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3 posts tagged with "procrastination"

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· 3 min read
Daniel Koprowski
Software Engineer & Tech Productivity Advocate

Around a month ago, I wrote about reducing mindless scrolling without external software. Two weeks ago I showed how to block the distracting content. Now let us discuss the options and flavours of content blocking.

I was experimenting with multiple scenarios of blocking, for example:

  • block access to the website completely,
  • give me X minutes per day to saturate with the content, then block,
  • turn the phone to grayscale, so it looks less appealing instead of blocking.

“X minutes per day to saturate with content” tactic

“X minutes per day to saturate” was a smart move to give some restrictions initially.

The drawback was that when some article or comments thread was exciting and my time was up, I ended up curious… Curious about what happened at the end of the story and how the discussion ended, or just interested in the topic. So I kept looking for information about it on other websites.

This might work well for novices afraid of blocking the content entirely.

Turn the entire screen into grayscale

Some say that the web is addictive because it is so colourful and appealing. I tried to make it less “nice” by cutting out the colours.

Grayscaled app icons also don’t look so appealing. Way less temptation to press them.

If you’re addicted to rich visual content like YouTube, TikTok or Instagram. I encourage you to try grayscale. It works on the whole phone, even outside the browser – on installed apps.

To try it, there is an option in the developer’s options menu. The mechanism is described well here on WIRED.

I tried removing colours only for “restricted websites” as well as turning my whole smartphone into grayscale (menu in icons, messages etc.).

The effect wasn’t so significant for me. I’m mostly looking for content to read, so grayscale is not as much of an obstacle.

Redirect to a newsletter

This is my favourite option. If I try to enter some website by habit, my brain feels bored and craves entertainment. So I trick my brain.

Instead of just seeing “block page”, I see the latest newsletters in my inbox.

It is much better because I only subscribe to things that inspire me positively.

There is no space in my newsletter inbox for world news, endless memes or low-quality content. So I feed my brain with something worthy.

Newsletters are usually longer pieces of text. Thanks to that, I have to focus longer than a few seconds on a single thing. So, it also fights “context switching” and calms me down.

To redirect you can use LeechBlock – a tool described in the “ how to block distracting content “ issue.

My current approach

It looks like blocking completely, plus a small buffer for links from friends, works best. Then I seek “entertainment” in newsletters.

However, I leave this buffer only on a desktop machine because it is less risky for me to stay on the website longer than needed.

· 3 min read
Daniel Koprowski
Software Engineer & Tech Productivity Advocate

Two weeks ago, I mentioned removing distractions on my smartphone and computer. Check issue#1: How to reduce mindless scrolling for the “why should I block anything”.

Here I present in practice how to block “too attractive” content.

what is content blocking?

Blocking means that when you try to enter your favourite time-wasting website you will see a limited amount of information or nothing at all.

You might also be redirected to another website if you want: e.g:

  • some inspiring quotes,
  • call to action websites like “drink water” or “do 10 push-ups now”
  • one of your projects stats that should inspire you,
  • or even your email newsletter inbox to feed yourself with valuable content.

LeechBlock on a desktop browser

Blocking on laptops/computers is the easiest thing. Just install the proper extension into your browser and setup correctly. I use LeechBlock NG extensions. It is open-source and IMO best in class extension for all major browsers.

Why best in class? Because the number of configurations in that extension is more than expected. Multiple corner cases are covered like filters: “turn website blurry/black-white/dimmed instead of blocking” etc.

set up blocking

In the screenshot below I marked important sections to pay attention to.

  1. “Domain names” are all the websites that should be restricted,
  2. time periods are when you want to block – usually I just select the “All day” button to always block,
  3. “10 minutes every 6 hours” option means that I give myself some time to enter those forbidden websites – e.g. when someone sends me a link and I desperately want to see it I have some buffer,
  4. important setting is: “Select when to block these sites “within time periods AND after the time limit”. Otherwise, it would apply OR and in the case where the “All day” is selected my time buffer wouldn’t work.

leechblock configuration

blocking on mobile devices

Locking on a desktop is easy. When it comes to mobile browsers it is much harder. There are lots of apps that can do it but for safety reasons, I don’t want to give any app permission to all network traffic on my mobile device. I was looking for a less intrusive solution.

LeechBlock on the Android Firefox browser

On Firefox for Android, there is a possibility now to install extensions. This is great because I just installed LeechBlock and configured it the same way as on the desktop.

blocking on iOS using built-in tools

Unfortunately, on iOS, there is no way to install such extensions as far as I know (let me know if it is). Here I used a built-in tool for content management.

  1. Launch Settings from the home screen,
  2. choose Screen Time,
  3. tap Content & Privacy Restrictions,
  4. toggle Content & Privacy Restrictions,
  5. select Content Restrictions,
  6. tap Web Content,
  7. choose Limit Adult Websites,
  8. now inside Always block you can specify websites that should always be blocked.

The same mechanism is present on devices running macOS like Macbooks, Macs and also on iPadOS. On macOS, I recommend instaling a browser extension though.

Here we don’t have any options regarding locking. Once you put the website on that list it is always blocked. The good part of that is that it is not only blocked in the browser but also in in-app popup windows.

what’s next

Next week I will show you my experiments with content-blocking strategies. Stay tuned!

· 3 min read
Daniel Koprowski
Software Engineer & Tech Productivity Advocate

Every week I lose multiple hours on scrolling memes, news and comment sections. It distracts me from the important stuff, makes my eyes sore and destroys my ability to focus.

What is more: the dopamine reward loop mechanism also affects my mood. Without these small excitement doses, I feel depressed.

This affects many developers as we tend to seek a break in our natural habitat – in front of a screen. As a software developer, I spend too much time in front of a screen anyway because of my work.

how to measure time lost on scrolling?

Do you think you lose less time on that? Check that on your phone right now.

On iOS find Screen Time in settings and see stats from last week. On Android find Digital Wellbeing inside settings (name can vary depending on the phone manufacturer).

That is why I decided to fight that behaviour and reduce this unnecessary screen time. Digital procrastination topics will appear in this newsletter from time to time. This is my long-time struggle.

Below I present two techniques to reduce scrolling that can be applied right away. Without installing any external software.

main devices where I scroll

I managed to almost eliminate lurking on a computer. Using browser extensions that block specific pages + logging out of services helped.

Eliminating smartphones is way harder.

It’s always there, it’s easy to unlock and tends to notify me about non-essential stuff.

avoid installing apps

Here is some radical step. Don’t freak out - later on, I will send workarounds.

uninstall some apps

Apps are well-designed and comfortable. They tend to send tons of notifications. Hence taping on some juicy, colourful icon on the home screen is very tempting.

When an app is uninstalled it is no longer there – I don’t see its vivid icon on every unlock. It doesn’t bother me for notification permissions.

But I want to see content from this app… I cannot uninstall it!

That is a fair point. Most “apps” are just online services with websites. If I really need to see what is happening on Facebook, 9gag or anything else I just enter its address into my mobile browser.

It requires an extra step. It requires effort. Mobile websites are usually designed worse than apps. GOOD – those drawbacks are beneficial for me. The brain is a lazy being. Thanks to that I have fewer opportunities to enter endless content.

what about apps that I cannot just uninstall?

There are apps without websites or apps that I really need because of some other features.

In such scenarios, I just disable notifications. On iOS it is even easier because notifications are disabled by default. If I want them I have to agree during the first app usage.

Unfortunately, on Android notifications are enabled by default. I have to remember to disable it in the options.

This helps a lot and it seems like all those URGENT things are not so urgent after all. Without a smartphone constantly screaming about some new post that was added here and there I have much fewer distractors.

what’s next?

These are simple suggestions that everyone can apply without installing additional software. The only thing that is needed is mental strength and a will to change habits.

If you are interested in that topic let me know – I can share more tips on that e.g. how to block content on mobile devices.

Daniel Koprowski avatar
Daniel Koprowski
Software Engineer & Tech Productivity Advocate
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