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!

 

Advertisements

Hunger and Thirst for … Distractions?

This morning, the preacher talked about the beatitudes (from Matthew 5),  especially verse 6:

“Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (NASB)

To hunger and thirst for righteousness.  That’s an amazing thought.  Most of the time, I have to push myself to read the Bible.  Most of the time, I have to push myself to take the time and really thing about my own behavior, my own attitudes.

Yes, writing draws me, because I have to write.  It’s just something I do. It’s been a substantial part of my self-identity for as long as I can remember.  But I do not really hunger and thirst for righteousness.  I honestly don’t hunger and thirst for much.

And I got to thinking: why?  Why don’t I hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Honestly, I think it’s for the same reason I have trouble getting any school work or writing done after I come home from work:  I get distracted.

Now, part of the “distraction” is my wife. But she’s not really a distraction, she’s my wife.  Spending time and attention with her is a top priority.  But other things distract me, too.

Earlier, I said I was selling my X-Box 360 to raise money for World Vision.  I’ve sold a couple of games so far, and raised $13, and I’m pretty sure I’ve found a buyer for the system itself, which will raise more.

Thinking about the X-Box and how much I get distracted, and how easily I get sucked into a game if I do start playing one, I started to say “I’m selling ALL my video game systems.  This is taking up too much of my time!”

Yeah.  Okay.  Am I shutting off the Internet?  ‘Cause I waste a lot more time on the Web than I do on video games in an average week.  Am I going to shut that off?  I write a BLOG.  Am I going to shut off the TV service (not for two years: we just signed a contract with DirecTV)?

The point is, the game systems aren’t the problem.  The TV isn’t the problem.  I Can Has Cheezburger is not the problem.  I am the problem.

I have a problem managing my time and priorities in a way that is truly Godly.  I have a problem focusing on that which is perfect, that which gives glory to God.

I want the distractions.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because true contemplation and communion with God is hard.  Maybe it’s because real study brings me up against things I don’t like.  Maybe, maybe, maybe…

We all have thorns in our flesh.  This is one I need to struggle against.  I need to learn to fight the distractions.  Only by fighting back can we learn to love righteousness, can we learn to hunger and thirst for it.  And only then will our hunger be satisfied.