Lately I’ve had trouble doing anything more than idly browsing the Internet during my non-work hours. Yes, they’re non-work hours, but I still like that time to be productive. I feel much better after work if I took those few hours and wrote some code than if I just sat around and browsed Reddit all evening. I’d imagine that the same holds true for most readers of this blog.
I’m not above using technological gimmicks to keep me from wasting time. While Freedom works great for writers and work situations when everything is on your computer, it’s not so great for developers who need to read documentation or integrate with other web services. Instead, I’ve been using browser extensions such as LeechBlock and StayFocusd to limit the amount of time I can waste during a day or evening on social sites. These tools allow you to configure a set of sites to block after a certain time limit. For example, I now give myself a combined 30 minutes per day between the hours of Midnight and 9:30pm to use most social sites and news sites. It’s done wonders for my productivity at home.
However, I did notice one interesting thing. The default in StayFocusd is to give 10 minutes a day total. This doesn’t work because I browse these sites over breakfast each day. Thus, I needed to update my time limit to 30 minutes. I was presented with the following series of dialogs:
Although these messages, which all occur as the result of increasing the allotted time on procrastination sites, seem trite, they kinda work. Even the kitten one. Sure, I know there is no kitten given electroshock therapy as a result of my actions, but it does allow me to consider my actions more. In fact, it got me to consider my actions much more than a simple one stage dialog box would have. If it would have been plain writing I don’t think it would have worked as well, but the guilt of the hypothetical chicken did it to me.
This got me thinking, what if other poor behaviors had similar warnings. A pack of Starburst, to which I am woefully addicted, could read “Warning: these will add extra pounds to your frame and mess up your running” or hitting the snooze on my phone could activate a voice that says “These last five minutes won’t make you feel any better. Use those five minutes to make a cup of coffee instead.”
Any other thoughts on interesting ways to motivate people using technology?