Has this ever happened to you: You hop online just for a quick Facebook update - and wind up surfing the Web for hours? Actually, it happens to most of us because our brains are wired to compulsively look for unpredictable payoffs – like discovering a funny new video, or finding out what Kim Kardashian wore last night. Here’s how to stop wasting time on the Internet: 

  • First: Turn off audible and visual alerts for email, IMs, and social media. MRI images show that it’s easier to ignore a pinging slot machine – where you might win actual money – than an electronic alert, because it means a live person is trying to reach you. You’re better off scheduling specific times to respond to messages – like at 10 am, 2 pm, and at quitting time. 

  • Then, when you DO check your messages: Take a deep breath first. Linda Stone is an expert on human-computer interaction. And she says that a combination of anticipation, and poor posture, makes 80-percent of us hold our breath when we open an email. And that triggers the release of glucose and adrenaline - an addicting combination that makes reading messages and status updates as thrilling to our brain as riding a rollercoaster. 

  • Finally: Use a timer. Cognitive psychologist Dr. Tom Stafford says our brains work best when we’re faced with recognizable limits. For example, finishing the last potato chip in the bag sends the signal, “Stop eating.” But the problem with web surfing is that it’s endless. So, unless you use a timer, something as simple as searching for the lyrics to a song can send you down the path of “wasted hours.”