#1 tries to be more productive Day One: Internet Addiction

I was crazy productive the year after I had a baby.  I think part of the reason for that productivity was that I had enforced break-times  for pumping that were probably about ideal for optimal research productivity (~20 min every 3 hours).  When I wasn’t taking a break, I was super focused because time was precious, and I knew I’d be able to take a break for whatever I felt like doing.  This past year, DC long-since weaned, I’ve gotten pretty bad at separating my work time from my internet play time.  So I decided to reboot.  For the sake of productivity!  Viva la productivity!

Day 1 was a bit shaky.  Here’s my frantically written notes from that day.

I am mostly successful at keeping my internet time to while I’m eating my cereal.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  Bonus:  I make DC’s lunch instead of DH.  When K starts we will start making it the night before, but for today, I feel like a good and virtuous partner.

I get to work early enough to beat the traffic around the high school.

I installed leech block and blocked this blog and cnn, hours from 9-12, 1-3, and 3:15-4:40.

This leads to increased clicking on Not of General Interest and Bardiac and other sites with awesome blogrolls.  I tell firefox to forget these pages so they are harder to automatically click on.

I notice myself checking my bank account.  Hey, a reimbursement, that’s cool.  Of course, I can’t enter it into the checkbook register from work, so there wasn’t much point in that.

Argh, I want to write a blog post.  Instead I will jot down my thoughts on paper.

I muse on how when I’m doing mechanical tasks that don’t take any thought I need to have some kind of entertainment in the background or I stop doing the tasks.  For tasks that require thinking though, I prefer silence or familiar music.  I listen to Morning Edition online and Performance Today.

Hm, 3 hours without the blog and nobody has commented.  Also nobody has written anything interesting.  Why does nothing interesting ever happen on the internet when I’m away from it?  You’d think I’d have figured this out by now.

So the above is what I typed in during my lunch break.  The following are my scattered notes, sans context, from the remainder of the afternoon:

“Reclaim 2 hours on weekend. ”  What did this mean?  I don’t know!  Maybe it’s about me trying to start working on research on weekends again, which I have.  Except it’s more like 3-4 hours.  (Sometimes more when there’s a deadline!  I hate working on deadlines though.  :( )

“goofing off and getting distracted”  Probably a note about what I was doing.

“problem– work isn’t unpleasant, just not as pleasant as short-term alternatives”  Man, that sure is true.  It’s not that I don’t like work… I’d just rather you know, be watching cat videos on youtube or something.

“I want to make excuses for myself”  It’s true… I keep wanting to come up with valid reasons for me to waste time online.  But the truth is there’s always *something* I could be working on, even if what I planned to work on can’t be worked on for whatever reason.  There’s always a referee report or reading or writing or *something*.

“Lit review nice or mean?”  I have NO idea what this note was.  Following it is something that suggests it might have been a research note to myself.  Oh, I remember what this thought was.  A really good paper I was reading didn’t place as highly as it ought to have, and I thought perhaps it was because the author slammed all the previous literature in kind of a nasty way.  Not something to do to potential reviewers!  One can be polite and professional and build on previous (imperfect) research without being a jerk about it.  Previous research is what makes a field exist!

How do you keep yourself on task at work?  Do you have planned and enforced break-times?

11 Responses to “#1 tries to be more productive Day One: Internet Addiction”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I have to be physically away from my computer or have it turned off completely.

    Home office days are less productive than I want them to be, mainly because those are the days I have to do those not so easy or fun tasks like prospecting and I gravitate more to the reactive incoming stuff. I make excuses for myself too. On the weekends it’s easier because I’m out and about. When I’m on the road it’s also easier because I have car time where I can do things like follow up with people and make long overdue doctor’s appointments.

    When things get really rough, I try to do something quasi productive like organizing my desk and many times that leads to other productive things. I’m learning to cut myself a little slack though because I realize that not having a break just leads my slump to lasting longer. It’s better to have an hour break and have 7hours of productive time, than no break and 8 hours of mediocre performance.

  2. julier Says:

    At least part of my internet problem is that I’m an academic nomad with two small kids, and I haven’t really had time to find/make new friends in Postdoc Town. I also work in lab where people don’t really interact with each other that much either in the lab or outside it. That means my only real social outlet is online. Facebook, blogs, etc. are they only means I currently have for interacting with friends, family, etc. Of course, this doesn’t really satisfy my need to be social, but I haven’t quite figured out an alternative.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I understand. Though people in the real world can be so time-consuming. With the internet you can put them on your schedule. It’s more efficient that way.

      Not to mention, when someone goes batshit crazy on the internet you can just delete them and block them. IRL it’s harder to get away.

  3. Cloud Says:

    I’ll bet you know my answer, from my earlier post about working through a slump: lists! If I’m having a hard time focusing, my lists get more fine-grained and they proliferate.

    I guess the real answer is that I have pretty good self-control, and I work in an environment in which there are fairly immediate adverse effects to not being sufficiently productive. So I know that if I goof on on the internet during work hours, I’ll just have to do more work during my usual home hours- and I hate that. Always have. The combination of these things makes it fairly easy for me to stick to my personal rules about internet use (most days): I can surf briefly when I first get in, while I drink my tea, catch up on emails, etc. This surfing is mostly my work-related blogs and news sites, but I do sometimes also take a peak at my non-work blogs. I can surf random sites like this one for about 15-20 minutes at lunch, if I’m not too busy. And I can take short (1-2 min) “read something random” breaks as a “brain cleanser” between tasks, particularly intense tasks.

    Of course I have bad, unproductive days, too, and on those days I do waste a lot of time online. I think that is just human nature. They are few and far between for me, so I don’t worry about it too much.

    I think that if I worked in academia, the hard thing for me would be that the negative effects of not being sufficiently productive are less immediate. If I’m not getting stuff done, I’ll get called out in a meeting within a month, at the most. Am I correct in guessing that the first time it really becomes a public issue for you is in tenure review or when you go to write a grant and don’t have enough past work to show? That would require me to come up with my own short term goals- and I’d have to post them, with target due dates, to try to keep myself honest.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We at Grumpy Rumblings agree with your love of lists!

      One of the problems with academia is that you always feel like you should be taking your work home. Even if you’re productive at the office. So why work so hard at the office if you’re just going to be working hard anyway. I try to get away from that with the scheduling and the leechblock.

      I also have a to-do list on my door. This semester it’s pretty pathetic. I’ve crossed off a referee report and nothing more. :(

      Well… grants are so random, even if you do have a ton of work to show you may still not get the grant. (Even if you’re CPP!) You just need to try multiple times. And there’s definitely shaming before tenure. As well as formal reviews, either annual or at the third year. And a lot of people sign up for conferences just to get the deadline. I like to have work ready before I sign up though. I don’t like deadlines. I like Boicing.

      I’m actually pretty awesome in terms of output, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try harder and still grow and contribute more. But I can’t do that if I’m spending too much time focusing on becoming famous on the internet, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t as important for my long-term goals. I want to be more productive– I think the real me is more productive, in Virginia Valian’s words. So I want to help her get there.

      • Cloud Says:

        “One of the problems with academia is that you always feel like you should be taking your work home.”

        This is why I would probably not succeed in academia. Because I pretty much never feel like I should be taking my work home! But on the flip side, I am pretty good at keeping other stuff out of the office….

        Actually, I think that if I had absolute flexibility in schedule, I would work out some sort of loose regular schedule for myself, and then just keep a timetracking log to make sure I worked the number of hours I wanted to work. But that is completely hypothetical, because although I do have fairly flexible hours for the corporate world, they aren’t THAT flexible.

  4. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    I’m terrible at staying on task at work- we have a lot of ‘talkers’ in our cubicles. I find that if I have my headphones on (listening to music or not) then I am able to continue to work even when people stop by because I can pretend I can’t hear them and eventually they go away. :-)

    Also, at work I’ve combined my breaks and lunch in order to have a longer lunch so I can go work out. I have found that working out over that period actually helps me stay more focused in the afternoons and more present at work.

  5. ABDMama Says:

    This totally ties into my post today. I tried the egg timer approach today and it worked. I set it for an hour and did not allow myself to do anything but write for that hour.

    I’m afraid of what my productivity log would look like on a day when I don’t do that. I had leechblock installed for awhile, but found it buggy at the time and it slowed my load time even during the off periods. Is it better now?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We haven’t had any problems with leechblock.

      Sometimes I use the CD or performance today method– I like it better than a timer because I don’t keep looking at the clock. When the music stops I can stop.

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