the solution isn’t better websites, it’s better humans

Evan DeFilippis, interested in everything

I think a lot of these answers miss the point of the question. The real issue isn’t that there is a paucity of useful webpages on the internet, it’s that taking advantage of those webpages is difficult. What does it say about human beings that we really can get an Ivy League education for free online but nearly nobody does it? The coursera attrition rates are so phenomenal that it makes the completion rates look like round-off errors. We live in an attention-deficit culture, and the solution isn’t better websites, it’s better humans.

In view of spending your time more effectively, I suggest the following tips.

Completely cut Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and any other social sites out of your life. If you are unable to do this, strictly regulate your time spent on the site to 30 minutes to an hour each day. You can download chrome extensions to help you with this, like: StayFocusd. I cannot emphasize enough how much these sites ruin your life. Everyone always comes to the defense of these sites with excuses like, “well, I keep in touch with my high school friends and relatives overseas” or “Twitter is how I keep up with the news”, or “there are really good specialized subreddits for learning neat things.”. Yet when you look at a distribution of how people actually allocate their time, nearly none of it is spent doing the very things that people point to when they need to justify their behavior. It’s always just mindless scrolling, cat videos, the first twenty seconds of a really neat lecture, and so on.

Practice Efficient Procrastination – If you need time to recharge in between difficult activities, find outlets in which you can still develop as a person. For me, that’s chess. I’ll play a couple games of Blitz in between projects to recharge, and at the same time, I’m not watching cat videos. For other people it might be practicing an instrument, or reading a book, or drawing.

To-Do Lists- There may be nothing more nightmarishly effective than a to-do list. Write down what you have to do, prioritize by difficulty, and be excruciatingly detailed in your list. Don’t get fancy, don’t use Evernote or some Chrome Extension, just use paper and pen. Don’t write, “Finish research paper on gun violence.” Write, “Write one page on the relationship between guns and suicides.” The smaller, more discrete the tasks, the more superable they become. Plan how you are going to efficiently procrastinate in between the tasks. Write, “play chess”, “watch a Noam Chomsky lecture”, “learn how to draw Dragons,” and so forth in between big tasks.

My brother told me that when you have your first kid, you will be amazed at how much time you can find to raise him, irrespective of how busy you are. When you don’t plan your time, you fail to take advantage of opportunities that arise, and you go for the path of least resistance– which happens to be AngryBirds and cats.

Who Cares? Next time you are about to post something to Facebook, or watch a funny video, or read a blog post, ask yourself: Who cares? If something isn’t helping you to become a better you, don’t waste your time. Today I read a 800 word article about Slavoj Zizek being a bad guy because he doesn’t like office hours and hates reading student’s papers. I was baited into reading the article by the title, and subsequently hated myself after reading it. The article just didn’t matter. Nothing productive could possibly come from reading or writing it. I have found myself knee-deep in an hour long compilation of Vines, and twenty minutes in, I have to do a reality check: This shit literally does not matter. The world would be a better place if all of it just went away. What possible value could there be spending all your time mindlessly consuming things 7 second videos? It doesn’t even make you happier or leave you feeling content or satisfied. So always be asking yourself– “who cares?” If what your doing right now doesn’t pass that test, just stop doing it.

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