How “business surfing” can make or break any entrepreneur!

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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, Millo 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.

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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

  1. 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.
  2. Inspiration — Looking at other designers’ work is not only fun, it helps us discover new avenues of creativity.
  3. 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.

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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.

  1. Set aside time specifically for business surfing. Plan it into your day or week as a quantified amount of time.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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!

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About April Greer

April is the Director of Projects at Reliable PSD, a design-to-code company for designers, by designers. She’s the glue keeping everything together, organized, and right on time, and giving everyone a fantastic experience while she does it.


Leave a Comment



  1. Great post and tips….it’s as if you are sitting over MY shoulder watching the clock while my business surfing takes over my work day….(guilty as charged)

  2. Ricky Schumacher says:

    It’s funny to say that I happened across your post while doing exactly that. I check Millo and other blogs often when I’m having a lack of motivation in between tasks. Looking back on the last few weeks, I have gotten really bad about this. I didn’t even realize it until now.

    Thanks for shedding some light on that!

    I am just getting started as a designer myself, and am self employed (it’s a long story, but it’s the only option), and I lack both experience and expertise. My “productive learning” time has easily been taking up half of my day going from one blog/book/forum to another when I should really be focused on my current projects and my own portfolio site. I think I’ll have to utilize some of your suggestions to keep things in check.

    • Ricky,

      You’re welcome!

      Business surfing can be a good thing! Just like chocolate, too much can be a bad thing, though. I found myself running into the very same problem as you – I’ll get on task in just a few minutes…

      Since you’re just getting started, more education is better than less, but make sure you plan your time wisely. Anyone who stops learning is getting behind or stagnating, so always, always keep learning! Just don’t forget to work so you can afford your education.

      Thanks for sharing! I’d love to hear which ones work best for you.


    • Exactly what I’m doing right now

  3. Nail on the head. You found me — did you hack in? Absolutely exactly what I needed — all in one short quick paragraph. Thanks too much, this is going to be my guide to getting more done — from now on.

  4. Only always ever do I have issues in this. Thanks for the post. Stink I’m doing it right now!

    • Benjamin,

      Sometimes I find it amazing how I started at blog A and wound up at portfolio E through link B, blog C, and mental note D. The wake of business surfing is often quite interesting!

      You’re welcome, and let us know which tips you find most useful!


  5. Well written and written in an entertaining yet informative manner.

    I mark all your correspondence with a color coded star on Google.

  6. Guilty, guilty, guilty…though we all are of course. Its funny how time flies by when you are “business surfing” as you say! When their is paying work to be done this can be a double edged sword, but alas networking is essential to any freelancer as is effective time management. Its all about finding the right balance for yourself between productivity and well, everything else! Thanks for sharing April.

    • Chris,

      Definitely a balance – you nailed it! By setting aside a quantified amount of time to business surf, you can create the balance and adjust it as necessary. Perhaps this week you’re swamped with work and can only squeeze in 30% of your business surfing time. Next week, make sure you plan at least 150% to counterbalance.

      Let us know if any tips in particular jump out as most effective!


  7. oh no, BUSTED lol, gotta unistall all IM software too

  8. see, I knew all this surfing and checking out articles was a good thing and not a waste of time, have emailed this article to my boss – I now have an excuse not to start work until 11am 😉

  9. Distractions, distractions, distractions…I think the biggest enemy is oneself, one would have to be disciplined and be on track to stay focus on what’s in front of them. Great tips though!

    • Morgan & Me,

      True that – we have to learn to discipline ourselves, and some of that comes in making the distractions less easy to focus on. The rest is self-control, and that might be a different website! 🙂

      Good point!

  10. Very wise, unless you aren’t paying attention to your Mom’ emails!!!! TEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!

  11. No IM software for me. I won’t even turn on the chat features on social networking sites most of the time. Too easy to see a day disappear.

    Generally, I schedule my business surfing for the end of the day, or for the weekends. That seems to help me to keep it from interfering with paying work. Most of the time, anyway. Nobody’s perfect, and those days when I start out overwhelmed, tired or not feeling well; or when something or another happens to make me feel discouraged, business surfing (and the other communications time wasters, like e-mail and social media) starts to look more attractive.

    Tracking time really helps too. Nothing like seeing 18 hours in one week for “Admin: e-mail, etc.” to show you just why you’ve gotten next to nothing done all week!

    • Margie,

      I don’t use IM hardly at all either, and then it’s only to communicate with a work associate!

      I like your approach – to wind down the day or on the weekend sounds like a great way to keep it in check. If you start out in the morning, it’s much easier to waste the day. If you business surf it at the end of the day/weekend, you’re more likely to want to go eat dinner or spend time with your family, and you’ve already been productive (right?!) through the day.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  12. Despite how slippery of a slope business surfing can be, when executed properly it can be very beneficial!
    “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    Great article!

    -Reilly Newman


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