How to block websites that kill your productivity.

Yesterday I wasted about an hour of good time on Facebook. And worse, I found that even when I'd started doing productive work, I kept shifting back to facebook and wasting more of my time. I can't say that I gained anything out of this effort. It was a dead loss. So today, i removed it from my life, in a single step.

Sites like facebook are such effective time-wasters because they relax the 'executive brain'-- the centre responsible for focused decision making, and leave you at the mercy of your impulses and compulsions. Much like watching reality tv shows, or being the subject of hypnosis.

Many of us spend a lot of our time with the 'executive brain' switched off. We become volunatry zombies. Let's say that again, in big writing:

We Are Voluntary Zombies!!

In order to delete Facebook, i opened this file:

C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

and I added this line:

0.0.0.0 www.facebook.com

Now when I go to facebook.com, it gets routed to 0.0.0.0 and the browser shows 'Connection closed by remote server'

I can bring it back of course, by deliberately unblocking the site.

But the key word is 'deliberate'. Giving in to temptation is not usually a deliberate act.

When given the chance to deliberate, i'll need to engage my 'executive brain', and one of two things will happen:

  1. I'll decide i don't really want to visit facebook, or
  2. I'll visit it briefly and conscientiously, then re-block it afterwards.

(note, to unblock it, just add a comment symbol, '#' to the front of that line in the hosts file)

And, at the risk of being tarred, feathered, shot, drawn, hung, quartered and teased -- i only realised I was wasting time at that site because of the concerned intervention of my good and discounted friend, TimeSnapper. Thanks ts for stepping in where others didn't dare!

I'm using TimeSnapper more every day. For monitoring, understanding, accounting, timesheeting... there's so many ways to benefit (yeh, and more to come of course. we never rest... we're like that terminator guy in that movie, what was it? terminator).

Anyway, I block whatever sites I feel I ought to, and I've got some half-formed ideas about a toy to automate the blocking and temporary unblocking. Do you see a need?

Some notes...

I do like some things about facebook: I'm back in contact with people I knew in primary school. This is excellent. I've got slightly better contact with friends of old i wanted to catch up with. If you read this blog, track me down and add me -- i'll sign in briefly and periodically. But mostly all the potential is wasted. Will i really catch up with ned for those beers? i'm afraid i might not. maybe the best possible life would be one where i acknowledge that neither me or ned have time for 237 close friends... and just get on with being good friends to the twenty or so friends we really deserve? i can't help but hear that robot voice from radiohead's OK Computer mockingly begging "keep in contact with old friends..."

Regarding the 'executive brain' -- my own executive brain told me not to waste time researching the best possible link for this topic. I get this concept from lectures i've listened to via a podcast called 'All in the mind' -- but i don't think it's quite the same as that spoken of in the book 'the executive brain'. Also, i'm a little perturbed by the idea that maybe by some definitions it's the executive brain that allows us to visit sites like facebook in the first place. It may be that the so-called 'executive' portion of our mind allows us to ignore other voices that say 'danger! timewaster! real work pending!'

And I recognise that most 'executives' i've known are the most un-inspired, un-productive timewasters of all.

Then again, Charles Darwin published nothing for twenty years as he pondered evolution. I guess we're lucky he wasn't spending the timing joining groups on facebook.

 

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