimlessly scrolling and browsing online when we could - or maybe should - be doing something else.
We tend to think of our online meanderings as a guilty pleasure. It’s something we can enjoy in moderation, but overindulging is lazy and unproductive. This reflects how we typically assume procrastination is a negative habit, associated with costly ‘cyberloafing’ and ‘internet rabbit holes’ that distract us from getting stuff done.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Some studies suggest that procrastination can be a way of relieving stress and restoring energy levels before taking on a new challenge. In fact, moderate procrastinators have been shown to think more creatively than those that rush straight into new tasks. Here, the time supposedly being ‘wasted’ is actually opening up a space for divergent ideas and non-linear thinking.
Rather than trying to quit all online procrastinating, we should focus on doing it in ways that provide more value. Scrolling through social media may be a welcome distraction for a short period, but are you really gaining anything from checking the same feeds over and over again? However, if we’re learning and discovering while we browse, procrastinating becomes something that is both entertaining and educational. We like to call this ‘Double Bottom Line procrastination’.
The ‘double bottom line’ concept has become popular in the business world. Traditionally, financial performance is the primary concern and conventional ‘bottom line’ for companies. The ‘double bottom line’ extends this model to incorporate purpose as well as profit. With this approach, positive social and environmental outcomes are no longer just a desirable side-effect but a core business objective. Not only can a business be financially successful and provide non-financial value to society, it stands to benefit from doing so given the growth of ESG or impact investing.
We can easily apply this double bottom line thinking to our online wandering. We typically think of online entertainment as a fun distraction, but something that’s not intended to be particularly practical or useful. When we log on to learn, on the other hand, it is supposed to be structured and purposeful, without distractions. But double bottom line procrastinating upends this idea of a zero-sum game between entertainment and learning. Spending time with one doesn’t have to mean losing out on the other - you can be learning while you wander, or wandering while you learn. And like in the business world, these two bottom lines can complement each other by opening the door to accidental discovery and serendipitous learning.
How do we go about procrastinating in a more value-providing way? The first step is to find the tools, websites or content that satisfy your own double bottom lines of entertainment and education. What these are will depend largely on your personal interests and goals. Eager to learn a new language? The Toucan browser extension helps you practise by automatically translating key words and phrases as you browse your favourite sites. Enjoy learning about quirky things? The beautifully animated videos by Kurzgesagt can teach you about wormholes, human origins, and ‘why beautiful things make us happy?’ in easy 10-minute episodes.
The internet gives us unlimited opportunities for discovery and knowledge - accidental or otherwise - but the onus is on us to take advantage of it. This is where Atlas comes in. Atlas allows anyone to easily create and curate personalised online libraries, full of ideas, content and people that we find stimulating. It is a space designed for double bottom line procrastination, where we know our ‘aimless browsing’ will provide us with value and unlock new discoveries, where we can connect with like-minded people and share what inspires us.
It is a space to procrastinate smarter, and get smarter while we procrastinate.
What to find out more? Sign up here.