Are you an internet addict? You can define addiction however you want, but if you are reading this, chances are pretty good that you spend more than a minute or two each day on the internet. I´m the biggest fan of the "net out there, and I fully advocate using it to explore and learn and read everything you can (especially this column and this site), but you know as well as I do that it´s just as easy to use the internet to procrastinate and waste time as it is to use it to be more productive and effective. The challenge is to understand which work is productive and which "work´ is counter-productive (though you probably have a good idea of that already).
Before you can get your surfing habit under control, though, you have to understand the scope of your habit. There´s a couple of ways that you can do this. The first is just to keep a pad beside your computer. Every time you venture into cyberspace note the time you start and the time that you finish. If you´re really ambitious, use the journal to break down your time into 10 minute increments and take note of what sites you visit in that time (or at least the types of sites you visit if there are several). That will allow you to understand the time you spend on the internet which is for work, for recreation and for burning time.
There is, of course, a higher tech solution. There are all sorts of time trackers which you can use. If you´re a Firefox user, you can, for example, use a plug-in called, simply enough, TimeTracker (and if you don´t use Firefox, why not? — tabbed browsing alone is a huge friend of productivity, but that´s a topic for another day). It will track every second you spend online, pause automatically when you aren´t surfing, and even list sites that are definitely for work and don´t need to be counted. And it´s unobtrusive and completely free.
Just because you know how much time you spend online, you don´t have to make major dramatic changes to your behaviour all at once. Baby steps will do. Just look at the amount of time, consider how that time was spent, and ask yourself if you could eliminate some of that time. Be brutally honest with yourself. Surfing is one of those things that just sucks time like a Hoover, so you will likely be very surprised by how much time you actually spent. In any addiction, awareness is the first step.