Ideas & Observations


#1

Wow, so the mods decided to do this really exceptional thing and let me post here again after I basically tried to destroy all their dreams because I was sad. You’re clearly all in good hands since they’ve actually agreed to let me post again after all that.

Anyways, I know stuff and like to share the stuff that I know so that’s why I’ve asked to return.

This won’t be a progress journal since progress for me is kind of slow at this point. I’ve also pretty much reached the point in my progress where I wanted to be so there’s not much left to progress towards at this point. I want this journal to be more thought focussed.

At the moment this is how my life with technology looks like:

  • I can predict binges or the onset of overconsumption. I simply turn off my device when I notice it’s going to happen. I’ll come back in at least 10 minutes (often much longer). When I come back, I’ll usually be able to use the device as I had intended to. I’ll repeat the process if needed.
  • I try to plan what I’m going to do with my laptop/phone as much as possible. When I have a plan, I’m more likely to stay on track.
  • I don’t (intentionally) use any social media for fun at this point. I just can’t trust myself to be responsible when I use it for “fun”. When I have other reasons to use it, I try to download the content in some way, so that I don’t have to consume the content in an ecosystem which I know is designed for overconsumption.
  • I prefer print material over digital material almost always. Something about it just feels better to me.
  • I know what mental states usually inspire me to want to seek comfort in technology and I’m training myself to choose healthier (and equally effective) options instead.
  • I still automatically type urls like facebook.com, reddit.com, youtube.com when I open the browser even though I don’t enjoy those things anymore. I’m trying to train myself to stop typing them by finishing the url with a different word. So, facebook.com becomes face look, reddit.com becomes red dog, youtube.com becomes you hut and so on and so forth. Then I hit ENTER as usual. We’ll see how that goes…
  • And most importantly, I’m happy with the new relationship I’ve created with technology since now I have more time for the things that really matter to me.

I don’t know how often I will post in this journal.


#2

### Does NoSurf make you smarter?

As many of you may already know, one of the primary reasons why I started pursuing NoSurf was to resurrect my academic life from the dead. Today I am 34 days into my first semester where I’ve actually taken NoSurf seriously and have witnessed it’s effects in action. Has my NoSurf practice lived up to its expectations?

I Read Faster

I’ve definitely noticed an increase in how fast I can read text now. I think this is due to a couple reasons. Firstly, my mind has simply adjusted to the act of reading in general. When I first started decreasing the amount of time I spent on the net, I replaced most of that time with reading. Reading is now one of my favourite pastimes. Secondly, I get distracted a lot less when I’m reading now. Before, I would be reading for 10 minutes and be distracted for 4 of those 10 minutes and so less pages were turned. Now I get distracted much less and so more pages are turned per minute.

I Can Stay Focussed for Longer

I think my abuse of technology the past 10 years has definitely wreaked havoc on my attention span but it appears that my NoSurf practice is slowly returning it back to normal. Before I would struggle to sit down and do work for 25 minutes straight. Now I can catch myself working for anywhere between 25 minutes to 1.5 hours straight without issue. I think this is also partially due to the fact that my studying anxiety has gone down. This anxiety has most likely reduced because I’ve developed a practice of reading and thinking outside of class too. So now studying just feels like a natural extension of my day-to-day life. Before I felt like I was constantly switching between to opposite modes of thinking.

I Sleep Now

Sleep is very important for mental functioning. Obviously, to actually get something out of the hours I spend studying each day, I need my mind to be alert. Currently I shut off my computer about 1-2 hours before I go to bed. I’ve run tests to see what happens to me when I don’t do this and have evidence that this habit does in fact increase the quality of my sleep. On top of that, I get more hours of sleep now because I’ve implemented effective strategies to prevent myself from staying up late in the night on my computer or phone. I’m genuinely shocked by how much energy I have for school work nowadays.

Conclusions

I personally believe that IQ is pretty fixed and I’m also pretty sure that my IQ is slightly below average of the typical person in my major which is why I’ve settled for working harder and smarter in order to keep up. NoSurf has obviously helped me to work smarter. It’s given me the extra boost to keep up with my highly intelligent classmates.

10/10, would do again.


#3

When I Feel Like A Failure

As we try new things, like attempting to overcome an addiction, we come across many road blocks. We’re setting the standards of our behaviour higher than usual. Naturally, this means that we have more opportunities to fail. This past week, I dealt with this feeling of failure a bit. It felt bad in the moment, but now I can see that by dealing with it, this experience serves as an opportunity to help others. It happened. I set a goal and I did not achieve it. Then I felt bad. How did I handle this situation so that it didn’t bring me down (therefore leading to more failure)? Well, first I acknowledged that not reaching this goal did not make me a bad person. I literally told myself “I am not a bad person because of this and I do not have to feel bad.”. I kept repeating it to myself until I honestly believed that it was true. Once I believed it, the bad feeling went away. After that, I looked toward the future. I thought about what led to that failure and then adjusted my technique for the rest of the week. I also set the bar for success just a little bit lower. When I see that I can achieve that slightly lower standard of success consistently, then I will raise it higher again.

Study Anxiety Returns

“Study anxiety” is a term I made up to refer to the anxiety I feel before or during a study session. Some study anxiety returned this week. However, this week I learned what was really going on. Study anxiety leads me to use my computer mindlessly. I wasn’t wasting time on the big addictive apps like Reddit, YouTube, Facebook and the like, but I was doing a lot of random Google searching this week. When I noticed what was happening, I shut off my computer immediately. A binge was surely on it’s way. Turning off my computer, forced me to get in touch with my thoughts and emotions. Rather than run away from my anxiety, I let myself feel it full force without distraction. It’s hard to remember the details of that moment but somewhere down the line I realized that I had this thought swirling around in my head. The thought was: “I can’t do it.”. Turns out that this thought was the source of my anxiety (at least at that moment). When I returned back to my work, I tried to be mindful of this thought and each time it came up I told myself “I’m healthy, happy, and I have nothing holding me back. I can do it.”. Like before, this positive self-talk eventually overpowered the self-defeating “I can’t do it.” talk and I was able to study in peace once again. I ended up submitting the assignments which caused my anxiety ahead of schedule.

Lessons Learned: Positive thinking is powerful and is essential for dealing with challenging situations. I’m not completely new to this practice of positive thinking and positive self-talk but I frequently forget how effective it is sometimes. Pessimism appears to be my natural state of mind.

Technical stuff:

  • Changing “reddit” to things like “red car” and “red dog” appears to be an effective strategy for dealing with the programmed habit of typing social media urls randomly. It’s fun and relieving to be presented with red cars instead of ending up on the Reddit homepage. I’m not in the thick of an addiction right now so your mileage may vary but this strategy seems to work for me at the moment.
  • For the entire semester, I have to use Discord to communicate with my group members for a major assignment. It’s what everyone else is most comfortable with unfortunately. I feel a need to check it more often than I would like to. I had to delete the Discord app from my computer to prevent me from checking it excessively. I can only access it through the web now. I also had to turn off all those satisfying notification sounds. I guess Discord is a bit too fun for my inner addict… even if it’s just used for school work…

#4

I fell similarly about studying. The hardest part about it is always actually starting to study. Once I start going and I’m fully immersed in the learning material, it gets more and more easy to concetrate. But beforehand, it’s always a battle. Like you said, you start to think too much about the actual process: “This is too difficult”, “I don’t understand this” or “This is too boring/tedious”, so, just like you, I try to avoid it alltogether. The only solution I’ve found is to just force yourself. I don’t think there’s a real solution to it other than telling yourself that you can do it and just start. The good thing is that it becomes easier and easier the more you do it


#5

Yeah, for me school is always a battle of me fighting off my own self-doubt. I’m about to enter a kind of “hell week” next week (followed by two not so hellish weeks) and it’s made me pretty anxious. In the past when this happens, I’d brain dump all the things I need to do on a piece of paper then begin to prioritize. This time I went a bit further and thought about how much time I predict each task would take too (this is inspired by my current software engineering course covering agile development). Doing this gave me a bit more confidence regarding my own decision making and knowing that there is a way out without getting bruised too badly.

I’m probably overestimating and underestimating myself in many areas but going through this process quieted my mind quite a bit. Top half is a list of all the things I need to do (task - percentage of course grade, days left to complete, predicted hours to complete, hours per day) and the bottom half is how much time I think I have for completing these tasks each day:


#6

Your technique reminds me of the techniques mentioned in a book I am reading, it’s called How to become a Straight A student by Cal Newport. The title sounds ridiculous, but I find it useful so far. Even if it won’t result in guaranteed straight A’s, it helps to learn time management of studying and offers some good strategies for studying well while it takes less time per day. I feel like if I had read it before university, I would’ve coped better. We often just take the approach of all-nighters and cramming as how it’s just supposed to be, without thinking if there could be a better way, I think. Your time management above is pretty similar to the one in the book :slight_smile:


#7

Your time management above is pretty similar to the one in the book :slight_smile:

Good to hear! I desperately need to avoid failure at all costs this semester :grimacing:

I’ve looked over that book in the past and found it helpful as well but I haven’t reviewed it in over a year. I feel like I should pick it up again soon just to see if there are any additional techniques I could use. It’s a good thing that it’s such a short book.

To whom it may concern: I’m probably not going to be very active here over the next week and a bit.


#8

How Hell Week Went

Hell Week lived up to it’s name. It seriously challenged my ability to stay positive and confident. At one point I was being so self-critical (which isn’t unusual for me really…) that I needed to sit down and make a list of all the academic achievements I’d attained this semester in order to lift my spirits. My grades are still quite average right now, but I know that if I had arrived this semester the same person I was when I left last May (pre-NoSurf), things would have been a hell of a lot worse. It’s worth celebrating that. I still have quite a few problems I need to fix obviously, but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that I’ve made a boat load of progress over the last few months. From now on, my aim is to start and end my day feeling strong and confident in my abilities. I’m probably going to continue working similar hours for the rest of the semester, but this time without neglecting my physical health!

Managing Distraction

I admit it was pretty hard to manage my distractions over Hell Week. I definitely worked more over this week than I have during any part of this semester (I’ve been measuring everything) but I believe I really could have done more. I especially struggled to stay focussed once I started studying. My usual attack to this problem is to let myself take a quick break and then come back once I feel ready to focus again but unfortunately, many times I did not come back. A mindfulness approach might be more effective for me. I accomplish this by acknowledging that I am losing focus but I don’t let myself get the satisfaction of taking a break. I just let myself experience the “It’s time to get distracted!” feeling but choose not act on it until my scheduled break has arrived. This seems to be more effective. In addition, my confidence levels unsurprisingly have a strong effect on my ability to focus as well. I feel like I’ve found the magic pill to all my life’s problems guys.

I hope the lessons I learned during Hell Week will help me to be even more successful for the remainder of the semester :slight_smile:

A Side Project

I’ve also decided to start developing a task management app. Currently, I’m not sure if it’ll be a web or mobile app yet, but people on Reddit seem to be down for it! It’s basically an automated version of the system I used over Hell Week.


#9

On Actively Using Twitter Again

As those who have been following this journal know, I’ve recently decided to start developing a productivity app. Due to advice I’ve read around the web, I’ve made the choice to start actively using Twitter again as a way to build a following before I launch my app. As someone who is prone to internet addiction, this was a hard choice to make but if I can pull it off in a healthy way, it should help me more than it hurts me in the long run. Here’s how I’ve been managing it:

  • I don’t have the Twitter app on my phone at all. I only access Twitter through a web browser. My password is really complex so that means I usually don’t have the patience to sign in on my phone.
  • I only check Twitter 1-2 times a day. Once in the morning and evening.
  • I don’t browse Twitter at all. I only post updates in regards to the development of my app and only respond to people directly communicating with me.
  • I try to keep my Twitter account impersonal. It’s not about me and my feelings and my interests. It’s just about my app and it’s development.
  • I write down everything I wish to do on Twitter before hand so that interacting with Twitter just means that I’m checking things off my TODO list rather than “having fun” or “connecting” with people.
  • Twitter is on my block list as is wordpress.com. It simply serves as a safety net for me.

To help deal with my urge to check Twitter after posting :

  • I try to have something to keep me occupied after posting
  • I practice staying present in the moment
  • I acknowledge the urge but choose not to act on it
  • I acknowledge that the world won’t end if I don’t check Twitter for 24+ hrs

In general it’s much easier to prevent an addiction from forming than it is to remove an addiction that’s already been formed. I used similar techniques when I first started using wordpress.com and it was effective.

NoSurf Hiatus

After being rightfully banned from NoSurf, I was given the opportunity to come back and contribute to the community. My primary reason for requesting to contribute again was to help others. I think I struggle with a little bit of a Messiah complex meaning that it’s really hard for me to notice I can help someone and not step in and do something. However, helping people both takes a lot of time and energy. At this moment, I don’t have enough of either to keep on contributing here as much as I would like to. However, my withdrawal doesn’t mean that I don’t care about people here, I just have other obligations right now.

My wish for the future is that people keep being positive, keep being extremely supportive of member’s struggles by interacting with each other’s journals, and always be courageous enough to stand up if you see something go wrong. If you don’t feel like you can stand up to the offender, then at the very least, please try your best to protect the offended.

I’ll probably still check back a few times this week before I leave.


#10

I’ve Graduated! (from NoSurf)

After my break, I realized that now is a good time to move onto new things. It’s been great having this resource help me along the way. I hope that everyone will be able reach where I’ve reached VERY soon.

These were the turning points in my NoSurf journey:

  1. Realizing that my excessive internet use is directly tied to my general level of well-being. This means that if I’m not feeling good, either physically or mentally, then my internet use goes up. I resolved this issue by simply committing to taking better care of myself in general. Oddly enough, this has proven to be more than enough to help me keep my usage under control! Bad mental and physical states aren’t avoidable unfortunately, but I know how to handle them better now and the results have been positive.
  2. Realizing the intensity of my addiction is determined by how much time I spend using addictive online services. This means that the more time I spend on an addictive website, the more addictive it becomes. To beat this problem, the most effective solution for me was to take an extended break from the addictive websites (see: this digital detox NoSurf blog post). When I returned, the websites were much less addictive and I was able to return to using it responsibly.
  3. Realizing that websites are designed to be addictive. To deal with this I’ve used a variety of Chrome extensions to change the design of addictive websites. My favourite ones are Latitude, Clear New Tab, History AutoDelete. I use History AutoDelete because I noticed that the logos of my favourite websites serve as cues to start binges. By removing them from my browser suggestions, I was able to gain more control. In addition to this, I’ve gotten to a place where I can comfortably use all my devices in grayscale mode most of the time. Grayscale helps you to avoid manipulative effects of strategic colour placement.
  4. Realizing that responsible internet use is not something that just happens. I have to DECIDE to use the internet responsibly. I don’t use the internet the way I did in the past. In the past, the internet was a way to have fun and destress after school or work. However, now I know that this intention is NOT compatible with responsible usage. Today, I only use the internet for working or contributing to things that are meaningful to me. Most importantly, I schedule EVERYTHING. I know that I can’t handle “just browsing” the internet. It always leads to trouble. I write down everything I want to do online before hand and then I do it. When I’m done, I’m done.

So yeah, that’s it. I know I’m ready to move on because I’ve gotten to a place where I can handle my problems on my own. I think the same rule would apply to everyone here. Good luck everyone!

Also… if anyone here is wondering how on Earth they’re going to find like minded people post-NoSurf, I think you should check out this thing called Digital Minimalism. The lifestyle/philosophy seems to fit in very well with everything I’m currently doing.