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I work from home and find that my daily default, for the first half of my day, is sitting in front of a computer screen.  I putz around answering emails, then get absorbed in a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and the surfing flurry goes on from there.  Many days, I am totally unproductive. Something about passively staring at a screen saps my energy, but I often seem unable to pull myself away.  As a writer and program developer, creativity is my currency, and time on the computer often leaves me feeling bankrupt.

One antidote to my Internet Disorder has been proving increasingly effective: getting out of the computer chair and simply doing something else.  While this may sound simplistic, it’s not easy for me.  Honestly, I am writing this blog more for myself than anyone else.  If I leave a written record online of my intention to “stop the Internet insanity,” I am more likely to follow through, if for no other reason than my deep sense of guilt.   And let me tell you, it is deep, a jagged chasm in my soul created from twelve years of Catholic school!
http://www.mtv.com/news/2274236/stephen-amell-twitter-break/
When I get out and do something completely different, I often return to the computer ready to use it for constructive purposes, like finishing my book, writing a blog, working on video scripts, and dozens of other positive pursuits.

If you are at all like me, take a few minutes now and write down a list of things, at least twenty, you need to do, or things you’ve been longing to do.  Here is my list that I am making up right now, so that it’s authentically in the moment.  I try to make up a list like this every day (some items carry over).

  1. Go to the Polish Market.
  2. Go to the café at the Detroit Institute of Arts .
  3. Take a 20-minute walk through the neighborhood.
  4. Run down and throw in a load of laundry.
  5. Iron the shirts in the laundry room that have been sitting there for three weeks.
  6. Do twenty push-ups.
  7. Make up and send invoices I have been putting off.
  8. Go to the drug store and buy toothpaste (which I have been out of for a week!).
  9. Make a list of workshop topics for 2016.
  10. Set dates for workshops for 2016.
  11. Go to the tile store to pick out bathroom tile.
  12. Call contractor about bathroom tear-out.
  13. Call Martin and ask his advice on hiring an assistant.
  14. Plan winter vacation now so that I can get better rates than my usual planning at the last minute.
  15. Drive to Tim Horton’s and get a latte.
  16. Take notebook into the yard and brainstorm on book project.
  17. Take five minutes to stretch using yoga postures.
  18. Write a thank-you note to friends who had me up to their summer home, and gave me REAL HUMAN INTERACTION.
  19. Spend ten minutes working in the yard (I HATE YARD WORK AND AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE).
  20. Spend ten minutes cleaning out my car, which is an absolute pit.

For the record, after number 18, I zoned out and went back on Facebook for a while until I realized, perhaps five minutes later, what I had done.  Take a few minutes now and make out your own list and follow it.  Comment on this blog and become part of a community of people who are all in this together, all trying to use the Internet to expand their potential instead of wasting it.  I cannot seem to do it by myself.  If you are having trouble in this area, don’t try to do it alone.  Tell a friend what you are up to and see if he or she will support you.  You may just need someone to check in with once or twice a week.  Make no mistake, for many of us spending too much unproductive time online is a serious problem that requires commitment, focus, and plenty of support.  Do not try to do it alone, but DO get your butt out of that chair, NOW!

Technology: Destroyer of Dreams

I live alone and I am not self-motivated. Add high-speed Internet and a computer to that mix and hours of unproductive time in front of a screen easily ensue. I get up every morning and go out for a coffee. While in the car on the way to and from the coffee shop, my mind teems with ideas, but by the time I get back and plop down in my computer chair, the ideas all but vanish, along with the motivation that had seemed so promisingly potent just a few minutes before.

Today, I am noticing and observing my urge to surf the net, to repeatedly check email and Facebook, and to peruse flight deals on Kayak for trips I am NOT taking. I am in this moment plagued by that funk, that slightly sunken mood that renders me unproductive. I have notions about working on my book and brainstorming video scripts, but I don’t have that oomph that creative writing requires. I almost never have that oomph! This is the battle I struggle with every single day.

The ease of access of technology makes the battle harder to win, because the Internet soothes me by giving me something “satisfying” to do that I don’t have to work for, and that I can reliably do even when I am in the deepest of funks. When I click to refresh my inbox, there is a subtle and instantaneous anticipation that a new message could arrive. I feel that in my gut, a subtle sensation of expectation. If no new, non-spam messages arrive, I can check Facebook to see if there’s a new notification, friend request or interesting newsfeed piece. I might even espy an article that outrages me, and then I can get energized to respond. If these two sites provide no satisfaction, I go to LinkedIn, and check out stories about business and read articles on how to find a job, even though I am not looking for one.

Technology makes many aspects of my life easier, but it also messes with my mind. I have click-itis, that disease that warps the mind by giving instant satisfaction via a micro movement of the index finger. I can sit and click for hours upon hours, and I cannot, or do not, stop!

For me, technology quickly becomes addictive; it harms me by distracting me from what I really want to accomplish. I continue this behavior in spite of the negative consequences, which are nothing short of destroying, or at least delaying, my dreams. When I merrily click away, I am not writing; I am not doing the hard work of distilling my message; I am not in integrity with myself or the people who look to me for guidance. My relation to technology has an impulse-control aspect, because I often “play” online for hours, when I had simply gone on the computer to check and respond to email for fifteen minutes. Technology wastes my times, and lays waste to my dreams.

Here are some signs that you, like me, might have a problematic relationship to technology.

1. Time warp: inability to determine screen time.
2. Changes or disruptions in sleep.
3. Emotional disturbance when you are deprived of the screen.
4. Withdrawing from family and friends in favor of the screen.
5. Suffer from backache, carpal tunnel syndrome, stiff neck, nerve pain, eye strain, “texting thumb.”
6. Persistent inability to cut down.
7. Ever-increasing amounts of time spent in front of the screen
8. Prefer the screen over family and friends.
9. Household tasks and responsibilities are left undone because of too much screen time
10. You are afraid that without your phone or Internet access, you might “miss something.”
If you exhibit a few of these, I recommend a techfast, for which I will provide detailed information in next week’s blog. Technology sends my life out of balance. A techfast helps remedy that situation.

NOTE: This blog post started because I was pissed at myself for being in a funk. I simply decided to be honest about my internal process, and I also let the anger power me through. After having written this, I am 90% out of the funk, but beset with a strong urge to go back now and check email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I can do that if I set a timer. Five minutes, no more!

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