Self-Enforced Limitations

By Jamie McSloy / August 6, 2017
self-enforced limitations featured image

As an entrepreneur and online guy (as well as total dork with no life) it’s easy to spend hours upon hours browsing the internet, reading and planning.

Needless to say, there’s much more to life than this.

Still, online stuff is addictive. Incredibly addictive if you’re the type of personality that I am.

I’ve written about this historically. I find I go through stages where I pull myself away from the net and go and do other stuff, then slowly get drawn back in.

Recently, I’ve been speaking with friend of the blog Jakub who has been training himself to overcome this same problem. It obviously affects a lot of guys. (Drop a comment below because if you’re all suffering the same affliction, I’ll write more on overcoming it.)

Anyway, Jakub said that the best way to overcome the internet addiction thing is to take a month off, go to Asia and forget technology.

It’s a fascinating idea and one I’ll probably do at some point in the future, but not yet. There’s still work to do.

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This topic isn’t about internet addiction. It’s about the little idea that crept into my head when I was thinking about it.

That is, self-enforced limitations and why you need to put them in place.

The Story: How Writing Daily Posts Becomes Not So Daily.

Regular readers already know the story; I go about my daily life, writing and online business and then at the end of every day, I post an article to my website that highlights some (mostly) useful topic related to an aspect of the whole business thing.

Whilst this means an inhuman amount of (obviously high quality) content, it also means that as a base behaviour I sit at the computer for at least an hour every day. The habit is set and mostly useful, and because I’m on the computer anyway, there’s no problem with spending an extra hour writing content that freely flows from my brain.

What starts as a good habit can become a vicious cycle if you let it. In reality, I waste a lot of time browsing the internet and then use the constant content creation as an excuse for being at the computer every day.

The same is also true for the freelance work I do and also the growing, sprawling mess of an online empire I’m building.

All of those things together mean some massive enabling of a bad habit.

Break Down The Problem Into Specific Actionable Parts

Realising this, I break down the problem into its most basic parts:

  • I have a mostly set amount of work for other people to do
  • Every day I post these daily blog posts (for this site and a few others but mostly bi-weekly there)
  • We also have the books, sites, reports, and everything else.

Now, for a lot of this, I have to be at a computer and for a lot of it I have to be online. Hence the basic problem with trying to fix this bad habit.

But I sit here and think, “Why don’t I mix things up?”

I could just stop posting, but you guys would never forgive me and you’d probably spend the time you would be reading my articles reading dork politics articles instead, and I can’t have that.

Instead, I keep the same level of content but only write it once a week. It’s a self-enforced limitation. I spend one day a week writing all my blog posts. Set them to schedule and check back in a month or so to see how it affects my productivity.

Not only does this work for keeping the content the same, but it eradicates the issue with spending too much time reading stuff on the internet and watching cat videos, because on one front I’m unable to waste time when I have to write 10-20 blog posts in a day and on the second front, I don’t need to be on the computer for several days a week using this method.

Who knows, I’ll probably end up finding out that weekends and holidays are a good thing after all.

It’s Not About Me… Self-Enforced Limitations

Humans don’t do well with absolute freedom. We’re among the first generations to have access to unlimited food, and everyone’s getting obese. People have the freedom to choose careers, families and their relationships more so than ever, and as a result they’re more miserable.

On the flip side, humans have a very long tradition with sacrifice. Across all cultures, whether it’s the head-chopping kill-a-virgin varieties or the Kellogg “Don’t have bacon for breakfast” variety, sacrifice is a big deal.

I’d wager as a total amateur at everything that choice restriction is the mental equivalent of caloric restriction; in totality, completely bad for you but in measured and carefully considered doses, obviously good for you.

So, to fix a bad habit in a world where instant gratification is everywhere, I’d suggest two things:

  1. Set a self-enforced limitation by emulating sacrifice (i.e. cutting it out)

But because that’s incredibly difficult, you need to do the second:

  1. Break your necessities down to the actual acts you need to perform and then find a way to constructively rearrange your life to limit the feeling of sacrifice

To use the diet analogy again; you have the choice to eat junk food. If you quit cold-turkey, you’re going to starve and hate everyone. But if you replace your junk food with carrots and salad leaves, you can literally eat all day, pacifying yourself at a base level and lessening the sacrifice (whilst it’s still obviously there.)

Updates to come on managing this and fully realising these thoughts. It’s all a bit half-baked right now, but I’ve got  nine more articles to write today.