Know Your Why

Recently I have been struggling with some of the things I’m trying to do. Mainly, to stop spending time online. It occurred to me this morning, that I never spend much time thinking about why I am trying to spend less time online and that it might be important to do so. Which is what I am doing here.

Why am I reducing the amount of time I spend online?

1. I want to have more time to do other things

We all have the same 24 hours in a day and if I spend 12 of them stuck in front of a computer, or with a phone in my face, then that takes away from time I could spend doing other things. It is time that I could be spending with my family; playing with my children or hanging out with my wife. It is time I could be writing, or reading books.

There are things in my life that I want to do more than browsing random articles on Wikipedia, or finding out what the latest tech news is.

I am not saying that everything online is a waste of time, but, in general, it is a value judgement that I am happy to make. I am better off reading a book, writing, or spending time with my family than almost anything that I could be doing on the internet.

2. It becomes a compulsion that I struggle to control

I am not very good at maintaining balance with things like this. I tend to swing from one extreme to the other. I get caught up in a cycle of constantly refreshing pages, wasting entire days. I have tried, but I can never seem to achieve a comfortable balance.

It’s not just bad stuff though. When I eat healthy, I eat super healthy, but as soon as I try to find a balance, it all falls apart. That is why I can’t do “cheat days”. I tend towards the more destructive behaviour pattern, but can usually hold myself in check if I don’t waver.

Which means I have a choice: I can either be all in on wasting time online, or I can be all out.

Why am I switching to analogue tools?

1. I believe they produce better results

After what I have said about the internet and wasting time, it should be clear that I am prone to distractions. When I say analogue tools, I don’t necessarily mean analogue. What I actually mean is tools that have one purpose, one task for which I can use them. So, pen and paper are analogue tools in both senses of the word. However, I would also count the Alphasmart Neo 2, which I use to write second drafts, as an analogue tool, because the only thing you can use it for is writing.

I am prone to distractions, so trying to write on a device that also has free access to the internet, is a recipe for disaster. Analogue tools are less distracting and that should mean that they produce better results. It stands to reason that what I write will be better if I am not distracted by other things.

Which is good, because analogue tools also tend to be slower. When I write on a computer I can get around 2,000 words an hour. With pen and paper I get about half that. When I write slower, I tend to produce better quality. However, in order to still produce the same quantity, I need to spend more time actually writing, which takes me back to 1. I want to have more time to do other things.

It is not only creative tools that are better. I consume better in an analogue format: I listen to full albums on CD, whereas I skip around endlessly when I have access to a streaming music service. I take in information in books better when I read them on paper, as opposed to on an eReader. I also get to enjoy cover art for both.

I have flip-flopped between analogue and digital for task management and am now back on analogue, using something like a Bullet Journal. I am considering switching back to DVDs rather than streaming. I am looking forward to having physical photographs rather than just looking at them on a screen.

There are other avenues where analogue could be an improvement. It is an area that I am still exploring, but based on current results, I believe that being analogue first is the way to go.

2. They are often cheaper

Now that all apps seem to be switching to a subscription model, it is cheaper for me to buy notebooks and pens rather than pay a monthly amount. This isn’t a criticism of app makers, they need to make money as well, but cost is a consideration for me and I would rather spend my money on a notebook and pen than a collection of pixels on a screen.

There is also the upgrade cycle, which shows no sign of slowing. I have lost count of the number of times I justified a new computer or phone because I needed it to run the latest version of an app. I don’t have to worry about that with pen and paper because that technology is as mature as it’s likely to get. Since I stepped away from the brink of becoming a fountain pen user, it is even cheaper.

Also, I can buy things second hand. CDs are a lot cheaper than Spotify when bought this way, with the added bonus that I could sell them on at a later date if I decide to.

I need to remember that there are reasons for me doing these things, that it isn’t just an arbitrary test of my willpower. Not only will it make the process easier, but it will also allow me to make future decisions that align with my philosophy.

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