I didn’t keep to my update schedule as I planned. I wrote a draft, but didn’t publish it (I was time-boxing and ran out of time). I then had a family issue that caused me to travel to Northern California for a week. Using the internet while staying at my father’s house was, technically, not breaking my rules. But I did engage in some behaviors that I took back up with me in Portland, which I get into in the Setbacks section.
Two weeks ago, I rode my bike to the co-working space on three of the week days. Although I could take the bus, I think I was more motivated because of this project to take an action that would promote better focus while working. It’s about a five mile ride and takes about 35 minutes. It’s a great way to incorporate intense cardio into my schedule.
I’ve been trying to figure out where and when I should do my personal internet time. I would like to do it somewhere besides the co-working place. I went to a nearby dive bar after dinner on Monday and Tuesday (two weeks ago). I decided on a set of three tasks to complete each time to keep me focused. Their internet was pretty good. Turns out that they do karaoke every night at 9pm. I karaoked a song before heading home on Monday.
I have found that cardio is important for giving me mental clarity. I suspect that for some reason, my brain is more susceptible to the negative effects of not clearing out metabolic waste products. Therefore, I was hoping that the cardio would lead to better productivity at work. However, that has not been the case. I feel like I’ve had a worse time staying on task on Monday and Tuesday (two weeks ago). I didn’t ride my bike on Wednesday or Thursday.
I had a terrible time sleeping on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, I suspect that the adrenaline from karaoking a song kept me up. Plus, having blue lights beamed into my eyes from the stage didn’t help. On Tuesday, I didn’t sing karaoke, but still had difficulty going to bed. My guess is that the environment is too loud and stimulating.
The result is that I felt awful when I woke up on Tuesday and Wednesday. I felt especially bad on Wednesday, getting only a minimal amount of work done.
My router has been finicky with keeping to the access restriction rules that I set up. I suppose that it’s just faulty firmware. I’m not quite sure what to do about it. I’ve set my devices up with static ip’s, so hopefully that helps. Unfortunately, when I’ve discovered that a device has internet access, I usually indulge, rather than logging onto the router to see what happened and set up the rules again.
I have yet to log on to the router to give a device access because I felt like getting online. I see a similar thing with the websites that I put on a blacklist in the hosts file. For whatever reason, the indulgent part of my brain respects those barriers. But if I set up a blacklist through a browser extension, it doesn’t last long until I disable it.
One major setback took place mostly on my trip to Northern California but followed me back to Portland. There’s been a bevy of games released recently based on the popular Dota 2 mod called Auto Chess. I can't remember my motivation but I installed the mobile versions, Dota Underlords and Auto Chess Mobile, onto my iPad. I generally have a “no games” policy for my phone and tablet, but perhaps it had been weakened because I installed that Harry Potter-themed game based on Pokeman Go (I have since removed that app) on my phone a few days before because I was curious.
For whatever reason, that game got its claws in me and I spent most of my free time playing it. It may have been an escape from a stressful situation; I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to understand what about that game made it so addictive. The gameplay, I’ve been told, is similar to Clash of Clans. You select units to fight a small skirmish against eight other players. There’s no other interaction. You select the units and watch them fight.
A key part of the gameplay is upgrading the units. And I think that’s the key addictive ingredient. After each skirmish, the game will present five units to potentially buy. If one of those units matches a unit you already own, you can combine them to get an upgraded unit. If you don’t like the five you are presented with, then you can pay gold to reroll for five more units. It’s essentially a gambling mechanic. At least it's working on the same circuitry. The feeling of excitement is not even that strong, but there is a clearly a dopamine release action occurring every time that I see an upgrade to one of my existing units. Reinforcing this excitement, is the yellow halo that surrounds a unit to show that it is upgradeable. Each time this happens it slowly builds that dopamine-reinforcing habit loop.
Another aspect of the addiction-seeking behavior that I don’t quite understand is telling myself that this will be the last game and then I’ll put it down. But just as the game ends, there is this empty feeling that I immediately vanquish by pressing to "play" again. I’ve seen similar behavior with reading articles online. I’ll want to stop, but find myself continually opening new tabs. I would like to learn some better mental tools to deal with this.
This is obviously quite embarrassing to write out, but I think it’s important to understand how I and others are being affected by their digital devices.
I’ve stopped going to the dive bar at night to get my personal internet time in. My plan is to set up my personal profile on computer as a child account and configure it so that I don’t have access until 4:45pm to give myself 45 minutes of internet time before I head home for the day. I could lock up my usb access key every day to be released at 4:45pm, but adherence would be more difficult.
After three days of bad behaviors after I got back from California, I’ve deleted Auto Chess Mobile from my iPad to help get this experiment back on track. I set up all of the internet restriction rules again, and for the time being, I’m going on a temporary digital media diet. This means no podcasts, music, and articles (As I mentioned in my first post, I did this for a month last year). It’s been less then a day, but I already feel much much better after going through my evening and morning routines without digital stimulation.
The one exception I had to make was that I allowed internet access to a reading device. I’m reading a book in German (Rubinrot) and I prefer to use a service called Readlang that makes it easy to look up translations and create flashcards out of them. I’m using a small tablet with an e-ink screen. It’s terribly slow, and is pretty much only good for this one use. I’ll have to see if it becomes problematic though.
Other thoughts and observations
Since I’m rebooting this project, it will have to last for another two weeks, ending on the 14th.
I struggle with the right terminology for these kind of projects. I feel self-conscious using the word “experiment”. The nature of this project is exploratory, rather than testing a specific hypothesis. There is a hypothesis, I guess, that I think that this may help with productivity and mood. However, my focus is not that narrow. I want to see how I interact with the constraints.
So, what’s a better term? Montaigne called his little experiments “essays”, which supposedly means “to try” in French. Of course, that term has come to mean something else in English and is not useful here. A “trial” also has too many associations with it. I may have to settle with self-tracking project, though even then, the data is secondary to my subjective observations.