In my opinion, one of the reasons for the decline in the number of people reading books is that we find it hard, in this day and age, to stick to doing one thing for as long as we used to. This movement towards ‘attention-pluralism’ has been most pronounced during the last decade, a period that coincides with the rise and fall and rise and rise of the internet.
The web is like a supermarket of easily accessible choices demanding urgent attention, even if only momentarily, regularly. Case in point: shall I check my email now or a minute later? It’s been nearly three minutes since I last did. And since it’s only a click away, why not! Luckily for people like us, there are ways to control the habit.
Since I now spend a lot more time browsing using Google Chrome, I decided to give StayFocusd a shot. Seven days later, I’m happy to report that it has helped me so much I wrote this piece without succumbing to the allure of Gmail more than once while doing so.
How StayFocusd works (and lets you) is by ‘allowing’ you to spend only an allotted amount of time on a ‘grey list’ of websites. If you decide to give yourself 20 minutes a day on Facebook, StayFocusd will prevent you from accessing the site once your time’s up. Conveniently enough, the extension can be customised to let you block or permit whole sites, only certain sub-domains or even individual web pages.
There are, of course, ways to cheat because it is, after all, controlled by you. Still, I found it liberating to have somebody I can dismiss watch over me. Nicer still, the time it took to try cheating, by altering the ‘settings’, was enough to make me consider the consequences of doing so and decide against it. So can you. (Assuming, that is, you really want to cut down on your time-wasting ways.)
As a long-time acquaintance of various addictions permitted and proscribed, I know I couldn’t have controlled my abuse of quality time without any help. When something so accessible is so attractive, it’s useful to have the likes of StayFocusd keep your internet vices at bay. And you focused.