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How to Un-Distract Yourself from the Internet

Hello and welcome to Creative Zero. It’s been a while since I’ve written a post. About three, four weeks let’s say. And while a part of that is due to me working intensely on a couple new projects I’m excited to bring to you soon, I can’t deny that I’ve spent a huge chunk of my day wasting time on the internet. I’m hooked to the computer and all its shiny, dopamine-pumping glory. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the computer you see why—from social media to the news to Pornhub, each massively successful site is engineered to suck up as much of your attention as possible. We’re living in the attention-economy—if a company is not selling you anything, you are the product.

That isn’t to say the internet is all bad. Heck, I’m trying to compete for your attention as well—I’m not completely innocent. But we must realize that it is, without question, one of—if not the—most powerful tools we’ve ever invented. And like all tools, they can either be used for your benefit or your destruction.

Being a writer, it’s easy to fall into the “web” of the world wide web. After all there’s research, promotion, marketing, maybe even a Spotify playlist to help you get into the zone. To use it is practically a part of the job description nowadays. But once you do all that, you want to take a break don’t you? Maybe a YouTube video to destress, or how about a news article you’ve been meaning to read? In the past, these seemingly harmless indulgences made me spiral into a rabbit hole of binge-watching and self-loathing. And I’ve tried to curb it (oh how I tried)—website blockers like Cold Turkey, Pomodoro techniques, to-do apps and a whole host of other crap. These things may work for someone else, but I’m not one of them. Every time I hop on a bandwagon, I eventually fall off and resort back to old habits.

So I’m trying something new. I’m disconnecting myself.

Okay well, not forever, but I have a method.

1. Set a time when your internet is on. Say from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

2. Set a time when your internet is off. Say from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. During this time, you are 100% absolutely forbidden from going online. Disconnect all devices from your network, unplug your router and lock it in a safe if you must. You don’t exactly have to be productive during this period. You can read, play the piano, whatever. Just as long as it doesn’t involve the internet.

That’s it.

Think about it. You don’t really need 24/7 internet-access. The emails, the tweets, etcetera, they all can wait until the internet is back on. And...say that you do need to use the internet to work, well you’re just going to have to do it during a time period when the internet is on. Or try to find a way to translate what’s online into an offline medium, for example screenshotting or printing a webpage to use as a reference while you’re working offline.

This idea isn’t entirely my own. For that I have to give credit to Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work”. One of the strategies he outlines involves a method which goes as follows:

“Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside those times...The idea motivating this strategy is that the use of a distracting service does not, by itself, reduce your brain’s ability to focus. It’s instead the constant switching from low-stimuli/high-value activities to high-stimuli/low-value activities, at the slightest hint of boredom or cognitive challenge, that teaches your mind to never tolerate an absence of novelty.”

Whether or not Newport’s findings are scientifically backed and peer-reviewed...story for another time. But it makes sense. When you’re constantly going back and forth between boring work and fun distraction, which one would your evolutionary monkey brain gravitate towards.

I’m not saying that ever since I learned about this method that I’m suddenly this Shakespearian elder god who can pump out masterpieces like some baby factory—this is my first day trying to apply this method and already I’ve been super lenient with the time-periods. With that being said, I think that this can help some of you artists who are procrastinating and put your noses to the grindstone.

Thank you all for reading! Usually this is the part where I’d say “I’ll see you next week”, but I’ve broken that promise a couple of times in the past. So instead of giving you my word I’ll give you this: Until we meet again.

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