I spend a lot of time online.

Almost all of it is wasted.

Reddit, social media, the news, etc. I can spend 10's of hours just dicking around doing nothing. It's incredibly unproductive, hurts my results at work and school and genuinely makes me unhappy.

How can I break this habit?

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I found that the main reasons I spent hours online are time wasters. This moments before sleep or waking up, eating, commercials, etc. And then this couple of time wasting minutes end up hours sometime. I understand.

My best solution was finding either more productive time wasters (like convincing myself to clean the house a bit), or time wasters that let you know how much time you’re wasting. I found that Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers full the void with silly and useless-fact articles like reddit would, but there isn’t an endless amount of click-bait titles to scroll through and catch your attention for more than a couple reads. You waste the perfect amount of time and aren’t stuck in a hole.

And if you do have more than enough time for just a couple articles, find a real hobby. Like a real book, movie, video game, or work of some kind.

  • Would “time fillers” be a better phrase than “time wasters”? Because cleaning the house a bit fills the time, but isn’t a waste. – owjburnham Nov 5 at 10:26

What helped me in the past in similar situations:

  • Split your time into manageable pieces. For example, 1 hour of work/study, then, like, 15 minutes or so of whatever "wasteful" activity. When it's your working/studying time, no other activity is allowed except working/studying. It's easier to force yourself to focus and concentrate on something during a short period of time rather than during the whole day.
  • Limit your daily working/studying time (to something like, say, 8 hours or so). This may sound counter-intuitive (how do I do more useful stuff if I decidedly spend less time doing useful stuff???), but it's actually similar to the previous point: it's easier to concentrate if you know you have to do it during some limited time. Whereas if you have "all the time in the world" to work or study, you don't even feel the need to focus and do your stuff right now: what's the hurry, you have all day! Rather think of it this way: you do your work, and nothing but work, during these 8 hours, then you have all the time in the world (what's left of it, anyway) for Reddit, social media, cats on youtube, porn on... not that I know where, I never watch porn, disregard that
  • When you finish your daily work, plan a small thing you do first on the next day. Deliberately leave something unfinished, if you need. As a rule, start your next day's activity with doing that small thing, before anything else, before Reddit, before youtube cats, etc.: it's small, easy to do and it gets you started with the work instead of with the social media. If your work or studies are at least somewhat interesting, this last point alone may solve the procrastination problem.

Find what you like doing offline. If you are spending that much time on the web there wouldn't be much to begin with, but think of something you've always wanted to do (learn to play an instrument, learn a foreign language, start parcticing a new sport, take up a new hobby, etc.). Than gradually start limiting your online time and substituting it with your chosen offline activities.

It is good that you realize it is a problem. I suggest you examine your life and your goals in life. If you have any goals, decide if what you are routinely doing is getting you any closer to them. If not, then you must prioritize your activities. While doing something to pursue your goals, you will pretty much automatically reduce your wasted time.

People often use the "life is short" argument to have fun, but to many it is better applied to doing good things while you can.

  1. Plan your day, in as much detail as you need to. When I know I have to finish 6 specific tasks in my work day, there's pressure to finish them before I'm 'allowed' to waste time.

  2. Try finding more productive uses for that wasted time. When your mind craves a distraction, go take a walk instead of firing up Reddit. The walk clears your mind and has a set length, when you come back you're ready to tackle the next task.

  3. I found I waste the most time on a few websites. So I installed a browser extension that keeps track of how much time I spend there, and blocks access after a preset time.

As said previously, plan your day, give yourself small breaks/rewards when you do some work, etc.

Try the Forest Chrome extension or app, or if you want something more aggressive, get blockers(https://getcoldturkey.com/).

Hope that helps

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