A Self-experiment – My Mid-month Report

Posted to Self-surveillance  |  Nathan Yau

Two weeks ago, I vowed to stop procrastinating using two strategies:

  1. Make a to-do list every night to lay out what will get done the next day
  2. Enable the Greasemonkey script – Invisibility Cloak – which will block all the sites that I waste too much time on except during lunch and on the weekend

Down You, ProcrastinationSince I enabled the plugins and started to-do lists, my browsing time has gone down a whopping 3.5% – from 10.11 hours per day to 9.76 hours per day. Ok, it doesn’t sound like much, but there’s a bit more to the story.

Growing More Productive

Even though the time decrease isn’t much, I’ve still been more productive than when I wasn’t trying to improve. Since all of my favorite sites – Facebook, Google Reader, this blog – are blocked during the day, I spend more time reading papers and researching stuff I’m supposed to be looking for.

Planning to Improve More

Productivity has gone up, but there’s still room for improvement. There have been days when I did not feel like working, so I cheated, and turned off the plugins and scratched the to-do list. As a result, I wasted a lot of time.

On the days I feel blah, I’m going to avoid turning off the plugins and see where that takes me. I will also work on creating more specific to-do lists the night before, because when I put in vague tasks like “go over papers” it didn’t really get done. However, if I put in, “read paper X, paper Y, and summarize each” then it usually got done.

Failed Tactic

I also tried hiding the dashboard (I have a Mac) so that I couldn’t see that I had new emails, but that just (as embarrassed as I am to admit) let me wondering more. I would keep checking which seemed to waste more time.

I’ll put in my final report in two weeks.

How’s everyone else doing?

14 Comments

  • Badly. I tried using the program ‘Things’, but even that failed to make me the efficent guy I think I should be.

    Darn it.

  • What are the standard deviations and sample sizes associated with those average browsing times? Then we could assess whether the difference is statistically significant.

  • “How’s everyone else doing?”

    Well, I finally stopped denying my own problem with procrastination about a week ago. I’ve always been able to focus on interesting projects for hours at a time. Unfortunately of late I’ve also found it too easy to remain focused on non-value-added topics. now that I’e identified the problem I’ve gotten a bit better, using only my own cognizance, not any fancy net nanny kind of tools. I’ll save those for later if I need them.

  • i think if we don’t have that “cognizance” there’s no stopping procrastination – we’ll waste time any way we can.

  • @Nick: that would be useful wouldn’t it? but then i’d have to be all diligent and record my data daily. yuck – manual labor. by the way, for some reason your comment got stuck in the spam filter. i just happen to randomly look. it makes me wonder how many other comments i’ve missed.

  • I don’t have any stats on my browsing before I read your first email, but I think there’s been some improvement and am glad I found this thread. I think the greasemonkey blocking script has helped a bit. However, I find myself occasionally switching from Firefox to IE to get around the block.

    I also installed Rescue Time which tracks all my computer activity and according to last week’s summary, I spent around 27 hours on the computer, and only about 11 hours was actually used for what I consider real work. The scary thing is, I think this is an improvement.

    I like Rescue Time because it gives me a running weekly summary, and if I improve my productivity I’ll be able to see a clear record of my progress.

  • I don’t have any stats on my browsing before I read your first email, but I think there’s been some improvement and am glad I found this thread. I think the greasemonkey blocking script has helped a bit. However, I find myself occasionally switching from Firefox to IE to get around the block.

    I also installed Rescue Time which tracks all my computer activity and according to last week’s summary, I spent around 27 hours on the computer, and only about 11 hours was actually used for what I consider real work. The scary thing is, I think this is an improvement.

    I like Rescue Time because it gives me a running weekly summary, and if I improve my productivity I’ll be able to see a clear record of my progress.

  • You should try the ‘(10+2)*5′ rule :

    http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/11/procrastination-hack-1025

    Works wonders for me.

  • You should try the ‘(10+2)*5′ rule :

    http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/11/procrastination-hack-1025

    Works wonders for me.

  • Please read about GTD, “Getting Things Done.” At the very least, take the advice about how to create a to-do list that works. Best wishes!

  • Please read about GTD, “Getting Things Done.” At the very least, take the advice about how to create a to-do list that works. Best wishes!

  • Thanks for the tip…OldLady! :) I read a lot of GTD a while back but never put it into practice. I suppose now is a good time as any.

  • I tried the GreaseMonkey script a while back and found that it was too easy to disable. LeachBlock is a Firefox add-on that is more comprehensive and more complicated to disable.

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