Assisted Self-Discipline

This post was on time, except that the final spellcheck was about 5 seconds too late and the internet turned off.

If you’re anything like me, whenever you sit down to work, you are siren-called by that great and terrible beauty: the Internet.

If this has never happened to you, you are blessed. Not only do you have what must be the coolest job/hobby on the planet, you must also be a cyborg.

If you’re not a cyborg and your job is less interesting than the latest meme, then we are in the same boat. (Though I have been called a cyborg, it’s usually not in the context of avoiding the internet).

In order to avoid checking Facebook/Twitter/e-mail/name-your-poison, you need one thing:


Self-control, though, is hard to come by. It depends heavily on willpower, which is finite. You only have a set amount that you can expend.

It’s really quite simple. If you’re on a diet and someone offers you a cookie, it may be easy to refuse the first time. But if they offer it to you a hundred times, at some point you are going to take that cookie. (If not, see the second paragraph.)

It’s the same thing with the internet. That internet is beckoning. You may ignore that twinge in you that says, “Check Facebook” once. You may ignore it twice. Things get a bit fuzzy after the third time, and at some point you’re on Facebook and beating yourself up because you got sucked in. Again.

Enter SelfControl. This Mac osX application blocks your internet access to certain sites on your black-list (or the entire web, with the exception of sites on your white-list). There are alternatives for Windows users.

You open up the program, set a black-list or a white-list, set the amount of time you feel ready to do without the internet for… and then click Start. Input your password and the internet turns off. No matter what you do, you cannot access the internet until the timer runs out. Quitting the program or restarting your computer does nothing.

Side note: StayFocusd, a Google Chrome add-on, only allows you to visit certain websites for a certain amount of time each day. But I use Safari and I’m not eager to switch browsers. Besides, if I really wanted to procrastinate, I could just open up Safari after my Facebook time was done for the day.

I used SelfControl for the first two weeks of school. The only problem is that turning ON SelfControl requires self-control. However, thankfully, the website referenced someone who had programmed SelfControl to start automatically, at certain times of the day.

How it works:

Create an Automator script that sets the SelfControl timer and activates it by inputting your password for you.

Create a Calendar event that opens the script at a certain time of day.

Set the Calendar event to run every day for the rest of your life.

Do without internet.

There were a few hiccups, as I didn’t know that saving the Automator script would automatically create a Calendar event, forcing me to do without internet in the process of learning how to work this system. And I wasn’t aware of how the events worked, so one morning instead of being taken over by gremlins at 7:45, my computer worked normally. And one day, instead of the internet going off for two hours, it went off for three.

But those are minor problems. It’s working extraordinarily well so far.

What do you do to keep from checking out the shiny things on the internet?


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