Two days into my trip to Tokyo, I sign on to Facebook and go to see if it's my move in Words With Friends. I like WWF because it takes up minimal time, seems to actually be good for the brain, and keeps me in touch with some friends I wouldn't otherwise regularly communicate with.
On the right, where Facebook streams the online actions of everyone I know, I see that my younger cousin has played Tetris Battle. Ooh. I like Tetris. Maybe I can play against my cousin and show him a thing or two. I click the icon, find out I can't play against him, but decide to play a round anyway.
Two days later and I'm a higher Tetris rank than anyone else on my facebook list and I actually bought five bucks worth of facebook credits so that I don't have to wait between games. Writing that now seems tantamount to admitting to shooting heroin. What's more pathetic than spending your day playing Tetris on Facebook when you have tons of work to do and are in a cool foreign country? Luckily I came to my senses pretty much immediately after depositing money. I told my friend Elliot that if I play another game, he must confiscate my computer and keep it. For good measure I block apps.facebook.com from my computer. I'll never play again.
It occured to me that I always commit these acts of self sabotage in order to keep myself on track, and I don't ever hear about other people doing it. Maybe I'm uniquely weak willed and need these sorts of things, or maybe it's a good idea that can help other people.
My localhosts file (a file on the computer that you can use to permanently ban yourself from sites) is full of time wasters. I have Leechblock installed on Firefox and use it to limit my time on sites that are somewhat useful but can easily suck up hours at a time. My allowance for Reddit and Hacker News combined is 5 minutes every six hours. It's always gratifying to go to check reddit, get blocked, and immediately go back to work.
On my phone, I put only constructive apps on my home screen. I have my weigh lifting log, Japanese kanji practice, Evernote, and a few other things. If I want to play Words With Friends or check Facebook or Twitter, I have to click the app tray and scroll to the bottom and find it. Not a huge barrier to playing, but that little bit of friction helps me not use those apps excessively.
Of course, this sort of constructive self sabotage happens away from the computer, too. When I'm playing poker, if I relax my discipline and play a hand I shouldn't have, I sometimes force myself to fold it on the flop even if the flop is good for me. This is a financially poor move, but that's the point-- when I know that I'll punish myself for "gambling", I don't gamble. I even do this when talking to girls. If I'm wimping out, I'll punish myself by forcing myself to get rejected in some way or another.
I could go on and list a million examples of productive self sabotage, but the principle is more important than the manifestation of it. Sometimes self discipline should be taken literally, and you should discipline yourself by putting barriers in between yourself and subpar activities, or by punishing yourself for engaging in subpar behaviour.
Posted from a bullet train! Photo was taken a few days ago at Fushimi-Inari near Kyoto. There are miles of trails lined with red Torii like the ones in the photo.
Almost done with Tokyo, unfortunately. It feels like I just got here, but I've been here for 5 weeks.