comment by innocentius ·
2014-04-26T07:34:35.815Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
First of all, tracking your time by editing a spreadsheet manually requires a lot of work, and makes it unnecessarily complicated. There are many programs that track your time for you, like Hamster, timetrap and arbtt. All you need to do is check in and out of activities, and the program does all the magic and generates csv files which can be loaded into spreadsheets. [A]rbtt requires even less user interaction: it just monitors the name of the focused window all the name and that way keeps track of what you had open for how long. This is not as organized as the other methods, of course, but the advantage is that it works even if you're too lazy to check in and out of activities (like me).
Those are all *nix programs. If you use Windows, there are many alternatives, but I can't comment on the quality of them.
I'm in a similar situation myself, and I've also trained myself to 'hate fun' (although this was mostly an unconscious process for me). However, this didn't have the preferred outcome. Quite the opposite, in fact. I saw things like reading books as activities that you're meant to do after studying, so I avoided those, but I still wasn't happy inside and I longed for leisure time. As a result, I always tended to partake in activities that are relaxing, but which don't require much of a conscious decision to start doing. In other words, I ended up spending entire days on 4chan and Reddit when I was supposed to be productive. It was easy to end up doing those things since they're below the 'guilt threshold'; it always started with telling myself it'll take “just a couple of minutes,” but in the end it constantly caused me to spend more time surfing the web than I would have spent reading a book. I see reading books as a sort of semi-duty: I realize they're not quite important compared to my life goals, but I do see them as self-development and when I reflect on my past, I really wish I'd spent more time reading books. But because of this guilt I've associated reading books with, I ended up with the worst result: I didn't get to read many books, nor did I do the productive, more important things either, and the time was spent in a way that I see as utter waste instead.
Actually, it's tricky when it comes to Reddit: it covers good articles on my interests, so I get to feel less guilty about spending time on it. I get to tell myself that it won't take long and that I'm spending my time usefully. But the reality is that Reddit is just as addictive as and the articles I've read still aren't nearly as significant to me as the books I could have read in the same time.
Back to my point: what I did to solve the issue was that I decided I'd only read books if one of two conditions are met: I'm on track with homework and I'm satisfied about my productivity; or it's before 9.00 AM. This caused me to start the day 'correctly': I've had some leisure time and feel less of a desire to let myself get sidetracked browsing the web. Next to that, the early time limit motivated me to get up early: I could spend hours in my bed thinking about all the ills of this world, how humanity should be ashamed to be in a state like this one during the 21st century, but I'd be aware of the fact that this was taking away from time I could spend reading a book. Reading a book is more fun, and getting up early is the only way to get to that. Not quite the same, but you might also want to check out this article.
Next to that, something else that works really well for me is to spend time with friends moderately. I'm not in college this year (I'm self-teaching myself math so I can do exams and get the certificates I need to switch to the major I want), I don't have a job, and my mom does all the groceries, so I don't go outside and see other people often. This has made me hungry for social interaction (as far as introverts can get hungry for that). I'm not talking about online contact, since this is just not the same for me. I don't hesitate to make appointments with friends, and even though I still see each of them only once every few months, we're spending quality time together. By seeing my friends just a bit less often than I desire, I keep on anticipating the next time I see them and I don't feel guilty for not being productive when I'm with them, since a bit of social interaction is important for good mental health. In other words, I get to reap the benefits of friendship without spending too much time on it.
Of course, you need to have the right kind of friends for this to work. Judging from your comments in this thread, it seems like you don't connect with your friends on an intimate level. What I recommend is to hold on to your current friends (since it's better than having no friends), but at the same time start trying to meet new people through social clubs. If you're into chess, join a chess club. Or, if that's more your thing, use a website to seek real-life contact with people. Once you've made better friends, you can slowly start seeing your superficial friends less. Don't end your friendship with them or anything, since you might need them at a later point, but don't waste your time either.
Regarding efficient studying: I can only repeat that you should utilize breaks well. Try schemes like 50 minutes of studying, 10 minute breaks. There's one caveat, namely that you could get sidetracked and that the break becomes a hours-long one (that's what happened to me at first), so make sure that you're spending your breaks doing something you don't find addictive. Watching series worked well for me.
An advantage of this scheme: you learn more by giving your brain a rest, so it helps you see your leisure time of 10-minute breaks as a productive activity, rather than a wasteful one -- exactly what you wanted. This will help you be more productive and enjoy leisure time more. Next to that, it gives you a pointer as to how much time to spend on leisure.
Another thing that might motivate you more: although I can't find a proper source that quickly, I read that you learn better in the morning. An hour spent studying in the morning will teach you more than an hour spent in the evening. This is reason to study early in the morning (for myself, immediately after 9.00 AM), and allocate leisure time after that. This ensures that you at least do a bit of homework each day, rather than starting with fun things and forgetting yourself.
It tells me my comment is too long, so the rest can be found here.