Resisting the Infinity Machine

iPhoneI feel the pull as soon as I pick it up. Normally I don’t have the strength to resist but today I will. Today is when I start the transformation of me.

Yesterday Tanya really got on my case about how I’m not the person I used to be, that I no longer pay attention to what I’m doing, that my mind just wants to get back to the Internet as soon as possible.

It’s true, and I don’t like the person I’ve become. Since I stopped working I’ve changed for the worse. I used to take pride in accomplishing a lot: working, cycling, hiking, cleaning my house, taking care of the yard, volunteering, writing, cooking, having dinner parties.

Now I do few of these things, instead filling too much my time with reading articles on the Internet. I berate myself for this but it’s so easy and there are so many fascinating things to read. Okay, I exaggerate a bit – I’m still motivated to get out and do long hikes and ride my bike up steep hills, but the rest of the time my mind wants to be occupied and I’ve been taking the easy way out.

Which brings me back to my phone. Every morning I pick it up and read emails and a few articles while I’m drinking my coffee. As soon as I’m looking at the phone my other plans – meditating, writing, pushups – fade away into the infinite distance, and I become filled with self loathing.

cadbury-milk-chocolateMy infinity machine sits there on the table in front of me. I dislike it and want it out of my sight. It’s like chocolate – impossible to resist, so better to not have it around. But I use Repeat Timer to time my meditation so haven’t been able to banish the infinity machine, although as Tanya pointed out, I can use the timer on my watch instead. Tanya is great, she wants me to get out and ride or hike, to get involved with cooking, to meditate, to write, to do an online course.

I read (on the Internet of course 🙂 ) that scheduling one’s time is a good way to overcome procrastination and get things done, but have always procrastinated over starting such a program. Tanya wants me to start scheduling my time; in particular to set up a specific time slot for getting on the Internet (mail, Facebook, reading news and articles), then schedule time for writing, blogging, learning, and all the other things I want to do but don’t do because the alternative is easier.

My infinity machine has been stronger than me but I think with Tanya’s help I can vanquish it and return to being a person I like.


Do any of you face the same problem? What have you done to solve or alleviate it?

Links and Other Clicks

Article about Ditching the Infinity Machine. And a report from five months later.

How scheduling time is a good way to get things done


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8 Responses to Resisting the Infinity Machine

  1. Marcus Needham says:

    Are you a “moderator” or an “abstainer” when it comes to this sort of habit formation? I am definitely an abstainer: for your chocolate analogy I would definitely have to keep chocolate out of my house, while I know moderators who are perfectly capable of just having a bit now and then. But that’s an easy problem for me, because it can handled through abstention. You cannot (and do not want to) give up the Internet completely, and if I set myself the same goal I would struggle to set and maintain a “moderate” usage goal.

    As we’ve discussed before, I had/have a comparable issue with staying focused in the face of distraction–so I wonder if there is a Rescuetime-like service that might force your phone into airplane-mode for all but some small windows of the day?


    • Alec Sharp says:

      Hi Marcus, I’m an abstainer. Unfortunately Tanya is a moderator, so we have chocolate in the house, which makes life difficult for me. She eats two pieces, I eat two bars. I can’t give up the Internet completely, but will schedule “Internet recreation time” – i.e. time when I look at FB or read articles. To research things, check the weather, look at maps is fine. To write blog posts or write about hikes or rides I will also schedule time. At least this is the plan!


      • Marcus Needham says:

        Do you use a “read later” service? Although it does not necessarily cut down on my www reading time, when I see or am sent an interesting article I send it for reading later on my iPad, rather letting it distract me now. I used to use “Send to Kindle” though I am trying Pocket. Then I can batch up my reading and do it in the more comfortable setting of “iPad with feet up”, plus I probably delete unread some articles that I later realize weren’t worth the time.


  2. Mark says:

    Our son and his new wife use TV much the same way. I see it yet, i dont always see it in myself. Cat is awesome. She organizes each day and goes out and accomplishes everything and more. I use the internet and the newspaper like our son uses the TV. There is no difference. I think we may cut out cable or Dish TV in the future because it will free us to do other things with that time. The internet is now the communication link to almost everything, including our grand children, our investments, our social calendar, and our music and most everything we want to relate to. Hard to cut it out, but the idea of managing our time better is an old one, that has never lost its relavance. Time for me to stop taking the easy way (immediate and constant access) and shake up my routine and excercise some moderation and control. I too, seek to live a more fulfilling life and engage my mind in many other ways. Retirement. Its too easy to rest on our I Pads !


  3. Bernard says:

    Sounds like your smartphone is starting to outsmart you. Trade it in for a dumb phone, call a friend when you need immediate assistance. Connect your modem power to a timer/clock which gives you set times a day with internet access. And voila, you have your life back.


  4. Nancy says:

    I too have noticed the creeping addiction Alec, I really love the internet and notice that I spend more and more time reading and am acting in ways toward it that have an addictive quality. The feeling of self-loathing (!) comes for me when I am supposed to be working but I’m not doing it. I won’t let myself get up to do something else (because I’m supposed to be working dammit!), and so I sit surfing the net. That causes me to suffer. Anyway, maybe it’s particularly hard because I am working at home. If I don’t have an immediate pressureful deadline I have trouble focusing on work. Structure can be helpful, but there are also limits to will power. They key might be in reconnecting to things that we are really passionate about. I think boredom also feeds my internet addiction. I don’t worry about it when I am away or doing something I want to be doing. So. Please keep us posted and thanks for writing, I have been thinking about this and watching my own behavior over the past year and wondering about it.


  5. Pingback: No Facebook for a Month | Contributing to the Problem

  6. Bruce T says:

    Very interesting delima. It sounds like a retirement problem, that someday I hope to have for myself. The trick would be to maintain such a busy lifestyle and schedule that spending too much time on the internet (or watching TV, or eating forbidden foods) becomes a luxury, and something to look forward to, as opposed to a guilt-trip. I was actually looking forward to finding the time to sit at my computer and respond to your posting.

    Maybe you just need to quit feeling guilty, and enjoy the the things that you actually look forward to doing.


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