8 Lessons and Important Reminders from 8 Days of No TV or Other ‘Mindless Distractions’

no more tvJust saying no to TV and other ”distractions” is proving to be a challenge. The good news is, it’s just about as hard as I had anticipated it would be. That’s also the bad news. But the real good news is that my No TV Challenge is just into it’s second week, and I’ve already learned, and been reminded of, a few important things.

Procrastination comes in all shapes and forms.

This is the most obvious when you have something completely overwhelming that you’ve postponed for just a little bit too long. You might find yourself almost making up chores, and things you do in preparation before you get started.

One of the trickier ones to deal with, is thinking. I’ve talked about this before. About how it’s easy to get stuck thinking about doing stuff, rather than just doing it.

It is easier to get started when the break or procrastination activity is ‘less fun’.

This had sort of been one of my key assumptions that motivated me to do this experiment. When I’m taking a break from working, if the break activity is addictive, entertaining and soul-sucking at the same time, it adds an extra layer of resistance towards working. If it is fun and relaxing, but not addictive, it’s easier to switch back to working mode. This is maybe the most motivating part of this project so far.

Productive procrastination is possible, and can be fairly productive.

I’ve started to learn how to make WordPress themes using a particular framework called underscores. I’ve been using this to experiment with making my portfolio site look better. (My final goal would be to create a lightweight, semi-customizable, easy to use portfolio theme. One that is focused on writers. Though it is going to take some time and real effort to get there.)

I’ve also been writing a LOT more this week than last week. A lot of it has not been directly work-related, but most of it will come in handy over the next few weeks. It’s too soon to say if this is because of the no-tv thing, or if there are other reasons at heart, but I suspect that it has at least played a role.

More reading fosters more thinking, and inspires new ideas, but doesn’t equal more ideas on the topic you need more ideas for.

Another reminder to read more about WordPress and development, design and marketing, and other topics that I’m not only interested in, but that also relate to client work.

Slipping is the most tempting when I’m stressed or frustrated.

TV to me is sort of like a pause button for my real life. So, in moments of boredom, or stress or duress of any kind, I’ll be more tempted to press pause, and escape for a while.

Today after some problems at work, I ended up visiting imgur, one of the things I had banned myself from doing. But I immediately caught myself and exited, but again ended up finally watching two unproductive Youtube videos, before again catching myself and moving to the audiobook. But since my main goal abstaining from longer periods of ‘mindless activities’, this is not a big loss. It will only inspire further caution when it comes to letting myself feel stressed without taking immediate action. (Aka, I will remember that the stress is only uncomfortable because I’m not taking action.)

More time doesn’t mean more focused work.

Parkinson’s law dictates that you will ways to make the work you’re fill up the time you have to do it. I have been producing more work, but not always the work I set out to do more of.

Reminders are easy to miss(intentionally or unintentionally).

The reminders that show up in my new tabs have proven less useful than I thought they would be. First, I thought I had struck usefulness gold. A visual reminder every time I felt like straying, that must be priceless! Now, I feel like an audio reminder might be more helpful, but I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s more about making a habit out of paying attention to the reminders, than whatever shape the reminders come in.

One of the problems is that there’s the possibility of just jumping straight from an already opened website to another one. From productive relaxation, to mindless distraction in a click, with no reminder in between. The second problem is that it’s very easy to get used to and skip the reminder, almost like pressing the snooze button in the mornings.

One possible solution is to always close chrome completely after I finish a session. Or perhaps only leave the two tabs, the one with the streaming audiobook and the one with classical music.

Reading books really is harder to start than listening to audiobooks.

Somehow intently focusing your ears on something requires less energy and willpower than doing the same with your eyes. Or maybe that’s not the reason, since reading blog posts somehow seems to be very possible. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s physical shape signals A LOT of content, or simply that it involves the extra step of geting the hell off my computer for once.

The good side of this, is that my audiobook experiment has been quite successful, over 10 hours listened to this week, the equivalent of 250 or so pages. There’s still a lot of potential here, but I think I’m off to a decent start.

It’s easier to get out of the house.

When you don’t have something as tempting as an interesting TV-show or your favorite videogame, it gets a lot easier to make plans to, and actually meet up with people outside of work. This is good, as I’m starting to realize that often, my energy, motivation and happiness levels ‘need a little help from my friends’.

In the past months I’ve noticed that the weekends where I end up not meeting up with friends, I somehow get less done than when me and my friends go on mini adventures, or just hang out. Even though I have a lot more time to do work, it saps my energy to not just do something fun with friends, and I end up doing less work, and just generally feel worse.

So far so good. Only 3 weeks to go, and more stuff to discover.

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7 Responses

  1. Eric February 21, 2015 / 3:38 am

    I’ve struggled mightily with procrastination of late … thanks for making me mindful of it!

    • Ragnar Miljeteig February 22, 2015 / 3:52 pm

      Happy to remind! Being mindful of it is the first step to improvement.

  2. Micah February 21, 2015 / 4:18 pm

    Hey Ragnar, I’m noticing we have shared reading interests. I’m also reading Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, and have been reading through the complete works of Plato (in Dialogues at the moment) on and off over the last year. (Are you on goodreads, if so let me know so I can friend/follow you).

    I think reading requires more energy than listening to an audiobook because audio is passive. It’s something that happens to us, rather than something we actively do. Which I guess is one of its advantages e.g. I can wash the dishes whilst listening to an audiobook, or drive the car. But when I’m reading a book I’m reading a book. It’s an activity that requires the whole of me. I like both (podcasts are my thing), however I do find it easier to retain what I read compared to what I hear. Is it the same for you?

    The point about hanging out with friends is a really cool one. I think it’s the same for me. I get refreshed and it gives me more energy when I go back to working on stuff.

    • Ragnar Miljeteig February 22, 2015 / 3:50 pm

      I’m not a member over at Goodreads, or I would definitely want to follow you. Maybe I should create an account. Seems like a ‘social netowrky thing’ that might for once have a positive influence on my life, haha.

      Yeah you’re right, listening is definitely more passive, that is probably why. I’m not sure. I used to think I retained better when I listened, but it’s also very easy to sort of ‘half-focus’ while doing that reading, it’s easy to catch yourself and go back a few lines I think I might remember specific passages and wording and details better from listening, but I will have a better grasp and general understanding if I read the book. Maybe it’s because jumping back and forth, or pausing to think and getting started again, is easier when reading.

      It’s sometimes hard to remember that we are supposed to be social creatures. Especially when you spend a lot of your time writing, or in front of the computer trying to learn stuff, or get more business.. haha.

  3. Jamie Flexman February 23, 2015 / 11:33 am

    Hey, I’m a big believer in productive procrastination. I think we beat ourselves up too much when we have those lazy moments – so it’s worth doing whatever we can do limit how much time we actually waste.

    Playing guitar while watching a movie. Reading a book while spending an hour in the bath. Educating, thinking or planning while putting off errands. It’s ok to procrastinate – but it’s better to do add something relatively effortless as a placeholder.

    Also – I’ve never seen the benefit of audio books. I get impatient because I have to go at the pace of the speaker. I’m impatient in general though, 😉

    • Ragnar February 24, 2015 / 6:32 am

      I completely agree. Not only can it help you relax and give you some “brainspace”, but it can also lay the foundation for the actual work. (Like your playing guitar while watching a movie. Or when I used to study vocab while watching TV/movies when I was in uni. Or now when I read different stuff about topics that I write about.)

      I know what you mean about Audiobooks. But to me they’re not meant to be a substitute for reading books, but as an option for times when I can’t bring myself to read. Something easy that stops me from defaulting to Yotutube or Netflix or imgur or facebook.

  4. Steve March 9, 2015 / 2:50 pm

    It’s great that you’re doing the no TV thing. There’s a lot you can learn from doing it as I can see from what you’ve written. I turned off the TV for a whole year once. I didn’t even have cable or anything like that. It just laid unplugged almost the whole time other than a few nights when I’d put on a movie or documentary. It changes your whole outlook on TV and life. For me, I felt disconnected and reconnected at the same time. I felt disconnected from what was going on in the “TV and ad world” – people would talk TV shows and I’d just nod along not knowing what they were saying. But at the same time I felt reconnected with my outside life. It was a good feeling.

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