12.15.2010

Makeshift Discipline

Mandatory discipline

The last few hours of my life have been spent battling my addictive personality. The Internet is a black hole for my time. And though I suspect I'm not alone in this capacity, I wonder if others feel as guilty about it as I do. Working for me looks something like this:

  • Login to Blogger
  • Wonder whether I should simplify the layout
  • Realize that I need an actual website
  • Kick myself for having a rudimentary understanding of HTML and web design
  • Click the New Post button
  • Check my phone
  • Stare at the white text box for fifteen minutes
  • Open Facebook
  • Open Twitter
  • Look at my notes for future blog ideas
  • Open Lifehacker
  • Stare at the white text box
  • Write something
  • Check Facebook
  • Erase it
  • Check Facebook
  • Think about cleaning my apartment
  • Start writing something
  • Watch something from my Netflix Instant queue
  • Interrupt someone doing actual work with an IM
  • Check my phone
  • Publish Post
Total time working: 3 hours
Word count: 75

Left unsupervised, I'm an unfocused mess. Luckily, I've lived with myself long enough to understand how I function. My idiot brain is only susceptible to immediate temptation. If I'm a guest at your Thanksgiving dinner, and there's a bowl of cheese and caramel popcorn within arm's reach, that bowl will be inside me within the hour. Move the bowl ten feet and, inexplicably, popcorn stock plummets (NASDAQ: PCRN). 

But how does one escape the Internet? Facebook is but two icons away from my blog on my bookmark bar? It's practically begging me. I think I've found a way out, a plan to rescue my productivity. Below is the first phase of my battle plan to defeat (the unproductive side of) myself.

How to:
  1. Your toys have to be out of sight. I'm not much different than an infant or a puppy. If I see it, I want it. I've opted to create an alternate account for my computer set aside specifically for writing. I've deleted all unnecessary applications and distractions (see above screenshot). All I need is a text window. 
  2. For you Mac users, the Parental Controls for Snow Leopard are fairly robust and you can block games and applications (iChat, I'm looking at you). Beware, however, of using it to block addictive websites (FB, Twitter). You'll get SSL errors. 
  3. Chrome users are in luck. There's a great extension called Chrome Nanny. It blocks your problem sites and will even redirect you to what you should be doing. Mine are: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Digg, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker. 
  4. I downloaded an SBSettings toggle for my iPhone (JB only) that switches the phone to auto-silent. No noise. No vibration. This is especially helpful for me when I'm reading or writing. Radio silence is crucial for productivity. If a phone rings in the woods and Nick's not there to hear it, he'll get his work done. 
  5. I sit on one chair when I'm writing or reading. This is the work chair. It serves no other purpose. It's the Captain's chair. Act like one. 
I wish I had discipline. It would be remarkable if I could just work without having to create all these artificial barriers, but I can't. My productivity has suffered lately. This has helped. That's enough for me. For the time being I can take these measures seriously, and they work.

I have a sweet tooth. This much I've admitted. But if I don't bring Nutella into my house, I won't seek it out. If it's in my cupboard, it's over. I'm knuckle deep in breakfast frosting every fifteen minutes. Temptations have to be within arm's reach. For me at least.     

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