comment by Viliam_Bur ·
2012-05-25T09:35:25.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I decided to stop reading LW for a week. Not now; when I am writing these words, the week is over, successfully. This decision included other websites too, but recently I spent most of my online time on LW.
Why? Discussing this topic on LW was among the latest ingredients. LW primes one to think about their own biases. Procrastination includes a lot of self-deception; even the name is already deceptive. -- If someone would spend most of their time drunk, and never follow their plans, would you call it procrastination or alcohol addiction? The choice seems obvious. Then why don't we make the same obvious choice when speaking about people who spend most of their time online, and call it internet addiction? Well, because we are speaking about us, and that's when we are most biased. (I am sure the drunks would also explain that their problem is not in alcohol per se, but something else, something external to them. Yeah, right.) So this is the first lesson: If you have a problem with "procrastination", you really have a problem with addiction. And the fact that you use the word "procrastination" anyway, just shows how deep in denial you are. Accepting that you have a problem (and accepting that you have a very specific problem, not just some abstract mysterious "procrastination") is the first step. It also helps you to distinguish what might and what might not help. (Hint: if the solution does not include a huge reduction of intake of the substance you are addicted to, it will not help. All the successful solutions are focused on how to make this reduction successful and long-term.)
Two problems here. First, people are not automatically strategic; they don't immediately see what is best for them. Actually, people are even not completely rational; knowing what is best does not make you do it; we must also align our emotions with our plan. Second, it is not possible to avoid internet completely, at least for an IT person like me.
I use internet in two modes: Search mode: I need a specific information and I find it (by using google and reading a few relevant articles). Exploration and fun mode: I read something for curiosity and amusement; my favorite sites, then my less favorite sites, and then generally anything, the possibilities are without limits. It is important to see the difference between these two modes, and not deceive oneself when the original search turns to exploration or fun.
So I decided to use only one day a week for the exploration and fun mode. I don't think I could give it up completely; but this way I will save 6 days of 7. This day is Friday. (It is not a coincidence that this comment is written on Friday, and my previous comments were also written on Friday.) During the rest of the week, I will try to avoid web use completely, but if it is necessary, I will use in only in the search mode. Before doing a search, I will ask myself whether this is really necessary.
I have to admit that my first week was not a 100% success. But it was mostly successful anyway. Sometimes my search mode changed to exploration mode (for example I used Facebook to turn off sending e-mail notifications, and saw something on my friend's profile, and clicked there), but after a while I realized what happend, and closed the web browser. I think it is important not to punish oneself for small mistakes, but rather stop doing doing them, and congratulate oneself for noticing the mistake. -- Human brain is mostly based on conditioning, not logic, whether we like it or not. Be careful about what exactly are you conditioning. If you decide to punish yourself for doing something wrong, are you really punishing yourself for doing the wrong thing, or for noticing that you did the wrong thing?
Don't make "I am trying to be perfect" an excuse for self-sabotage. Yes, you want to be perfect. No, you are not. Imagining that you are, building your plans on this assumptions, is just plain stupid. Don't say "if I break my rules once, I have failed forever". That just gives you a convenient excuse to quit after you fail the first time. Instead say "I will do it, and even if I fail I will do it again, and again, and again".
But there is also a second part of the puzzle -- if you "procrastinate" or generally do stupid things, you probably don't have anything better to do. This seems absurd; there are usually better things to do. Sure, but do you feel they are better? If your emotions are not alligned with your goals, you will do stupid things instead. -- What is your goal? What is your plan to reach it? Do you feel the importance of the goal, and does the plan feel realistic? If the answer is negative, then fix your emotions right now. I had to think about my goals and plans (and after turning off the web browser I had also the necessary time and attention), I have noticed that most of my plans are not realistic or not doable right now, and then I noticed there are a few things I could do now, and that they contribute to a goal I feel good about... and then I did it. (First I was writing texts for my own web page; at least it had some similarity with idle web browsing, so it was easier to do. Then I studied some new software. Then I wrote some programs. Then I met a few friends I've been ignoring. Actually I was rather busy this week, so I did not have too much free time to protect from procrastination.)
Sorry if this is chaotic. I just wanted to share. I will not edit this comment for better legibility, because there is too much new content on LW, and I have only one day to catch up. Just wanted to give you courage and share some advice if you are perhaps thinking what I was thinking a week ago. Try it!
Experiment summary: For 6 days a week, avoid web use (except for necessary "search mode"). On the seventh day, enjoy the web; you deserve it. If you fail, start again; don't punish yourself for failing, reward yourself for noticing. Don't tell anyone about it, especially not online; you goal is to do it, not to discuss it. Think about your goals, how you feel about them? Think about your plans, do they feel realistic? Then follow your plans.