We all are quite well aware of the addictive properties of the internet. For myself they tend to revolve around two main sites, Facebook and Gmail. The other day, while reading a blog article about smart phone addiction posted on HackerNews I decided enough was enough. I wanted to start treating my phone more as a tool to get things done rather than a entertainment device. So I uninstalled all unnecessary apps, including gmail, messenger etc – anything that I considered addictive or entertaining. It felt good but I knew that that wasn’t the end of it, because, you know, I still have a computer where all of these sites can be accessed.
I decided that the only way I was going to break this habit was to give myself clear rules to follow which have consequences if broken. When I say rules, I guess there is only really one and that is no social media/email till after 4pm. 4pm is when my work day is usually done with (I’m a student so I set my own study hours).
Now this doesn’t mean that I am allowed to just waste the rest of my day away on social media and email once the clock strikes 4pm because that is not really countering its addictiveness, its simple transplanting it to another period of the day. Instead I want to take the moderation approach, just like I do with chocolate – a little bit each day, just enough to remember what it tastes like and then I’m satisfied. Will this work with social media & email? We’ll see how it goes.
Breaking the rule
What happens if I break the rule? Since I am a full time student, who is unemployed, money is something of a scarce resource. It is therefore money that I want to use to punish myself for breaking the rules. But here’s what I think makes this punishment interesting – I have the opportunity to earn the money back. It’s like being rewarded for good behaviour.
Here is how it works: Every month, I give myself around €150 in pocket money. I am allowed to do whatever I want with this money, but once it’s gone that it until next month. If I break the rules then I deposit 25% of whatever I have left of my pocket money into another account that I control – let’s call it the penalty box. Then, every day I don’t break the rules I transfer 10% of whatever is in the penalty box back into my pocket money account. What I like about this scheme is this: I am more likely to fail at the start of a habit and thus getting me back on track with it is enhanced by the use of a positive reward each day.