How to get rid of my internet / procrastination habits?
December 7, 2008 11:59 PM   Subscribe

How to get rid of my internet / procrastination habits?

I've been having these bad habits for about 5 years now and it's taking over my life. For the internet, I am a blogger so I do have to spend about 1-1.5 hrs everyday writing, looking at news doing it. The worse is that I get sidetracked easily and will go on Digg, Reddit, etc and the next thing you know 3-5 hours has passed.

As for procrastination, I've tried pulling the internet chord but then when I had to search for a powerpoint, I ended up looking over many of them for no reason when the job was to look for a specific one! Imagine this kind of thing happening in other parts of my life such as cleaning up my desk (reading useless documents)

I think the main culprit is the Internet, but it is a difficult situation because I cannot ban myself from using it. Also, I've actually been able to cut these habits but never for a really long time. They usually come back within a couple of days, max was 1 week and a half. Please give me a surefire way of fixing this. Thanks Askmefi!
posted by rintako to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
When I unplug, I make sure that I won't need anything off the internet. I have found that unplugging is the best way to get work done, since I'll go to start firefox using the hotkey on my keyboard, almost like a twitch.

Also, if you have a laptop, go to a coffee shop that has wifi that you pay for. I can't connect so I get a lot of work done there.

Use firefox? Use the leechblock plugin!

That said, I'm still guilty of slacking off, like right now.
posted by hellojed at 12:12 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

For the internet, I am a blogger so I do have to spend about 1-1.5 hrs everyday writing, looking at news doing it

How about eliminating blogging?

That's the end of my useful advice, except I can tell you deactivating your mefi account doesn't really stick IME.
posted by troy at 1:17 AM on December 8, 2008

A few years ago I had the need to live "outside the box." The box, being that computer we use to dive into the nets, was consuming time I simply didn't have during the career change I was going through.

I was able to rationally separate the two lives I had, the one inside the box and the one out. The new job required 60 hours/week of my time for the first couple years. I realized I would simply not be able to accommodate that if I continued my Internet habits. I replaced the network I had inside the box with a new network of colleagues in real life. I convinced myself that what I was doing inside the box was not earth-shaking, was not going to change the world, and that those who remained inside the box would get along just fine without me. It hurt for awhile, there was probably even some withdrawal, but soon I didn't miss it.

These days that new career I established doesn't require nearly as much of my time. So, I've been able to get back inside the box, on a far smaller scale than before, for the simple pleasure of community and communication. The key for me is to make that time inside the box be fun. When it starts to seem like a job, it's time to go outside.
posted by netbros at 1:33 AM on December 8, 2008

How much time do you spend reading old-fashioned paper books? If the answer is "not much", it could be time to rediscover the habit. It's much more calming than jumping around on the web and in my opinion helps to build concentration. The richer, deeper stimulation that comes from reading books might make you a bit less interested in web surfing, the same way that McDonalds for lunch seems less appealing when you know you're going to have steak for dinner.

I really don't mean to knock the internet (I'm here after all) but I'm talking about enjoying it as part of a balanced intellectual diet.
posted by tomcooke at 2:13 AM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

Get yourself an on-screen timer and set certain amounts of time for certain tasks and do not negotiate with yourself. For example, set yourself 15 minutes for goofing around on Mefi, when the timer pops up, stop. Same thing will work for your blogging, just put yourself under the clock.

I use this method to get through the morning email catch up and skimming through the feed reader. I set aside three periods a day for dealing with email and feeds. Also, I don't read feeds as they come in, I filter off the stuff I want to read and deal with it in one block of time later. All of this is done under the clock.

If you're having real problems, I suggest turning your procrastinations into treats; for example: I will work on this (whatever you have to get done) for 40 minutes, then I can have a ten minute break for time-wasting. I tend to work on blocks of 20-30 minutes as anything longer than that tends to see a trail off in concentration (this applies to most people not just me).

posted by mandal at 4:11 AM on December 8, 2008

I certainly haven't gotten close to beating my procrastination, but this program of beating procrastination from a Rational Emotive Behavioral therapy prospective is the only thing I have ever read that I thought actually directly addressed the issues that cause procrastination.

Most of the time I feel that the advice in beating procrastination comes from well meaning people that are already good at getting things done, and just boils down to stop being lazy, which I tell myself every day, but never changes anything.
posted by afu at 4:47 AM on December 8, 2008 [8 favorites]

How about eliminating blogging?

Troy, I think he means that he's a blogger. As in, for a job. In life.
posted by timory at 5:19 AM on December 8, 2008

Rintako, I have this problem. I think that embracing procrastination leads to more procrastination (a vicious cycle) and embracing productive work leads to more productive work (a virtuous cycle). So I've been changing my habits.

One thing that has been helping me is a procrastination log. I got the idea for it from The Now Habit by Niel Fiore (amazon link). It says that you should write down each time that you procrastinate, and also note (just a jot down) how it made you feel. I have modified the procrastination log to fit my needs and work practices better.

But here's how it works. I have one "log" per day (just a single line in a text editor). It starts with the date. And then I just note my procrastination habit. When I wander off, as soon as I notice it (seriously, just switch to the log and log it right then), I mark a little character like "•". And then I note times where I am successfully able to resist procrastination with a "*". This is when, for example, I get frustrated or bored and load up ask metafilter, but, as the page is loading, I think to myself, naw, I can choose to get back to work. And then I give myself a star. Childish I know.

So I wind up with 12/8/2008 •**•...

This is my log from today actually. And this question just cost me the dot. You're welcome.

It's nice to be able to see your daily rhythms of procrastination. Some days I don't want to procrastinate that much. So the total number of desired moments of procrastination are small. Other days I struggle mightily (with twenty or more moments). But this log gives me a sense of the rhythms of my procrastination. I do not do this as a judgmental thing -- when I got to the log to enter either a * or a •, I just note the current moment and move on (either procrastinating or with work). And, over time (been doing this for a month or so), I've noticed that it's helped me to choose to return to productive work. Just be honest with yourself and begin to change your habits. It's hard, but there's a great payoff as you succeed more and more.
posted by zpousman at 6:57 AM on December 8, 2008 [6 favorites]

I haven't read the other threads, so I don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution to a problem such as this. I never pass the opportunity to pimp his shit, so take a look at (MeFi's own!) Merlin Mann's "focus" timer. There are times at work when I'm scouring the Google and Wikipedia for a problem and hours have passed, and I find that I'm at a Wikipedia article that has nothing to do with what the hell I was looking for in the first place. And we aren't the only ones.
posted by booticon at 7:30 AM on December 8, 2008

Once I put a block on the websites I wasted the most time on, and then I got my boyfriend to set the password and promise not to tell me until I was done with the project I was working on.
posted by fructose at 11:09 AM on December 8, 2008

Get outside.
posted by desjardins at 1:17 PM on December 8, 2008

Response by poster: I can't stop blogging, I make money off it (not a living) but contributes to it. I appreciate the comments and I'll give them a try but there is one very big problem at hand. If I get rid of the habit, it will come back. How do I not repeat the cycle?
posted by rintako at 11:29 PM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: It's easy to gain weight; it's hard to lose weight. And it's especially hard to lose weight and keep it off. It's a daily struggle to "keep the procrastination off" and you will have bad days where you slip into your old pattern(s). But you will notice these days. They won't seem as regular, or as normal. They'll be noticeably, consciously, different.

Take a single step today. Take two steps tomorrow. Thing of starting on your real work. Don't think of finishing. When you think of finishing it will make all the desires to procrastinate bubble up -- your fears about it being not good enough, your wondering about what you'll do next, your fear about whether this project really worth it to begin with, etc. Just take a single step and start on it. When you get tired, see if you can take another step. Rinse. Repeat forever.

posted by zpousman at 2:06 PM on December 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

It's a bit late for an answer, but here's what I've been doing lately. It's like the Focus timer mentioned above -- I use pzizz. You can buy the software, but the 'meditation' part is free; it's basically a 'gong' that will chime every minute.

The sound of the gong is nice enough that, when I'm in the zone, it doesn't throw me off track; at the same time, when I'm procrastinating, it's a convenient reminder that I should be doing work. Try it out.
posted by suedehead at 7:44 PM on December 10, 2008

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