A couple months ago, I couldn’t catch the series finale of How I Met Your Mother the night it aired. I didn’t want any spoilers, so I challenged myself to stay off of any news/social media sites the next day, until I could watch the finale.

Needless to say, my self-imposed ban led to a dramatic increase in productivity. I spent more time doing work, and felt more focused when I was engaged in that work. A few weeks ago, I had a similar experience when working from a coffee shop with crappy wifi. By not being able to easily log onto site like reddit or even “helpful” sites like StackOverflow, I was forced to be more attentive to the task at hand. It inspired me to make this chart:


Ubiquitous wifi is a blessing and a curse. It’s great to be able to access anything from anywhere but I don’t think our brains are wired for that. In my linguistics class, Introduction to Sentence Processing, we learned about how “lazy” our mental sentence processor is, and how, as soon as it can form a phrase, it does (rather than considering all hypothetical syntactic options). This leads to errors such as:

The horse raced past the barn fell.

This is called a garden-path sentence, and has been studied extensively. The uptake, I believe, is that our minds are naturally averse to hard work. If a detour, distraction, or vacation is readily available, our instinctual minds (id) will take it, quicker than our disciplined mind (ego/super-ego) can overrule it.

I’m sure there are 100s of productivity “hacks” meant to overcome this obstacle. But, for me, just being cognizant of it is the most powerful “hack.”

Now, I just need to publish this, and post it on facebook, twitter, reddit…crap…