Avoiding the addiction that is unproductivity

At the end of 2016 I realised I’d developed minor addictions to:

  1. the belief that I am time-poor
  2. my phone
  3. believing I could dance the worm after 11pm at weddings

With the exception of the third, I came to conclude that these habits were not enhancing my life, nor were they traits I wanted to let become well-developed addictions in 2017.

I don’t think any of the above traits are terrible things to do or make my existence less enjoyable, but like any (in my case - borderline) addiction, the problem is when you don’t control how often you want to do it, but when it controls you.

Over the course of a few months I realised that whenever I turned down doing something that I consciously or unconsciously didn’t want to do I’d use the phrase “I don’t have time for that”, until I actually convinced myself that I was truly more time poor than most other people.

That one doubled up with a contradictory realisation - I was constantly wasting that time I claimed was so precious by being on my phone. I don’t mean this in the sense of being the guy sitting at the big dinner with his mates glued to my phone (I don’t have a big group of mates so this is impossible), but I mean it in the way that when I do get my down time - whether commuting, work lunch breaks, sitting on the couch, or about to go to sleep - I would choose those moments to check my phone with the rationale of ‘keeping up to date’, whether it be emails, social media, texts or what not.

I’m not saying keeping up to date is a bad thing, but when it gets to the point when you feel anxious when you haven’t seen your phone for a few hours - or god forbid a whole day - it’s a dangerous mindset that’s fuelling an addiction. When I started thinking I needed my phone face up, with notifications beyond the phone call function on my work desk below my computer, it finally hit me how much this piece of technology was distracting me from what I actually wanted to do.

There is so much modern commentary on our addiction to technology and how there is no hope for a society with shortened attention spans who have fallen victim to so much media designed to reward our time spent on their platforms and game-ifying our digital experiences. Well, I’m not here to re-hash all those findings in yet another article about the same thing. 

But now you’re here, I'll tell you about some ‘bad habit hacks’ that I’m experimenting with to avoid falling into the traps of ending up in the wasteland of unproductive time.  

Time

Before I tried to figure out how much time I had to spare and how much time I wanted to utilise productively, the most important thing I needed to figure out is what I actually wanted to do with my time. This is simply getting the priority list in order of what I actually wanted to spend my time on and placing a time-value per week to each of those priorities. 

Then anything that’s not on that list? I have re-articulated in my head to never say “I don’t have time for that”, but say “It’s not a priority to me”… I figured out quickly what actually matters to me. For week one, I made a conscious effort to not change anything, but only log the time I spent on things. 

Unsurprisingly, there were things on that list that did not match up with the ‘what I want to spend my time doing list’. Without all the details they were things like checking emails, checking social media, getting take-away coffees, watching crap TV, and commuting on public transport when I could have been running or cycling to work.

So once I had the list of things I wanted to do more of, I did a time audit, and it looks like this:

  • There’s 168 hours per week
  • 50 hours of work (5x 10 hours days) leaves 118 hours per week
  • 56 hours of sleep (8 hours per night) leaves 62 hours
  • Commuting to and from work is 8hrs p/w, leaving 54 hrs
  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner equate to around14 hrs p/w, leaving 40hrs
  • Hygiene + housework are around 5 hrs p/w, leaving 35 hours per week

Some of that commuting time doubles up as exercise and food time doubles up as social, so even in a tough week of longer work hours or home admin that leaves over 30 hours to fill with what I’ve identified as actually important.

That’s a lot of time!

The point to this is not to schedule my life and become super efficient necessarily, but to identify what I actually want to spend my time doing, even if that is watching crap TV or checking Facebook… I just want to know that’s a conscious decision.

 

Phone

For this experiment I did a version of ‘going back to the 90s’ (you know, that time when your phone literally took phone calls and text messages?) but with a minimalist modern twist. I deleted or hid all the apps with exception to: 

  • Phone
  • Messages
  • Notes
  • Calendar
  • Podcasts
  • Music
  • Clock
  • Photos 

Basically the additions to a 90’s phone that you used to use anyway via a walkman or camera or notepad or my your family animal themed calendar of some sort.

I also turned off all notifications except for phone calls, which was the most rewarding part.

What this made me do was only look at my phone when I had the time for it, as opposed to being distracted by it. It also meant that if I wanted to go onto social media, or check emails, or check bank accounts, or talk to someone overseas, I’d put time aside for those things and jump on the computer and focus on it as opposed to multi-tasking when I had consciously decided to devote my time to something else.

After trying that for a month, I slowly added productive apps such as Uber, Chrome, Google Maps and News apps. It’s helped me realise how useful it is having these things and not taking them for granted, but also trained myself into not falling into the hole of time-wasting apps such as social media and games.

 

So three months into 2017 and into these experiments, I don’t know if I can conclusively say that life is better than before. More productive - yes. More in control - yes. Eyes feeling better from less straining at a screen - yes. But am I experiencing an entirely transformed with a new outlook on the world? Not yet.

That will come down to what I want to do with all the new time I’ve discovered, but with peter habits and less addictive qualities I’m feeling better about this. Who knows, I might even make more time for my blog **he writes to the excitement of no one**.