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Ideas for useful distractions to replace useless ones?

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Michaela D
Michaela D Jan 26, 2022
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What are some useful distractions that we could use instead of checking social, news, email etc?
(Inspired by positive vs negative habits session).
I was thinking apps for improving skills like math. It should be something quick and relatively easy (for example not too complex math operations) otherwise, it won't be strong enough to replace the other distractions.
Do you have any ideas/tips?
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Creative contributions

Useful YouTube videos playlists

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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković Jun 20, 2022
Have a Youtube watch list with only positive, useful videos provided by a service that curates the best content on the platform. Don't divert from it. No clicking the related videos, trust the playlist. Paying for it will make you stick with it more. I've made a standalone idea for this.
Alternatively, for you, ask some friends with whom you have a similar taste to share with you their favourites or likes playlists.
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Geography quizzes (or other fields)

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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković Aug 10, 2022
Be it maps, capitals, flags, or questions about the population of a specific country, or size comparisons, there are plenty of resources online that could do the trick. It's a great way of refurbishing your general world knowledge through trial and error.
The way to ensure it's going to be utilized is via alarms if you're doing it on desktops. Or with specific phone apps that hopefully have alarms themselves. Or just bookmark the sites/put them on the homepage. This site has other fields like history, math, medicine...
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Michaela D
Michaela D6 months ago
Good idea! And your link, PurposeGames.com, is pretty cool.
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Willpower depletion and interference with the ability to concentrate

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jan 26, 2022
We recede to social media addiction because we get bursts of feel-good chemicals (dopamine or serotonin) in quick succession. Almost nothing else can compete with the frequency of micro rewards we get while browsing. This is what makes social media addictive. This will make your brain seek out on autopilot apps like Instagram, Twitter, Fb, Youtube, or the champion of addictive apps Tik-Tok. You suddenly find yourself browsing without realizing how you got there.
The longer you go without browsing, the stronger the hunger. Willpower is a depletable resource. Eventually, you will run out and slip. Maybe something like this could help. Willpower alone isn't enough to fight addiction. A successful combination takes a good strategy alongside willpower.
Fighting your desires comes with some consequences:
Subjects required to resist the temptation of [watching] a humorous video made significantly larger mistakes on a subsequent counting task. This result is consistent with the standard resource depletion theoretical framework from social psychology, as discussed in the introduction. In particular, willpower depletion resulting from resisting the temptation to watch the video may have made concentration on a subsequent labor productivity task more difficult. Alternatively, watching the video may have promoted resource replenishment, enabling higher levels of concentration on the subsequent task.

[1]Snoek, Anke et al. “Strong-willed but not successful: The importance of strategies in recovery from addiction.” Addictive behaviors reports vol. 4 (2016): 102-107. doi:10.1016/j.abrep.2016.09.002

[2]Bucciol, Alessandro et al. “Temptation at work.” PloS one vol. 8,1 (2013): e53713. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053713

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Michaela D
Michaela Da year ago
Yes, your idea is very close to what I was thinking. As you said, willpower is a muscle that gets tired, and sometimes you just want to get distracted. That's why my point is not to resist distraction, but to make good use of it.
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The alternative distraction should provide enough dopamine to be interesting, but also lead to something productive

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Povilas S
Povilas S Jan 26, 2022
It's a balance between effort (using your own energy) and inspiration (riding on the wave of interest, or a rush of neurochemicals, if you will). Learning something in a form of a game is a good example - sudoku boosts your math skills. The time spent on it is also very important, the longer you spend on one activity the quicker it gets tiring, it's perhaps better to spend short periods doing three different activities and learn less of each than try to push one on the same app.
The latter probably depends on a person, but an example from experience: I used to exercise for half an hour once or twice per day, I usually got pissed after a few days in a row and didn't exercise at all for some days, then got back to it again. Now I exercise for 10 minutes once or twice daily and can do it every day. The latter option is arguably better, cause you do it constantly, even though shortly.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louwa year ago
Exactly, I like to think word games, puzzles or even quick chess matches are gamified enough to be sufficiently entertaining while still being beneficial as they challenge and therefore improve certain cognitive abilities.
In essence, games are fine, especially if you choose to play games with some degree of problem-solving rather than simply cutting fruit, shooting or driving fast.
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Michaela D
Michaela Da year ago
I couldn't agree more, something fast with just a bit of effort to keep it interesting. I like the idea of different games that require some skill!
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Book summary services

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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković Aug 10, 2022
Using a non-fiction book summary app like Blinkist or Shortform is way less dauting or time-consuming than going straight for whole books. While it is useful, the time needed for reading through an entire summary is about the same time one would spend on one session of Instagram scrolling.
Also, Blinkist even has audio summaries so the effort level is closer to useless habits.
You can select the fields you are interested in and get only books about these topics. And I think all these apps have their own notification systems to ensure you are sticking to it.
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Michaela D
Michaela D6 months ago
Blinkist is a good idea; I have been using it for years. For me, it does not work great as a distraction because it is not fast enough. Reading a whole book summary takes more than 10-15 min. And if I need a break reading a book summary doesn't do the trick for me.
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General comments

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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković6 months ago
The Substack founder stated he made the platform precisely because of this issue of bad distractions from social media. So maybe check that out maybe. You can also select your own topics.
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Danny Weir
Danny Weira year ago
Unfortunately, I fear most of us are beyond the point of no return when it comes to wasting our time scrolling aimlessly. I was determined to reduce my screentime by reading more books this year, but i am yet to make any real progress and it has become a frustration of mine. In my opinion, I think we need to go back to the old school way of thinking. People who have serious addictions to devices but maybe don't realise it may have to actually downgrade their phones and computers to save themselves. Alternatively, we may have to reintroduce some of the classic activities such as the Rubik's cube or knitting!
Suggestions:
  • Strict screentime limits that we are not able to override
  • Financial/social rewards for carrying out tasks such as quizzes and surveys or even learning a language
  • Peer challenges, groups set up to challenge each other on carrying out useful tasks and to be held accountable
  • Governments introducing programs to promote and encourage useful tasks
  • Shifting social perception on what is "cool" or "uncool" (this could take a generation to change)
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Michaela D
Michaela Da year ago
Danny Weir these are all valid points. I was also thinking what if instead of battling distraction we went along with it but on our own terms? So that we use distraction time more productively, like reinforcing a skill?
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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stankovića year ago
I've improved my math skills unintentionally by switching to an alarm clock that gives me five equations to solve in the morning to turn the alarm off. You could set multiple alarms throughout each day and there's a difficulty setting as well.
It's a battle of notifications for most people.
Instead of getting notified by YouTube comments or Twitter mentions, you could allow only notifications from Duolingo, meditation apps, apps with varying stretching routines...
Utilizing this idea Darko Savic had recently would also be useful.
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Michaela D
Michaela Da year ago
Miloš Stanković I have heard of these alarms, it is time I tried one! But I have 0 notifications other than texting, I get distracted enough by myself 😁
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