Web reading challenge: day 4

I started this challenge on January 23rd, making today day four.

I haven’t cracked once since I started it, but it sure hasn’t been easy. I seek out distractions when my brain gets tired of focusing on one thing and it’s been interesting to notice just how often that really is.

That said, I think this is a powerful and important challenge for me and I have every intention of sticking it out until the end of February.

Web reading challenge: morning one

Mornings are when I expect to have my most difficulty with this web reading challenge I’m doing. I tend to spend a lot of time in the mornings settling into the day reading this stuff.

I didn’t have any trouble at all this morning. Haven’t even been tempted. Stopping myself from clicking certain things by habit wasn’t even a problem, because last night I deleted all my bookmarks and history from my devices for the particular infotainment sources I want to avoid.

Not clicking the trending tab in my Fire tablet was a little more difficult, but I gave it the side-eye and moved on. I’m pretty happy with myself at the moment.

I haven’t cut out all web reading, by the way. Just stuff that I associate with addictive patterns.

For example, the Dean Wesley Smith blog. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen DWS post more than once a day and the comments on his site are moderated and he seems to only let them through once a day too. No addictive behavior rewards there, so I’m not worried about taking a peek at the site while I eat my breakfast, which I did. In other words, once I’ve visited, there’s no point going back!

Am I worried about slipping into a habit of visiting twenty blogs that are only infrequently updated and basically recreating the thing I’m avoiding?

No, because I’m just not going to do that. I’m not trading one web reading addiction for another. Full stop, not going to happen.

I feel really good about this challenge. I think it’s going to do me a world of good. :)

A challenge to end the endless clicking and refreshing

I’ve made a rash decision I’ll probably hate tomorrow, but I’ve decided to give up infotainment for a while—indefinitely would be better. I’ll accept the rest of this month and February as a compromise.

To say I spend too much time clicking and refreshing is minimizing the amount of clicking and refreshing of web pages that I do. Most of that content falls squarely into the infotainment category of content, stuff that I can pretend is important but that’s really just something to read to pass the time.

I go to forums and refresh to see if new threads have started or new replies have appeared. By the time I finish reading through the new ones, I get to go back and start all over because there’s always somebody that’s replied to the previous replies or started another new thread.

I go to blogs and refresh to see if new posts have been posted or new comments have been made. Oh, those comments. So many comments.

I hit trending on my Fire to see the news items of the day because I’m addicted to the easy click. Then NPR.org. They got rid of comments. I used to read those too, even though I cringed every time I did it.

I have easily spent hours on this. I mean, seriously, hours. I use the Mind the Time add-on for Firefox, so I know. In the last seven days, I’ve spent 5 hours and 56 minutes at one particular forum and one particular blog (Kboards and The Passive Voice). That’s only part of the story, a small part, in fact, because I do the vast majority of my infotainment reading on one of several tablets and my phone and I have no records of that time spent/squandered. :o

In December, I spent over 24 hours on these two particular sites on the computer alone, and January isn’t over and it isn’t any better.

It’s disheartening to see it itemized like this.

For Kboards in particular, clicking refresh is addictive. I can’t claim to learn much there because I mostly do my own thing and it doesn’t fit with the advice most frequently put forth there.

For The Passive Voice, I mostly like it because there are interesting discussions. Sometimes. Sometimes things get a bit ridiculous, but hey, it’s the internet, and that’s probably why the comments are so entertaining.

Anyway, all good reasons why I need a break from the infotainment that has me hooked. I don’t like being addicted to things. (Caffeine, remember? Still quit this time, by the way.)

Finally, I don’t like the fact that I’m not living up to my potential. Even at my slowest pace (when I’m actually writing, and you know, not this read through stuff I’m doing now) I can write a thousand words a day in a mere four hours.

If I’d spent those 24 hours in December writing at that slowest pace, I would have written an extra 6,000 words. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering that my December word count was only 10,659 words and that it’s unlikely I’d be stuck at my slowest pace for all those hours, I could have doubled my word count.

I don’t even want to think about how many words it could have been if I were to count the time I’ve spent on all my daily sources of infotainment.

I shudder to think of it.

That’s the part I really don’t like facing. All this clicking and refreshing has been nothing more than a form of self-justified procrastination in the name of learning, keeping up with industry news, and distracting myself with news I don’t even care about, and I’ve let it go on too long.

What’ll I do with all the time I get back? Write more fiction, I hope. Read more fiction, if the writing more doesn’t work out. Either way, I’ll be doing something truly worthwhile.

And maybe clearing out some of the clutter in my brain will help in other ways too. We’ll see.

Quitting caffeine update

I drank one cup of tea this morning at about 10 a.m. because of a headache, but that’s been the extent of today’s caffeine consumption.

The weaning is working out well. I’m feeling much better than I would have been feeling (lots of experience with this) if I’d just quit it altogether. :)

Now, if only I could get my writing off the ground today! My story is not cooperating with me. I spent I don’t know how much time on breaks during one 36 minute writing session—and the countdown timer still only made it down to 24 minutes! I did get some chores done, though, so there’s that. :D

Today starts a two week experiment with a new schedule

Here’s the writing schedule I’m going to follow for the next two weeks.


Why have I changed my schedule yet again?

The other schedule wasn’t working for me. At all. I didn’t write one single time during my scheduled writing time. Right now, in particular, I’m having trouble with getting started, and the large blocks of time weren’t helping that. Even two hours felt like too much of a commitment when there wasn’t a lot of time empty between the sessions.

So I created this new schedule with one thing in mind: making sure I don’t feel like I have a job.

That’s important. I don’t ever want writing to feel like a job.

  • I split the time blocks up so that I have huge breaks between writing sessions.
  • I made the sessions as short as I could while making them long enough that I can still get into flow during them.
  • I gave myself 3 of them so my total writing time each day fits into my long-term goals. 3 × 1.5 = 4.5 hours.
  • I started the first one later in the morning so I can sleep late if I have a bad night of sleep.
  • I’m not going to move the scheduled times if something comes up to preempt the time. I’ll just assume that I’ll miss one or two of these a month and live with that knowledge. (I won’t schedule anything during these times unless there’s no other choice.)
  • I’m not going to skip a session and claim that as a preempted time. I’ll just start writing as soon as I can near the time I was supposed to start and write for 1.5 hours. There’s enough time between sessions that this shouldn’t be a big deal.

I’m feeling hopeful this morning that this is the right thing to do.

Now, I’m off to get that first session done. I’ll post later today with the results for the first day of this experiment.

Here’s an update on a few other ongoing experiments

The no sweets experiment has been working really well (I’m down 4 pounds in two weeks), and I’ve decided to extend it indefinitely. The only exception is that I will allow myself sweets if I go to a birthday party, which is rarely more often than once a month, and usually less often. I’ll also allow myself sweets at my family’s annual Christmas party, but that’s it. These exceptions are clearly defined so they shouldn’t put any decision-making stress on me. That’s something I’ve liked about this experiment: no decisions. If it’s a sweet, the answer to “Can I?” is simple: “No.”

No caffeine: I haven’t had any coffee and I haven’t had any other caffeinated drinks either.

No Kboards or TPV: I haven’t been back to Kboards or TPV since I started that experiment. The fear of missing out is what was keeping me clicking on links. I’ve read a few author blogs I’d begun to ignore and checked out a podcast or two, but I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything, other than the entertainment factor I get from reading the posts themselves. This experiment has been good for me.

Experiments update

In my post about how moderation doesn’t work for me, I laid out a plan for an experiment with abstinence and a strict adherence to my schedule.

It’s been a few days. And yeah. Some of it’s working out pretty well. Some of it isn’t.

Here are the details.

The no sweets experiment is going well, if you ignore the fact that I’m having a ridiculous number of cravings. Weight is down about four pounds and I’m eating anything I want except sweets and obvious junk like potato chips (which I don’t eat often anyway). I am definitely not going hungry.

The schedule experiment still hasn’t taken off, and today doesn’t seem poised to change that. Still, I’m going to get some writing done, because I want to and that’s going to be enough to get me to the computer at 2. (I’ve already missed the window for the 8-11 block, as it’s 12:57 PM right now.)

I haven’t relapsed with the coffee, despite several strong cravings.

I haven’t been back to Kboards or TPV.

Fuzzy feeling but no headache—yet

I’ve kept to my plan to take ibuprofen today in advance of the headache I’m worried about, and so far, it’s paid off. I had a really fuzzy feeling just before, during, and after lunch, but I tried to nap at 12:30, but I never drifted off, got back to work, stared at the screen for a while, then gave up to try again on the nap. This time I think I drifted off for a few moments, and I do feel better than I did.

Progress today? I’ve written 107 words. I have no motivation to write at all. I just don’t want to do it. Boo. :(

End of day update (a day later)

I finished with 424 words about half each between two stories.

Other than 1 teaspoon or so of honey with some yogurt, I successfully stayed away from added sugar. I’ll be honest, there were several times yesterday that I just knew I’d write better if I just had a single cup of hot chocolate. It was quite hard to talk myself out of it.

It was eggs, fruit, homemade chili, chicken and vegetables yesterday, all cooked the way I liked.

Of course, I dreamed of sweets last night. Sweets and death, oddly enough. I was at the home of a beloved aunt and apparently someone had just murdered her children and we were all eating. I was wondering if anyone would notice that I wanted a piece of every kind of pie present. Then the dream morphed and I was eating chocolate covered cherries. There were other weird bits to the dreams but those are the bits that stood out most. The pies played a prominent role.

Obviously this sweets abstinence thing is weighing heavy on my mind. I’m pretty convinced at this point that the sweets are an addiction I need to leave behind. I’ll be blunt: I’ve never been successful with anything that depended on moderation. Abstinence is probably the only way I’ll ever be successful at this.

I have the same issue with reading forums and blogs. The moment I allow myself any leeway there at all, I’m using them for a distraction when I should be working. It always seems to be all or nothing with me. :o

So… I’ve just decided I’m going to kick that habit too. No more Writers’ Cafe at Kboards and no more The Passive Voice. The reason these two are so much a problem for me is because they have new posts at irregular intervals all day long and very active communities who post replies and comments. It’s easy to find myself checking to see if anything’s changed throughout the day. There’s a reward for constant checking. I do worry a bit about falling behind on industry news, but to tell the truth, podcasts and author blogs will probably keep me plenty up to date with nary a visit to Kboards or TPV.

July 11: follow up & the decision to go all in

I’m really disappointed in myself right now. A couple of things happened that stopped me from returning to my work at 1 pm today, one of those being a  headache. That’s a legitimate issue, but in all truth, I should have worked through it. I needed to work through it.

I know what was to blame for the headache. Four days ago I drank a cup of coffee. The next day and the day after I drank another. Yesterday, I continued the pattern.

Today I didn’t. And I got a headache.

Just to prove the point to myself, I finally gave in and drank a cup of coffee at about 5 pm. Yep, a half hour later the headache started to get better.

It’s gone now. But my day ended up completely off-kilter and I just never recovered. Also, I started to obsess over the fact that I’ve been regaining some weight I lost last year. I can’t write, I’m having trouble controlling my eating, my time, my attention—it all seems to point quite clearly to me toward the fact that something’s got to change.

Moderation isn’t working for me, in anything.

Tomorrow I begin a new plan. I’m going all in, moderation be damned.

I will follow the schedule, even if I’m just staring at the damn laptop screen and doing nothing.

Meals will be meat, vegetables, and fruit, and nothing else for two weeks. I eat a varied diet—but I eat too much!—and I eat way too many sweets. I am completely addicted. I don’t say this to make light of addiction. Alcoholism runs rampant on one side of my family tree. Obesity runs rampant on the other. I think it’s pretty obvious addiction issues plague both.

There’s a reason I’m very, very careful about how much and when I drink anything alcoholic. I’ve never been drunk. Ever. And I never plan to be.

It’s time I started treating certain foods as if they were alcoholic beverages. Frankly, I think my body already does. I’ll just make it a conscious choice now to do the same mentally.

(Just a quick note: I’m not banning grains, but honestly, I generally only like them when they’re part of cakes, desserts, or smothered with sugar so what’s the point of trying to fit them in? Toast? Only if there’s sugar and cinnamon on it. Rolls? Only if I add honey to the butter. Oatmeal? Only with sugar and maple syrup. Rice? I add sugar!!! Usually a tablespoon per cooked cup or I can’t eat it. I can’t stand cornbread. I don’t even like wheat bread that much.)

So that’s it. Tomorrow I’m taking control of a few areas of my life that feel completely and totally out of my control.

Wish me luck getting over this hump.