Habits, Plans, and Wasting Time

Distracted Bunny

Drawing by Nuraska, Creative Commons

I’ve cursed the day we got a DVR. I’ve cursed my own short attention span, my ability to be drawn into the limitless flood of information on the Internet, pulled by one current and then another, until my mind is as muddled as a dry-season creek bed.

But I haven’t really stepped up and made those changes. You could switch that paragraph with one about serious regular exercise or half a dozen other things, and it would be the same lame story.

Today I’m going to try.

I’ve been reading about habits, and how out ingrained subroutines shape our behavior far more than our intentions do. Though I’m not finished with it, Jeremy Dean’s Making Habits, Breaking Habits has so far proven to be well-written, accessible, and research-based.

It’s been eye-opening, reading the results of study after study that says we don’t even really know what we’re doing when we act according to our habitualized patterns. And actually studying what we do, disrupting our habits by recording and understanding, is an important first step to breaking them.

So, I’m going to attack my wasting time habit first.

My plans are

Write down all the TV I watch for a week or three. Hopefully just seeing what I watch will help me stop watching stuff I don’t really care about just because I’m tired or bored or want a distraction.

Use Randall Munroe (writer of xkcd)’s trick to break the web-distraction habit. He explains it here in some detail. To make a long story short, he breaks the “novelty” feedback loop by powering down his computer after each task. If he checks the news on CNN, he powers his computer down.

He can turn in back on immediately, and go on to whatever else he wants, but the delay breaks the little addictive kick you get from moving on to the next link, the next story. He said it worked better than all the “focus” programs he tried.

I’m going to try the same thing, and see how it works. I like to read, but honestly, I get a lot more good out of reading a book than reading ten times as much material on the web.

Time is about to become far tighter with the addition of a daughter, and I already feel stretched thin. I’m going to have to become better at managing my life. And I think this will be a good first step.

Wish me luck!

 

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