Author Topic: Spend less time browsing the internet  (Read 6924 times)

keith

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 311
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle/eastside
Spend less time browsing the internet
« on: August 10, 2012, 02:29:28 AM »
I have a productivity related gauntlet I need to throw down for my own sake. If anybody wants to join in thats cool. But mainly I want to post it here so I can get some accountability.

The core problem:
* I waste far too much time browsing websites, blogs, and forums (including MMM!). Although sometimes I learn things, the vast majority of my web surfing is not productive. After browsing for several hours I ponder whether or not the time was well spent. The answer is "NO" every single time. When I reflect on how I'm spending my time lately, I'm disgusted with how much time I waste online. It makes me feel sick honestly. I even catch myself doing this at while at work, which really isn't a good thing.

I think the reason this happens is that web browsing is such a passive activity, similar to watching television. The exception to this rule being when you participate in deeper discussions that require some brainpower, like lot of the heavier threads on this forum do. I'm pretty damn lazy, so thats why most of my time here is spent just lurking.

The Challange:
* Reflect on how much time you spend online overall. Or reflect after each browsing session... Ask yourself if it was worth your time.
* If you feel you spend too much time online, figure out a plan to waste less of your time online. Whether that be a cold-turkey black out (see below), or just making an effort to reduce your weekly time on it.

I imagine a lot of people's goals might be "stop checking facebook multiple times a day" and whatnot. I just find myself in a situation that is much more serious and I need a hiatus from the internet to re-focus my life. On that note...

Here is my blackout plan:
* I'm going dark (offline) from 8/11 to 8/31 as a trial run to see what this does for me. The purpose is to find out if cutting out internet will help me be more productive "in real life".
* I'm going to have a whitelist of sites that are acceptable to visit anytime - like banking/mint, educational (Khan Academy, Wikipedia), and google maps (in case I need directions or something).
* I'm going to prepare a big list of things to do while dark. Off the top of my head, my list already includes several books I should be reading, practicing guitar, writing music, more time exercising (big plans here), studying, and preparing for my upcoming move (packing, cleaning, giving away stuff).
« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 02:32:07 AM by keith »

shadowmoss

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 964
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2012, 09:05:19 AM »
I have been going through a modified version of this.  They locked us down really tight here at work.  I work a help desk where I mostly wait on the door to open or the phone to ring.  In between those times I veg.  Prior to being locked down I was playing silly flash computer games a lot, like on cnn games or adicting games, things that I could drop in an instant because I didn't have a lot invested.  I also read A LOT of blogs, and updated my own blog.  Now anything that is obviously a blog or forum are blocked (not this one amazingly), all games are blocked, and only an hour of video sites allowed each day.

So, instead I read what forums are allowed, such as here, SimpleLivingForum, Marks apple are the current craze.  What I SHOULD be doing?  Well, looking for a new job, studying, learning Spanish (I live in Honduras right now) are things that come to mind. 

My point kind of is that even though my time wasters are blocked, I find new ones rather than move to the list of things I would do 'if I had more time'.  I will attempt to redirect myself for the rest of the month and see what happens.

DaftShadow

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2012, 10:25:54 AM »
Hey Keith,

It's a fantastic goal to set for yourself and I wish you the best of luck.

Shadowmoss is also right on target:  one of your biggest challenges will be that once you've blocked certain things, in your moments of normal "need" your mind will continue to look for new distractions.  Because the reality is that your mind is not usually craving any particular website, it's usually craving the activity itself.  For many years you've built a habit in your brain that connects "need a break"(guessing) with "turn on computer then surf internet."  Habits don't go away easily.  In fact, they never go away (hence the saying "I'm an alcoholic" rather than "I used to be an alcoholic")...  but luckily, they can be overridden!

Since you're dealing with habits, you may want to read a couple of my comments replying to Trekman, here and here.  He was curious about video games, asking if there was a good way to "just play 1 hour at a time" instead of getting sucked in and playing for 3-5 hours.  The underlying mechanism between his question and yours is the same.  Check them out. 

I've found that when I can't easily change the routine, the hack of changing my environment also works.  (aka, what you're doing...)  It's not long-term though.  The instant that you turn off that black-list, say two years from now, or getting a new computer and forgetting to set it up, your brain's habit center is going to want to latch onto all it's old habits.  It's going to run thru it's mental list of "awesome websites I used to visit", and if you're not careful you might find yourself dropping hours and hours on these sites again.  Just remember this as you make life changes down the line. 

Kick some ass mate!

~ DaftShadow
p.s. for website blocking, I recommend the combination of hosts file editing, locking the host (e.g. spybot S&D has a setting that does this), as well as browser blocks (leechblock, chrome nanny, etc.).  The more challenges that you put in your way, the easier it will be for you to "give up" and do something else instead (e.g. from your list).  The harder you make it the better.  :)

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3871
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2012, 11:23:00 AM »
Good on you for proposing this, Keith! I'm going to help yourself and others out here with a few suggestions on how to help remove some of the temptation at least on your home network and systems.

Let me suggest a simpler to set up, yet more extreme filtering process from DaftShadow:

Set up an OpenDNS Home account, configure it to block nearly everything, whitelist a few specific services/useful sites (so you can keep getting email, etc.), set the DNS servers in your router to use OpenDNS only, and install on one desktop machine in your house the official OpenDNS Updater client. Then every single computer in the house attached to your network will be blocked from accessing everything but the bare necessities you've basically whitelisted.

Also, try using some sort of anti-RSI software on your computer to force you to take breaks like Scirocco Take a Break, Dejal Time Out, or drwright. It's a lot harder to lose track of time when you've got software pestering you every X number of minutes to stand up and walk away.

Finally, it might help to understand a bit better some of the mechanics behind computer/game/internet addiction. Most all of it can be boiled down to modified serotonin/dopamine stimulation. One of the biggest and worst is micro-reward stimulation, or gamification of activities. Things like Facebook and their "Like" system, games like WoW and Peggle... you've seen it before: you're getting a reward tweak for meaningless bullshit. That reward system messes up dopamine receptors like MDMA (ecstasy) does long term. Next is the effects of blue light and serotonin production. Having trouble sleeping at night? TVs, computer monitors, cell phones and "white" LED lighting are over-stimulating you. (This is partly why I'd rather use a dim, 20W incandescent than a bright 20W LED light.)

You recognize and manage those two major points in your day to day activities on your computer, it'll go a long way to help break the cycle. The rest is dealing with boredom. If you're bored? Read a book. Not an e-book, or a magazine, or something online... a real, dead tree book. Or go outside and take a walk. Just don't replace your bored online habits with bored snacking.

Good luck fellow mustachians who are taking this challenge on, and hope this helps you all!

shadowmoss

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 964
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2012, 12:37:50 PM »
I was handed a project this morning to work on.  I am hogging it with the excuse that I need it to 'stay out of trouble'.  My two co-workers, who are also bored, are a bit puzzeled, but they are proceeding with their surfing and leaving me to the project.  It does feel like I am more involved today vs. the days when I just surf the morning away.

keith

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 311
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle/eastside
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2012, 01:07:52 PM »
Wow thanks guys, good suggestions coming in.

@shadowmoss/DaftShadow - good call on watching out for new distractions to take over. In my case, I have had this problem for years. However it used to be wasted mostly on facebook. I quit facebook cold turkey over a year ago, and now look at me - In the same spot, just with different websites. I need to not fill my distracted time with other meaningless distractions. Also will check out your comments on habits in a moment.

@IP - definitely going to be rigging up some stuff at home to block myself out. I simply do not trust my own willpower to not surf the web. I need to make it difficult, and will be implementing some of that stuff today. Also will be checking out the anti-RSI stuff too.

At work I have a never ending supply of stuff to do coming in (Software dev AND a Sys-admin). I just need to be mindful and take breaks. Sometimes I will work for multiple hours straight without even noticing. What I need to be careful of is managing my time on lunch breaks, etc.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 01:11:10 PM by keith »

keith

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 311
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle/eastside
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2012, 10:55:02 PM »
DNS re-configured, I'm done here for tonight.

See you guys on the other side of the blackout. Will report back on what happened and my plan for dealing with this in the future.

Mrs MM

  • Administrator
  • Bristles
  • *****
  • Posts: 367
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2012, 09:29:18 PM »
Wow!  This is Excellent!  I bet a lot of people would benefit from some kind of unplugged challenge.  I read a book once (I think it might have even been called Unplugged), where they recommend a drastic measure, like going on a trip for a week to essentially detox and then remain unplugged after that.

I would probably benefit quite a bit from a challenge like this...

shadowmoss

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 964
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2012, 12:40:27 PM »
I will admit that at work I'm not doing so well.  I set aside the project and spend all day bouncing between 3 sites, looking for something new, rather than studying or anything else.  Maybe time to recommit?

fruplicity

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2012, 03:07:32 PM »
I tried to start using Rescue Time to monitor my internet use - it was a little difficult for me to get the hang of and I haven't been using it lately, but it provides a good average picture of what kind of content you waste your time on. I guess it's only really useful for people like me who get sucked in bouncing from one site to the next and suddenly it's two hours later and I have no idea what I was just doing. Sounds like some of the people here don't have this problem as much as just knowing they spend too much time on these sites.

bak

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • Location: Richmond, VA
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2012, 05:43:47 PM »
I am on board. Most of the times that I spend a large amount of time on the internet, I almost hate myself afterwords. Yes, you can learn a lot by surfing online (it all depends where you "hang-out") but most of the time is mindlessly checking specific tabs. I have started reading more lately and I actually do feel traces of almost addiction. I can't "quit" the internet, because it's something I don't want to do, and it would make me completely inefficient. However, I want to try and "distill" the time I am online only to productive activities.

My plan, however, is slightly different. I am going to be browsing social sites, only from my smart phone, check my email throughout the day there except for once a day on my computer (in order to respond). Other than that, I will be using mostly RSS to read content instead of looking for content (instead of looking for content I should be studying and/or reading books). That's it, it sounds simplistic, but I've already tried it for 2 weeks and it seems to work for me.

keith

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 311
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle/eastside
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2012, 09:06:37 PM »
Hey guys, I'm back. My thoughts on the process are below:

------------------------------
TL:DR - For me, the blackout was at first painful, but eventually started to become productive. Had a moment of clarity surrounding why particular types of surfing are problematic for me.
------------------------------

The first few days after starting the blackout it really startled my routine. And I wasn't happy about it. One of the behavior patterns that I noticed was that I would surf the web whenever I had small chunks of time I needed to kill. For example I have a few minutes available before I go do something, I immediately hop on the web. This seemed to happen a lot right before going to bed too. I was downright grumpy when I would try to hit reddit and my DNS blocker caught me and throws up the access denied.

With enough time, I became less grumpy about this and more accepting of my new "blackout" state. I had some natural distractions life threw my way, and also some projects I did on my to distract myself from the habit.

* My brother was in the hospital for almost the entire second half of august - so I was there visiting constantly. (he is out and doing better now). Spending time with family in the hospital makes you realize how trivial a lot of the other stuff is.
* I worked on preparation for my move (this weekend).
* I worked on two different software projects in my spare time for fun, one of which I think helps me to be more productive at work.
* I did some reading (one fiction book, and some reading in the MMM august book club book). I hardly ever read for fun... so this is a big change.
* I went to bed earlier on some nights and got more sleep.
* I helped a friend move, and was actually excited about it. The move was nasty, up many flights of stairs. I ran boxes and furniture up the stairs with badass enthusiasm, while others around me were not so into it. That felt good. Not really related to the web blackout, but I think my attitude was a bit different than usual.

After re-connecting with the internet - I had an epiphany about the sense of urgency regarding web surfing, and reddit in particular. This hit me while I checked reddit for the first time after the blackout.

I realized that some web site content seems more or less urgent than other sites. The urgency level of this content, combined with the volume, can greatly effect my visit frequency of that site.

Take an RSS feed for example. This has a low sense of urgency because the posts generally are low volume, and they aren't going anywhere. If I don't look at it for a while its no big deal. Reddit on the other hand... an endless stream of incoming content, and the urgency level is super-high. In my head, my brain says: If I don't look at this post now, I'm never going to see it again. Reddit's content volume is so high that new content constantly pushes away the old content. I think this plays a big role in why reddit was addictive for me. I would visit reddit multiple times a day so I didn't miss anything or be out of the loop.

Whats next:

By adjusting my browsing to avoid high-urgency content, I can lower my browsing session frequency and start spending less time online.

I am done with Reddit, permanently - as it was my high-urgency problem site. My regular browsing is cut down to 3 small-community forums (MMM's forum being one of them), and my RSS feed subscriptions to music news that I want to keep up on (artists, bands, scene news...). All of these items have a very low sense of urgency to them. I can ignore them for weeks and be ok.

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3871
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2012, 03:09:36 PM »
I came across an interesting op-ed that is relevant to the topic at hand:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/sep/09/jake-davis-anonymous-charged-bail

Interesting and entertaining read.

try2save

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2012, 12:36:20 PM »
This is a great post and I need to do this. I am considering deleting my FB account but it would be better if I could just get myself to check into it once a week or so.


kkbmustang

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1286
Re: Spend less time browsing the internet
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2012, 03:07:41 PM »
I swore off FB about 2 weeks ago due to political related issues. I changed my profile picture to indicate I'd be back after the election. The first day I was itchin' to check. Now, not at all. Don't miss it one bit.