I was on a plane yesterday (literally on airplane mode) and I finished a book I've been working on for a month, and prepped/wrote half of a presentation. Quite often I produce much of my writing on a plane.
I find myself very productive on a plane. Especially on cheap flights that don't have in-flight entertainment. Literally no distractions for a preset amount of time. You're not only offline, you're also physically stuck. Best way to make the time fly by is by being productive.
I take advantage of the cognitive friction induced by the fact that you have to pay (even though it's cheap); I don't think I've ever used WiFi on a plane. It's nice to have some time with (almost) enforced lack of connectivity. I also never get Internet when traveling, including on an extended backpacking trip when WiFi was hard to come by. It makes it more inconvenient, but it's more than worth the ability to be fully present while exploring new places.
There is a reason behind that, AFAIK the airplane uses lots of sensors that these devices may interfere with, otherwise normally they are allowed.
Also good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones_on_aircraft
As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored. We need to learn to engage that part of our brain again.
I followed the author's blog for a while, and I'd say a few key blog posts are enough to get the point accross. Even there it gets repetitive quickly.
The idea is good, it just doesn't require so much elaboration.
Sadly, most self-help book are like this. :-(
However, after looking around, it seem the category "Patterns of Success for the Working World" (http://calnewport.com/blog/archive/) captures what I thought the interesting content was. It's still 100+ blog posts, so you'll have to do a bit of sorting.
I find outdoor activity to be one of the best way to be 'bored'. You have to focus on what your body is doing, you're back in nature, you'll be getting exercise.
Leave the podcast/spotify at home.
Besides, I am wondering if HN is a good and free lead generation channel for self-help books since I see many people pointing to the right book in the right thread and context. This could be easily scaled.
You can't just take word of mouth and automate it and productize it somehow. That kills its nature.
And it was well worth it.
This sounds like a contradiction. Isn't boredom precisely the state that results when one fails to engage their brain?
To think a little further forward, doing this tends to increase the time until the next novelty, so you get practiced in not constantly seeking immediate gratification. It helps increase your ability to be patient and to concentrate, which in part is the ability to not switch tasks at the first hint of boredom.
I agree with this but would emphasize that this is just an exercise to get free from a distracted state in your mind all the time.
Some people want to encourage disconnecting yourself from external stimulus, and just enjoying your own thoughts, and use the word "boredom" to describe this. Whereas other people feel that "boredom" means the frustrating state of being entirely unengaged.
I sometimes wonder if people who don't disconnect very often haven't experienced much of the latter kind of boredom, and so aren't as aware of it as a negative thing.
In my opinion, this actually is something that makes me valuable. It doesn't matter how well you can synthesize information if you can't find it in the first place.
Having the ability to take a problem, figure out what you don't know, reprocess those parts into a format that Googles™ well, filter out the noise from the results, and only then synthesize the information gathered is actually not as common as you might think.
> Having the ability to take a problem, figure out what you don't know, reprocess those parts into a format that Googles™ well, filter out the noise from the results, and only then synthesize the information gathered
That's spot on.
So yes, if you've already ceded your right to not be inturupted by running apps like Twitter and Facebook in the background, then I can see the appeal of cord cutting.
Of course there also exists the possibility of at least trying to use these devices without ceding this autonomy in the first place, but that requires admitting just how little today's social media offerings will have to do with this approach.
And no, a smartphone is not the right place to do research anyway. In fact, neither is the WWW using off-the-shelf browsers, but it's the version of Hypertext we're stuck with for now.
Say I want to program on a laptop - I can't program without access to the relevant documentation, access to download the libraries I need, and I'm often completely lost trying to debug a problem without access to SO or finding what triggers a particular error. Is this beacuse I have become over-dependent on the Internet for help, or even because I never learned how to program sans Internet? Probably, and it's a shame.
I honestly have no idea what I'd do with a phone without an Internet connection, other than the obvious phone calls and text messages. Take notes? Add stuff to the calendar? I could do that with pen and paper anyway, and not have to give that up during takeoff.
Social networking is weird, I feel like I'm supposed to be chasing something, looking for it, and when I find it then I'll latch onto it. It's like me with computer games. But I have found myself becoming bored with Mastodon and Facebook doesn't keep me for more than five minutes. Other peoples' lives, or at least to the extent displayed on FB, just isn't that interesting to me.
Twitter is a different matter, I always want to track the discussions, create witty replies, etc. (partly due to my political stance), but I don't think I'm obsessive yet. And where does it leave me? Less time to pursue my hobbies that take time to tease out their enjoyment; language learning, getting round to learning music theory, hobby programming, reading Marx, etc.
I suppose that seeing that this is happening is a good start.
My feeling is that we are seeing today a similar appropriation, not of source code (most people who use computers at this point now see them as appliances, and wouldn't have any use for source code), but of the ability to embed externally imposed media within (and subservient to) our own private scheme of organization. Let me explain: in the old days, when you subscribed to a magazine, you admittedly would be forced to navigate it so long as you read it, but you would be free to place it and store it anywhere you like in your house, and even cut clippings out from it and rearrange them as you may. But computers are not just appliances when used as such, but instead become giant magazines which overtake the role of your entire house and mind.
We really don't have the equivalent capability to organize things as we please in smartphones, and people are using such capability less and less in desktops (and not at all so long as they only use the PC as a glorified web browser). Ted Nelson thought about the kind of organizational tools the user would need to have at his/her hands, and John McCarthy wrote about it a bit too (e.g., look for discussion here on HN in other threads about his paper, "The Home Information Terminal: A 1970 View", in which he points out that because people will control what they see, online advertising, for example, wouldn't even be possible).
As with other systems of control, my feeling is that you're not going to peacefully overthrow it so long as a large enough segment of the population is in fact perfectly happy with it, or at least unaware of any reason not to be. John McCarthy admitted this much when he conceded that most Americans are TV watchers anyway and won't need a home information terminal to do research, and Neil Postman wrote about the negative effects of television in his 1984 book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death".
Zooming out just a little, Guy Debord's "Society Of The Spectacle" talks about this same stuff on a higher level.
There are two issues-- smearing your computer's dev environment across the internet, and making the internet a hard dependency of your mental model for your project.
Downloading all the libs-- environment smearing problem.
Can't debug without SO-- internet dependency problem.
I wonder if someone has written a readthedocs importer for it.
Sure, if I'm stuck with a particular error message, a google search is often the quickest way to resolve. And yes, if you have to add a library that you don't currently have, you're out of luck until next time you're connected.
But I've definitely found some of my most productive time while disconnected.
It might not be the same for everyone, of course. But I still think going offline is giving up too much.
The pendulum doesn't have to swing all the way to the other direction. Couldn't we just focus on being more responsible in our net consumption and promoting the good benefecial stuff instead?
It is quite effective and I suddenly do other things but I do worry that it's a psychological crutch which is just going to make self-control even harder in the long term.
Self control takes willpower. Willpower is a finite resource (you can find studies on it. This is why after a hard day of work you are more likely to say screw it and eat an extra cookie). You just saved having to use a little bit of willpower each day. Which means you will have MORE willpower to spend on other things, not less.
A book that has personally helped me is Kick the Drink....Easily! The idea is that there is no such thing as will power. The more you fight it, the more the psychological crutches grow, and then its difficult to jump off.
What the upper thread mentions is very true for porn addicts. They do this all the time. Program the router to shut off at certain times. Does it work? I doubt it.
Distraction is a very real thing. Hell, distraction is recommended as an aid for anxiety disorder :)
Get distracted, be human. Get back to work.
My vice is cookies. Cookies in house, I eat entire bag. Do not buy, I do not rush out to the grocery store at 11pm to buy. The high is low enough that the extra work is not worth it. So by setting that barrier high enough, it stops me from eating cookies, and I lose weight.
You have to imagine that I loved my self-built PCs even before the Internet came. I spent so much time with them, upgrading them, spent night and day installing and trying new software, stuff like Sierra and Lucasfilm Adventures, Clipper/dBase, Turbo Pascal, QuarkXPress, Corel Draw, saving for hardware such as PostScript laser printers, AdLib later Soundblaster soundcarfd, SyQuest harddrives, flatbed scanners, all the typical stuff. And once the Internet came an offline computer felt like a dead computer.
The thing is, we didn't even have internet access at home that long at that point. The transformation of my computer from a box of wonder without any connection, which i could spend hours in front of, to a mere gateway to the net, which seemed useless without connection, was very rapid and basically hasn't reverted to this day.
Needless to say i'm a pretty heavy internet user and smartphones with mobile connectivity have definitly taken that to another level. And i can't say that my attention span has benfited from that... These days I try to use the web less and get back to offline activities like reading books again.
I turned my phone in some kind of a "dumb phone":
- Deleted all games, news apps, basically all the apps I don't regulary need
- Turned off email. It's still configured, I turn it on if I need to read an email
- No push notifications at all
Next step: Turn off mobile data for browser and only activate it if I need to read something. I'm just not ready yet!
The article claims it's Spanish, which is so when counting native speakers, but not right when counting total speakers (where it's English). In both cases Mandarin is in first place.
Next step: no phone.
I didn't have a cell phone until the summer of 2011, and I only bought it because I was moving to another city. I've had a smartphone for less than one year (with the minimal amount of apps; basically whatsapp, telegram and very little more), and very reluctantly so.
In theory it's a nice idea to let go of the phone and move into a different style of social and personal life. In practice, this makes you the odd one who still refuses to use the medium everyone else uses (and right now, I'm the odd one who only looks at their phone 4 or 5 times a day, so people can't expect me to read a message within an hour of it being sent). The pressure to stay connected is very real even if it's not intentional, and this pisses me off.
A common answer to all of this is that if people refuse to contact you using other means, they are not really your friends. While I see the point, the sad truth is that by avoiding the most common means of communications, you're just putting hurdles between you and your friends, and mildly incentivizing them to stop talking to you.
At least I have successfully removed facebook from my life. That was far easier than I could have imagined, and I didn't even do it on purpose.
People who make this claim ought to stop speaking out loud to their friends, and insist on communicating in sign language only, or by writing things down on paper. They might realize that their friends aren't really their friends, either, when you start insisting on making them jump through arbitrary hoops.
Maybe, except I didn't pick my friends based on the way I want to communicate with them. I dislike Facebook as much as the next person who dislikes it, but I would never expect my friends to change their ways for me or the way I want to communicate with the world. Thinking specifically of one of my friends, we will regularly switch between Google Hangouts, iMessage and Slack, depending on the context. If he pinged me tomorrow and said he was cutting Slack from his life (heaven forbid), we'd have backups, but if not, I'd probably follow to whatever means he prefers, because the alternative - losing one of my best friends - just isn't worth it. So, yeah, I check Facebook once a week for events and general life updates, and I move on. Seems better than the alternative.
But how often does this happen, and how often, instead, does a smartphone distract from better tasks? How often I choose not to pick a book when leaving, because I've got the smartphone "just in case" ? Of course I have ebooks on it, but many times I waste time on facebook/HN/twitter/surfing. It's TOO EASY to get distracted.
Last week I was in London as a tourist visitor, and being able to pull up the local public transit planner (https://tfl.gov.uk) and OpenStreetMap were just conveniences that a mobile computer seems particularly well suited for.
Effectively it's a pull-only smartphone. Nothing is being pushed to me, so nothing takes me out of the moment.
Slack has this annoying habit on my work computer to not make an audible noise when I get a message even though that setting is turned on and I never check my Mac's dock when I'm working on something so I had to unhide the dock so I could see the notification come in.
Then again at one point in time I had alarms set on my phone telling me it was time to eat or time to go to bed because I will focus in on something so much that everything else disappears for hours at a time. Notifications help break me out of that to get back to the real world.
The problem I see (and have yet to get a good answer for) with all of these extreme productivity tactics like shutting off all internet access is that carry a value judgment that older > newer, for all values of information absorption. It reminds me of how some of the financial advice for people in debt is to eschew all forms of credit and live on cash only. Which is fine until you need to buy a house...
If the problem is being distracted from the real world, and that's truly a negative, rather than filling dead time that couldn't really be used for anything else (waiting in line, etc), being absorbed in a book is functionally no different from being absorbed in a newsreader app. With that in mind, where and why is this value judgment coming from?
I see a poster upthread mentioning we've "forgotten how to be bored".
I don't know about people here, but I saw boredom as an awful state of mind even before the proliferation of smartphones. Could someone help me understand what the bigger picture here is?
Books, meanwhile, are of a form to encourage deeper immersion in a single input. Generally speaking, the obvious mode of interaction is to read a single book from start to finish, taking at least hours during which you remain focused on that topic. This kind of long-term focus is required to actually accomplish anything; therefore, a mode of information absorption that trains long-term focus is more effective of personal cultivation than one which encourages mayfly attention-hopping.
Nothing about this necessarily disparages the Internet; it's quite possible to focus on long-form pieces that are Internet-published, or to hop from topic to topic using offline media. But because friction costs encourage longer-term focus when offline, going offline is one effective way to incentivize it.
Most individual links on HN and FB don't have a few hundred pages long of organized material delving into a topic, and most collections of links won't have the same cohesive nature that a good book does. Some do, but it's atypical. If you put any belief into the idea that other senses contribute to learning, then a book covers more senses than an electronic reference does. And it's easier to go sit in a corner with, without worrying about how much you're draining the battery in some device, or being distracted by other things on the internet. Books don't receive push notifications, and that's a wonderful thing!
> I see a poster upthread mentioning we've "forgotten how to be bored".
> I don't know about people here, but I saw boredom as an awful state of mind even before the proliferation of smartphones.
I see it as a statement that we've forgotten how to drift a bit, contemplate, and allow ourselves to be alone with our thoughts; most people grab for a quick bit of entertainment or information when they've got a few otherwise unoccupied seconds.
> It reminds me of how some of the financial advice for people in debt is to eschew all forms of credit and live on cash only.
Look at it from the perspective of an addict. Sometimes being forced to rent is a smaller negative than crippling piles of credit card debt. And sometimes inaccessibility of your accustomed distractions is a smaller negative than being able to focus on something important for as long as it takes to get it done.
While I do understand the point you're trying to make, I think it's a bit unfair to insinuate that their only advantage is as a way to pass the time.
I use a smartphone without a mobile data plan. Not because of addictiveness, I just don't think it's worth the cost, but it does avoid that problem. I keep it stocked with ebooks and audiobooks.
No, you just need to move to a place where nobody has a phone. It's great to spend every day outside having adventures, face to face with people!
I have explored 15 countries in about as many months, never seen a single Child soldier.
Please, please don't just parrot things out when you clearly don't know what you are talking about.
1. Cut all ties and move to either an Amish settlement or a country with no or little access to electricity.
2. Locate the local stand-up of disillusioned 10x'ers.
3. Romp and play among the trees and hills 24/7.
I wish I had a way to toggle selective-airplane-mode. That is, only the current app gets to know that I'm connected - Slack, Twitter, Google Maps all get to quietly run in the background and do nothing.
If you have yours rooted, the Disable Service app can help reduce the problem. I have a bunch disabled with no (visible?) ill effects.
Also within the settings, you can select what to do with apps that are pushed to the background. It'll be under the developer settings.
> Next step: "dumb" phone.
> Next step: no phone.
Next step: no nothing
Next step: achieve zen
:) love it
"Do your research online, but create offline."
A lot of times, I'm working on something and in the zone and then all of a sudden I see an iMessage notification and forget my thoughts almost instantly.
EDIT: Tutorial for Chrome here: https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/getting-start...
So if I go to this page (Disconnect. Offline only) and view source, I see a link to a js file. No matter where I go with this, I can't find the content of the article. But it's somewhere on my system, isn't it?
Is there a way to use dev tools to see this content?
If you mean you want to see the DOM tree that has been generated with JS after you've loaded the page, you can see it in the corresponding tab in your browser's devtools. Eg in Chrome that's the "Elements" tab.
If you mean you want to know how the page works when you're offline, the information is again in the JS. You can use your browser's devtools to prettify it (both Chrome and FF have this feature) and search for "Do you want to be productive?" to see the code.
The Service Worker is only involved in that it returns the page and JS from its cache. It's the JS that detects whether it's offline or online and renders different content on the page accordingly. 
- sit down at my desk with laptop and phone
- disable wifi on my laptop
- turn my phone face-down on the desk, muted, with wifi/data still on
This lets me check if I have any new messages via my phone, but it is a polling system vs an interrupt system. I have to opt in to check. And I am very aware that using my phone looks and feels less productive, so I try to avoid using it too long.
I've been able to be pretty productive (as an software engineer) with this system. I find that I have to reconnect on my laptop about every 30 minutes to do something or another. Of course, every day varies.
As for having to connect your workstation now and then, I can't help but think we all ought to be running parallel, sandboxed VMs, and then importing resources like internet connectivity from the connected VM, but with limited scope. (Who would have thought that something like Plan 9 could have also implemented these kind of productivity hacks, along with all of its other superior approaches to things....)
I haven't looked back.
> My wife has a smart phone which is great for when [I want to use a smartphone].
If you don't want to carry a smartphone around that's totally fine, but you definitely still use one. I carry a smartphone myself and only use internet-aware 'smartphone' features like maps, yelp and uber when I need to. I don't use social networks.
I think you're misreading the comment (or at least not acknowledging the degrees of use that the author seemed to intend to convey).
There's "using a smartphone", in the sense of using one to respond to messages quickly, having an entertainment device on hand for idle moments, and generally "[being] plugged in 24/7".
Then there's "using a smartphone", in the sense of being able to borrow one for a specific use, then giving it back to the owner. The difference in usage patterns us the distinction that was being made.
Using maps/yelp/fandango/uber covers a majority of the functionality that a smartphone provides.
What? That's a minority of my use.
Saying that the comment is dishonest or disingenuous implies that you think there was an intent to deceive, and I don't think there was any such intention. I'd say that you're taking an unusually and unnecessarily rigid interpretation of what was said and possibly ascribing deception where none exists.
Humans are imprecise. Natural language is imprecise. What ever happened to allowing some leeway for imprecision and even inaccuracy in a casually-written piece of text?
I said functionality, not usage.
If we're having a discussion and not caring about being imprecise or inaccurate then we should all just stop wasting our time on this discussion.
And it's not like I'm a Luddite. I still consume my news and watch some HBO Now on my laptop, but I set boundaries. Relationships, life-long learning, and hobbies are all very important to me, and I see technology as something that has the strong potential to compete with these things.
EDIT: someone downvoted me, probably interpreting my question as a snark. It was a serious question: I'm considering to do what you are doing and I'm wondering whether you ditched texting too and whether that got you social repercussions.
In my country it's a bit more complicated even because everybody WhatsApps and nobody uses SMS, so a true dumb phone won't cut it if you want dumb + text.
I'm reading your comment on my smartphone, while in a bathroom, while on a conference trip.
I'm as guilty as everyone else here, admittedly. What's making me think seriously about something like this is that while I was on holiday recently and kept leaving my phone in my room, I had more random thoughts than I've had in a very, very long time.
I figure there's something like that for android but on iOS you can only put on: do not disturb. It works though.
My brain switched to offline mode has about three times better focus.
Similarly to this, I'm using my browser in full-screen mode most of the time to eliminate distractions. It was very surprising to me, how big an effect it has, to not see the tabs.
Cron job mostly serves to remind me to use internet as a tool, not as something that is constantly on. Building this awareness of how I am using it is immensely helpful.
> window.dispatchEvent( new Event( "offline" ) );
The point about articles being written differently according to whether the author expects that the article will be read offline or not interests me, though, especially if a decent amount of background/context provision is outsourced via providing a link to documents that cover such material.
Is it a crutch? Sure, but crutches work. If you were dealing with alcoholism, the best thing you could do would be to remove your ability to easily access alcohol.
I'm going to make a claim, pay a deductible, and get a new proper phone at some point, but I've been a bit lazy and delaying it a bit because it hasn't been too bad going without.
Although I did have one bad experience since it happened (almost immediately after). My car's battery died and it required me walking for almost an hour next to a dangerous street to get to some place that had Wifi and sort out getting my car towed and being able to open Uber to have someone pick me up.
But at work, I HAVE to be disciplined. I start my day with 1 hour of communications catch-up, including stand-ups and slack. Then I turn off slack, and get to work. My phone is set to do not disturb automatically starting at 10am. I check messages when I'm on a break, going to the bathroom, on lunch, etc... But the messages are never allowed to interrupt me.
Works for me, at least.
The text of the off-line site is about a third of the way down.
Or run in your console: window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))
Does anyone know of a Chrome Plugin/hack that might block all but a few web pages? Then I can enjoy the silence of working without distractions while still plugging into the application that I'm working with.
edit: just occurred to me. I should try to script my connectivity, so the connection is established just before the software is used, and terminated soon after. Looking into it.
Through your own choice, or something imposed on you by an employer or circumstance?
Is it a joke? Or just poor tradecraft?
If so it'd be nice to have an extension or option that goes into offline mode when reader view is triggered.
Or fire the event yourself using window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))
I had to be online and read the article at the same time :P
> window.dispatchEvent(new Event("offline"))