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Some things I'd recommend, off the top of my head:

- Do not grab phone/computer etc. and mindlessly browse first thing in the morning. (Or before bed. Or at any time really.) But doing it first thing really starts your day on the wrong foot.

- When seeking to relax, do not mindlessly browse the internet/social-media/tv. Read an enjoyable book. This is an order of magnitude more fulfilling and beneficial to you. And genuinely more relaxing: screens are stimulating, and might let you 'relax' in the sense that you can momentarily be completely absorbed in something 'other', and forget your day to day life; but they don't relax you in the sense of being calm and contemplative (in general, in my experience).

- Reduce instant gratification from as many areas as possible. Do things that are rewarding longer term. Like reading, cooking, growing plants, hiking, etc.

- Cut video games.

- Block facebook + reddit + sites you waste a lot of time on, from main computer. Maybe have a secondary device you use to access these sites, for a set period each day (I recommend this mainly because it can be quite difficult to maintain a social life without facebook, (which is a terrible state of affairs)). Have days where you don't go onto these sites at all.

- Spend as little time on screens as is possible -> if you can work on paper do so

- have a regular exercise regime. eg. swim/run. Doing first thing in the morning really helps set your day on the right track, you have already exerted a good amount of self discipline, and achieved something, and this makes it easier to continue being disciplined.

- I recommend reading 'The Power of Habit'.

"Do not grab phone/computer etc. and mindlessly browse first thing in the morning..."

Expanding on this... Don't use mindless browsing as a filler at all. Ever.

If your build is gonna take a minute, don't reflexively switch over to Facebook/email. Sit there and think/meditate. Stand up or do some pushups.

Browsing Facebook is fine when that's the activity you're doing. Set aside some Facebook browsing time, timebox it, and stick to that.

"multitasking" is the devil. Don't do it. Better to be blank and let your mind rest for a moment instead of trying to timeslice something in. Focus on each thing separately and you'll end up more productive and efficient and also feel more personally gratified after accomplishing specific tasks one by one vs. a mishmash of "multitasking" where you're not really sure what you even did at the end of the day.

// If your build is gonna take a minute ...

Same applies if you read a tutorial post while you wait your build to finish ?

I would say yes.

This is great advice.

Wonderful advice. Thank you for sharing.

Strangely, this sounds like adults that I observed as a teenager. I always wondered how they could survive in such a boring existence.

Now I know they were just more evolved than I was :-)

I agree with this and other suggestions to seek for deeper habits. In addition, I'd suggest keeping a journal of what deeper habits you develop: when I'm tempted to kill some time browsing or watching cat videos, I look at my notes (both in a journal and as Emacs org files), give myself a little pat on the back, check some things on the list, and write down a little more of what I've been doing. I find that doing some "gardening" on my notes is useful in the long and provides me with a small dopamine hit in the moment.

I so much agree wih your post. All your advice is right and should help but there is one thing I am wondering:

Why are you on Hacker News?

Reading and in particular commenting which is an instant gratification activity (quick post, many likes paired with non-stop checking of the thread).

Is this not against your advice or is it the end of the work day in your time zone?

I don't feel HN is about instant gratification at all. I come here to see more about what is going on in the tech community. For me, it is about awareness of what is going on, reflection and analysis of where I currently fit and where else I may want to go.

If you are constantly non-stop checking for responses and your scores, that doesn't match what I do. I tend to comment, then come back a couple days later, and see what discussion ensued.

HackerNews doesn't have a message notification system, right? You have to purposefully look at your older comments to see what transpired? That's probably one of the saving graces of this community.

Absolutely agreed. @dang, please never implement a notification system.

He reached enlightenment and so has returned to samsara to guide the rest of us.

Only to reflect back on this at a later day and head to the river.

May be that he doesn't follow his own best practices every day. Got to be careful that we don't let that undercut the usefulness of the advice.

"Do as I say; not as I do"

Really good advice. I tried blocking some sites but whenever my 'bad side' comes up again, I always find a way to get around the block and visit the site anyway. Any recommendations on blocking a site indefinitely?

I have a weird alternative strategy. First a backstory, when I quit smoking, I tried what you did, making my vice less accessible/desirable using the sort of strategies you'd find in top 10 ways to quit smoking article. After failing at that for the umpteenth time, I did the opposite. I bought my favourite cigarettes, bought some very nice cigars, fresh pipe tobacco and put it all on my desk where I have to study all day.

Now that it was in my face it wasn't about working around myself, bit rather deciding if I actually wanted and had the will power to do what I had claimed I wanted to do.

So, if you really want to reduce mindless browsing and find you can't and little strategies end up being ineffective, perhaps the opposite might be a worthwhile strategy.

All the best.

This is a good point. Those moments where you are ambivalent about a course of action are self-defining moments. If you want to quit smoking, you need to become a person who chooses not to smoke when they have the opportunity to. The problem with habit is that you're no longer choosing. By keeping your cigarettes close, you gave yourself many ambivalent moments in which to build the self that you wanted to become.

And to look at it another way:

When the object is out of common sight, you only encounter your self-defining vice moments when you're at your most vulnerable (because you willfully sought the thing out).

When you bring yourself into more frequent contact, you provide yourself with more training opportunities when your willpower is greater (because maybe you're already busy, or happy, etc).

Thus, even if you fall victim to the poor choices you're trying to avoid the same number of absolute times, you've drastically increased the number of times you make good choices. And the percentage of times you choose good choices over bad.

Counterintuitive, but I like it!

Good advice. I have a similar anecdote.

When I was 18, I worked at a produce clerk at a middling grocery store. Day after day of stocking fresh fruits and vegetables while watching the same customers (and even my co-workers!) come in and eat the same horrid prepared slop really motivated me to lose weight.

I lost 50 pounds in 2 months.

And also, speaking from experience, please, never attempt to lose 50 pounds in 2 months; my lung popped. Fortunately, I survived.

Block it in your router. Make the router's GUI accessible only on a static ethernet port, so that you have to walk a laptop over to it to configure it. Your urge to goof off will be lower than the cost to unblock it, and your laziness will end up protecting you.

i actually did some pretty extensive research on this. there's very few high-quality apps in this area. the only software i found to be genuinely effective is this very obscure program called sprintworks (windows only). dunno how it works but so far i haven't been able to figure out a way to bypass the block.

to my mind, an effective blocker is extremely important and far superior to using willpower to resist your bad side. the fact is that when gratification is impossible or really difficult, you don't need to spend any willpower at all, you can just count on your other bad side, i.e. your 'lazy' self, to kill off the social media impulse. when a little person inside you says "go check out facebook!", previously you yourself have to step in and say "no, f* off*!" but now you can just sit back and watch with quite amusement as another little person (your lazy self) steps up and say "nah man, it's too much trouble" —— and bam! the impulse is gone.

the ego depetion theory in psychology may have turned out to be less empirically well-founded than people think, but personally i found it to be very useful. avoid using willpower as much as possible. instead, cleverly design your environment and play the little bad people inside your against one another to your advantage.

Use SelfControl app on Mac

Just don't look under the hood of how it works - anyone reading this and familiar with the app please don't comment saying how to circumvent it).

Another story here, when I started working in an internship, the environment was conducive for me to work but I still didn't. What saved me, was a repetitive strain injury preventer app. Whenever it said to take a break I would sincerely take a break. This makes your mind more relaxed and I could work for 8-10 hrs a day without any mindless browsing. Hope this helps :)

Along these lines, I switched my book-reading back to paper. It really helps.

From kindle on your phone or physical kindle? I have all the regular problems if I kindle on my phone, but the physical device is single-purpose enough that it's as good as a book to me.

For me, it's the difference between an LED screen and an E-Ink screen. I get fatigued when reading on backlit screen. E-Ink is pretty much paper. There's no strain when staring at it for long periods of time.

> already flexed your self discipline muscle

...what? Is there any evidence that self discipline needs to warm up?

Is there any evidence that the author's life experiences aren't valid until someone documents them in a laboratory setting?

Yeah, sort of. In terms of saying "this works for me so it works for everyone" anyway


It's less of a warm up and more of a habit. You've done it once, you'll be more likely to continue to do it throughout the day.

Current understanding of willpower is that does, indeed, function like a "muscle".

I got this from reading a few books and articles and it might be wrong, but it's my impression.

Training willpower in general is one thing - doing "warmup" just like a real muscle it's a different thing.

Actually, there used to be research showing that ("ego depletion" it was called) but it is getting more and more controversial because it's been quote a few years now and nobody managed to reproduce the effect.

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