A few years ago I visited the Dominican Republic, and its island-mate, Haiti. Dominican Republic is a relatively poor country, but Haiti is far poorer. In fact, it's the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
I met a nice family on the plane to DR and asked them if they'd give me a ride with them downtown. Sure, just help cover the gas. I happily agreed, but the amount they asked for gas was a few times more than it should have been. It was cheaper than a tax, so it was still okay, but it was just a little bit shifty. The security guard at the restaurant I went to every day was nice and friendly, but near the end of my trip he was just a little bit too aggressive about trying to get me to have my female friends in America email him. As I explored the old city, a guy told me that he was an official tour guide with the city and would show me around for absolutely nothing, just because it was his job. I knew it was a scam, but I'm willing to endure awkward situations, so when he very aggressively asked for money at the end, I told him that he should have asked in advance and gave him nothing.
I don't mention all that to imply that I was a victim of any sort-- just that that's the type of place Santo Domingo was. I had some good times there, too, but my experience was colored by this atmosphere of hustling and weaseling. After all that, I bought a bus ticket to Port au Prince. Being poorer, I figured that people would really be trying to get money from me there, but I should go visit anyway since I was so close.
My experience in Haiti couldn't have been more different. No one tried to overcharge me once. I had to argue with my Couchsurfing host to accept money for gas after she drove me around all day. She refused to accept money for the food that she cooked me every meal. I walked through the ghettos and was greeted by smiles, especially from the children.
Why such a big difference? I'm sure there are a lot of contributing factors that my short three week visit didn't reveal, but I think that the biggest factor is that Haitians don't have much temptation. In Santo Domingo there were visible signs of wealth from a small subset of the population, and advertisements everywhere for things to buy. In Haiti there was nothing like that, at least that I saw. It's not that they didn't know that nice cars and flat screens exist-- it was just that obtaining them wasn't an immediate enough prospect to cause craving.
A few days ago I installed Nanny for Chrome, which is like Leechblock for Firefox. You can specify which sites you are allowed or not allowed to visit during different periods of the day. Productivity has been really good recently, and I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.
At first I blocked Reddit, Hacker News, and Facebook. Then I thought about it for a minute, deleted those entries, and added another one to block every single web page. In the whitelist section I then added back only the ten or so sites I need to access to work on SETT. The rule goes into effect at 11am and stays until I go to sleep.
I did this because I thought about DR and Haiti. It's not a few specific sites that are the problem, it's that my brain will look for an escape if one exists. If my main distraction sites are blocked, I'll come up with something I absolutely need to buy on ebay or something I absolutely need to learn on Wikipedia. If every single site is blocked, though, I don't really even feel that desire. The prospect of distraction is completely eliminated, so I don't subconsciously turn to it.
This may sound like a subtle thing or something that wouldn't work for you, but I bet that it would. Give it a try. I've only been going for a few days, but I haven't been distracted once. I've had impulses, but as soon as I remember that I can't act on them, I get back to work. It takes no will power to stay focused, because it's not really even up to me. There's nothing else to do.
All of this awesome productivity has been channeled towards building a theming system for SETT. It will probably be a month or so before it's opened up to all SETT users, but I'm very psyched about it-- it's about 10x easier than making a theme for WordPress, almost as flexible, and more powerful in a couple key ways.
If you have a SETT blog and are experienced with making themes, contact me. I may give you early access to help test it out...
Also-- I know I'm way behind on emails. I've been really focusing on this theme thing, but will catch up within the next week.
Fifty bucks says you fail this within three months (don't want to bet more only to not significantly increase your motivation to keep this up). Public challenge, you have to take me up on it now!
Wrote a post specifically rebutting this and explaining why :p http://benyu.org/the-sweet-spot-blocking-sites-for-25-minutes
During lunch and sometimes dinner I use another browser to read hn or reddit or fb. Also if I need to order something I'll use the other browser to fire up amazon.
I'm willing to bet that I don't disable or circumvent the plugin during work time for distraction related stuff even once in 3 months.
Hmm. That's an important caveat and a tad more like my 25 min/day. Do you have a time limit on how long lunch/dinner can be? And a limit on what websites you can browse during lunch/dinner?
I'm probably still willing to take this bet, just because it'd be awesome to see you succeed at this. As long as lunch/dinner can't drag on indefinitely I'll set up in GCal to ping you in three months about getting my $50 :)
Yeah, it's probably similar to your 25/day except that it's all in one chunk. Also, three dinners per week I eat away from my computer and I try to either watch long videos or read long articles so that I can eat faster. I don't set a time limit on either meal, but I eat fast and when the food is gone it's over.
You're going down... thanks for the extra motivation...
Tynan, I'm a big WordPress fan. Tell me the benefits of SETT over WordPress please.
I'm a big WordPress fan, too, but in their push to become a universal web page building tool, I think they haven't innovated as much on the blogging side.
Compared to WordPress, SETT gets people more comments, more subscribers, and more views. The editor is much better, the commenting system is much better, and the sites it creates are significantly faster. Our search engine is also a big improvement, and voting and sorting help people find the content they're interested in faster.
You can read more at http://sett.com/bloggers
Is it better to automate the removal of temptation or to build a habit of consciously resisting temptation?
Great article! I recently downloaded "SelfControl". It's a great app for mac users.
Thanks for the good read Tynan. In much the same way it's said Cortez sunk his ships when he arrived in Mexico. His troops' only choice was to give it all in the battlefield.
Great read Tynan. I’ve recently had a dip in my productivity and I learnt what helped was Tim’s question from 4HWW: ‘am I busy or productive? (to paraphrase)’ I also remind myself of what’s important; articles on StumbleUpon (my vice) will still be there in the evening (when I’m my least productive but convince myself on a daily basis I won’t be) but the freedom I (currently) have, won't always.
How metaphorical. Quite interesting though. I don't know if I could get my brain to forget about all the things it likes to distract itself with ( reddit isn't a problem any more, due to my having burned that desire clean out of my mind, but Facebook, IM, email, ...this site, anything involving online social contact is a big pull ).But this definitely worked for me in terms of losing weight. I didn't allow myself to eat ANY bread products, or sweets. I ended up just eating far less, which was the intended effect. Psychology has more to do with productivity than people think
As you may have guessed from the title, I am no longer going to be doing Life Nomadic. I'm in the Dominican Republic now, and will leave as soon as I can find a decent ticket back to Austin. I might go to Haiti first, since I'm already over here, but I'm not sure yet.
There are a bunch of little reasons, but the biggest one is that I feel like it's time for me to settle down. Not completely, with a wife and kids and all that, but I'll at least be staying in one place for a few years. I miss having a house, a car, my own bed and furniture, and maybe most of all: a kitchen that I can keep stocked constantly.
People have been telling me for a while that I should develop some responsibility, and that's probably right. Doing whatever I want all the time is definitely fun, but at some point I have to ask where it will lead in the future. I love kids and know I'll have some eventually. If I keep traveling I may never be in a position to raise them properly.
For the new year I resolved to not buy any books or clothes. It's been about 100 days into this resolution and reflecting on the process is important for me to understand why I'm doing this and whether it's all worth it.
I see no reason why I won't be able to continue this throughout the spring and summer. My Kindle continues to get a lot of use thanks to Instapaper and IFTTT and our library has a wonderful lending policy. My only thought is that my wife will view some shortcoming in my wardrobe and will tempt me with new clothes.