My sore index finger slides the arrow to “Shut
Down”. I click “Shut Down”. I lean back in my chair to take a deep breath, but then
there’s a pop up, “Do you want to save the changes you made to “Naughty or Nice
List #3.xlsb”? I lean forward to click “Save”, ruminating on whether I made the right decision.
The computer resumes shutdown. The screen goes black. I close my laptop and put it in
my bag. I feel triumphant! I drive home and at 10pm I’m walking through the door. I
throw my bag onto my chair and unconsciously do as I always do, reach into my bag to pull
out my computer. My sore index finger reaches forth to turn it on… I snap out of it and
stop myself! “Phew, that was a close one.” “Wow Anthony, so interesting!.” I then
listen to a podcast as I do my laundry and organize my room. I shower, brew tea, stretch,
meditate, journal, shut the lights off, and read my Kindle in bed until I feel sufficiently
tired to fall asleep. When I woke up this morning, I felt well-rested. “So crazy Anthony.
You should really consider making this into a thriller novel!”
Granted, this story isn’t particularly interesting, but I think the lesson here is profound. Can
you guess what it is? “Oh, so now this is a detective story?” The reason I shutdown
my computer before I came home was because I’m not good at moderation, especially in
the evening. I got in the habit of coming home and going on social media and surfing
YouTube. I get sucked into these things. I don’t think these things are inherently
bad, after all I have a YouTube channel I promote all over social media: LIKE, SUBSCRIBE,
AND SHARE! It’s just that I recognized one of my limitations as a human being; It takes too much effort for me to pull myself away from the screen. What would end up happening
is that I’d tell myself that I should start getting ready for bed at 12am, but then 12am would quickly become 12:15am, and then 12:45am would
become 1am. I’d end up skipping much of my evening routine in the interest of sleep,
and then the next day I wouldn’t start off with as much clarity. I find that tomorrow
begins tonight. I tried many ways to force myself into moderation such as by installing
the Chrome Browser Extension StayFocusd, which caps the time I can spend on certain websites.
I also scheduled my Mac to automatically start shutting down at 12am. These tactics worked
initially, but then I would end up opening up the incognito browser more and more justifying
to myself that it was for “research purposes”. I’d then cancel the shutdown popup notification so I could finish the thing I was doing first, until of course that thing would lead
into another thing and then another… “The computer is like electronic cocaine.” I also have a smart phone, but
I rarely use it at the chagrin of my Grandmother who asks, “Why don’t you call Grandma
more?” I also don’t allow myself to download games because I know I’d get addicted to
them and end up ruling all of Farmville with an iron fist! So in comparison to a lot of
my peers I actually live like a monk, but I choose to live this way because I’m cognizant
of my addictive traits, and it’s in recognizing them that I can keep myself in check. So when
it came to using my computer in the evening I realized I had to give myself a hard NO.
Specifically I said, “I will not use my computer after I come home in the evening
until I hit 1K YouTube Subscribers.” I then signed and dated it to feel more official.
I gave myself a goal “until I hit 1K subscribers” because it serves as an added bonus to inspire
me to work harder toward my goal, but more importantly, it makes upholding the vow more
believable because if I had simply said, “I will not use it in the evening” then it
would have just been a matter of time before I rationalized my way out of it. “Every
ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt
of dopamine, for answering the bell. These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge
the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the
table. Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.” I keep my vow in front of my desk so I’ll see it whenever I get the
inclination to break it. Putting down the digital needle… at least just for the evening…
has freed up my time to pick up a book and a pen, which in the end, makes for a happy
ending to my day.