Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.

Screen Time

Posted at — May 20, 2021

Building habits in public

I enjoy building habits on my blog. Explaining how I intend on developing a habit, as I’ll soon do, demands I thoroughly think through the problem. I need to devise a procedure that will stick, understand the incentives, define intention, and create accountability.

Usually, we prioritize building good habits. For instance, suppose I want to read more. I could work to add this habit but, positionally, it’s harder to do. Without the necessary space in the day, or time to spend on the new habit, it’ll likely fail.

Instead, I’m a firm believer in spending time breaking bad habits.

I want to invest time in destroying meaningless habits and proceed with the faith that they’ll be replaced by better things.

Reducing screen time

In a day, I average about 3 hours of usage on my phone. Most of this time is spent on YouTube. While YouTube can be educational, I find that most of my watching lies in entertainment. It seems YouTube engineers have done an excellent job of exploiting my interests and clustering me in a very valid set of recommendations.

I think it’s reasonable to limit screen time to 1 hour a day.

To do so, I need to better understand:

What do I use my phone for?

I polled through the last few weeks, and determined this was a good representation of most days:

Which patterns or behaviours exist in my phone usage and how can I combat them?

Problem 1: YouTube

I tend to watch YouTube as the day winds down and the evening approaches. My YouTube usage is normally without intention. I open the app without an understanding of what I want to watch. This is the aspect that is particularly bothersome to me. I let YouTube’s recommendation system define which videos I watch, which is unfortunate.

YouTube’s incentives are to have me:

There’s a clear way to solve this:

Remove the dependency on YouTube to decide what I watch.

If I want to be intentional about how I spend my time, I need to be in control of it.

I can do this by cleaning my subscription list, creating a new account, or using YouTube without an account at all. The goal will be to seek out content on a search-only basis. If I’m interested in a video, I’ll seek it out.

Problem 2: Spotify

I don’t use Spotify as much as YouTube, but it’s usage is unnecessarily high. I’ve communicated my dependency on music in the past. I think I’m OK with listening to music, but I can most certainly reduce the amount of time I spend changing songs, browsing, selecting etc.

The fix here is relatively easy.

  1. Use playlists as opposed to playing individual songs.
  2. If I choose to listen to individual songs, queue up as many as possible at once.
  3. Being OK with listening to songs that I don’t particularly like.
  4. Listen to music of a foreign language. It’s hard to have an opinion on a song when you don’t understand what’s being said.

Paarth, what about willpower?

I think willpower is great and important to exercise. I also think human psychology is worth understanding. Our habits play a pivotal role in our life, and I don’t want to give my will too much credit. Sure, if my will was up against my habits, there’d be times when it reigns. In the long-term though, my habits will prevail as the real factor that determines my life.

Paarth, isn’t this a little overkill?

I don’t think so.

I think in our current climate, easy access to everything has created addiction in most facets of our life. I’ve been victim to a few of these instances; I’ve tamed a few of them.

It’s important to prove to myself that I have control over my life. Even if I waste the extra time I gain, the experience of breaking a bad habit will be valuable. I’m practicing my ability to create process and implement it in my life.

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