nosurf2

Created: 2022-05-27

Uh, yeah, so a little update on my previous RSS Club post titled "nosurf".

That 28 day challenge? I failed it completely about halfway through. Sad.

Then about two months after that, I gained a "nosurf buddy" via email (thanks to the post) and we’ve been going back and forth daily with our progress.

And good thing, too, because it just so happened that the Surf Situation got Real Bad for me. Like, facing all of my demons in a final showdown where all my worse fears came true.

But that daily email of examination and accountability with my new nosurf buddy didn’t just serve to document my failures (though it certainly did that). It also helped me systematically chip away at the problem and keep experimenting. And you know what? It eventually paid off.

My solution

The solution for me is this:

  • Force myself to focus for 25 minutes at a time using the Pomodoro Method (wikipedia.org)

  • Have a goal of performing some set quantity N "poms" per day

  • Keep a constant running written log with tasks and poms

That’s it.

Why does it work?

The poms help with the pain and avoidance part. I just tell myself, "It doesn’t matter what I finish, I just have to try for 25 minutes. I can stand to do that. And if I keep doing that, eventually I’ll finish this." This thinking eventually defeated the analysis paralysis, fear, uncertainty, and doubt that builds up around hard tasks. And after just a couple days, I could feel my mental resistance start to come down as I started to believe what I was telling myself. (Also, I believed it because it was demonstrably true.)

The daily pom goal is super important because it puts the emphasis on putting in the time, not performing brilliantly.

The written task log is helpful because it takes away the "what do I do next?" part. Oh, and here’s the key with the task list: if you hit one that you don’t know how to start, then the task was shit. It was too vague. Figure out something you can actually act upon and write that instead. And if you don’t know that, then figuring that out is the task! I bet you can figure out the task in a pom or two. Probably way less.

Bonus: I’ve also noticed that being super strict about the 25 min pom has an additional benefit. Normally I would take a break after finishing a task. Now I take a break after finishing a pom. The difference is that when I come back from a break, I’m always in the middle of something. Which makes it super easy to start back on the task again right where I left off. And yes, it’s hard to stop sometimes. And also hard to start the next task when I’ve just finished one and want to reward myself with a break but there’s still 10 minutes left on the timer. But you know what? It’s also easier to start the next task when I know I only have to do it for 10 minutes. Counterintuitive at first, but very effective.

So

It turns out I don’t have a Web Surfing Problem per se. I pretty much nailed it in the first "nosurf" post: what I really have is an avoidance problem. Faced with unpleasant feelings of being overwhelmed, I seek relief.

What the Web does provide is a really, really effective escape that is just a click away, always there, full of dopamine, and has absolutely no end.

Once I’m finally rolling into a second pom or so on a project, the unpleasant feelings fade away and I don’t even need the escape.

Being caught up or even ahead feels so good.

Oh, and my nosurf buddy is amazing. See if you can get yourself one of those. :-)