Spending all day on the computer (whether from a home office or a corporate one) has benefits and drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is known as the “research rabbit hole” – a phenomenon that happens when you spend inordinate amounts of time researching a topic/idea. One click leads to another, which leads to another. Things get “curiouser and curiouser” until you end up extremely off-topic and confused about how you arrived here.
How can you prevent this from happening?
Be Aware of the Time
Awareness is a great starting point. For many of us, it’s not a matter of if we’ll fall down a rabbit hole but when. Anticipate a rabbit hole ahead of time and have a plan of action so you don’t allow several hours to get away from you.
Setting a timer (especially if it counts down) can be helpful as well. Give yourself 15 minutes to get all the research you can on a topic – and then race against the clock. Knowing you have a limited amount of time will drive you to be more efficient and focused, and seeing the hours tick away will enable you to nip any distracting behavior in the bud.
Limit Yourself to Only a Few Links
We love that it’s possible to include multiple hyperlinks in one article – and we do that – but when researching something specific, it’s easy to get carried away. Set yourself a limit, and you’ll be much better off. For example, if you’re writing a 400-word blog post for your company, you can limit yourself to three research articles or links.
An easy way to keep track of how many links you’ve clicked is by keeping all the research tabs open. If you see more than four tabs open (one for the doc/blog you’re working on and three research links), you’ve got work to do.
Batch Your Research with Reminders
As you’re writing, you may want to add incomplete information to the content. For example, you may want to cite a piece of info that you thought said the male platypus has a barbed, poisonous foot but don’t know where the information was located. Rather than head down a rabbit trail, add a note or comment in the doc saying what you think the information may be and research it further.
Pay Attention When Momentum Hits the Brakes
If you’re moving along at a good pace and that suddenly changes, take stock. Is there something that led to the slowed momentum? What can you do to regain control of the situation? Often, research rabbit holes can cause a shift in momentum that brings great projects lurching to a halt.
Ensure the Research is Relevant
To keep yourself from stalling, you may need to shift away from a writer mentality and into an editor mentality. Be brutally honest with yourself. Does this research align with your topic? Will it make sense in the grand scheme of what you’re doing? Is it a nice-to-know piece of information or something your readers will NEED to know? If it’s not relevant, cut it.
Give Yourself Permission to Click Away
If you’re the type of person who wants to always finish what you start, this tip is going to grate on you, but it’s important. Skim the content quickly to ensure the information holds value for you and your audience. If it doesn’t, click away.
Likewise, realize that you don’t have to read the article in its entirety in order to pull useful information from it. Get comfortable with skimming and clicking away for the sake of your time.
Take Breaks When You’re Unproductive
Have you ever been an hour deep in something, only to realize you did very little in that time? If you’re having so much trouble focusing that you aren’t accomplishing much, forcing yourself to continue will not be helpful.
Instead, consider using productivity helps like the Pomodoro Method to break your time into more effective, focused chunks. There are even Pomodoro timers (and YouTube videos, if you tend to listen to calm music as you work) that you can use to optimize your time and be as efficient as possible.
Get More Insights From Matcha Design
By tightening the reins on your research, you’ll be able to have a more productive work-life balance and get more done in less time. Another way to optimize your time is to listen to experience. Did you know that Matcha Design has been around for nearly three decades?