Delete App/Remove from Home Screen/Cancel

In ridding ourselves of the courthouse and marketplace we do not rid ourselves of the principal worries of our life. Ambition, covetousness, indecisiveness, fear, and desires hardly abandon us just because we change address. They pursue us into the monasteries and schools of philosophy themselves. Neither deserts nor caves nor hair shirts nor penance can extricate us from them. That is why it is not enough to remove oneself from people, not enough to go somewhere else. We have to remove ourselves from the habits of the populace that are within us. We have to isolate our own self and return it to our possession. We carry our chains within us. We are not entirely free. We keep returning our gaze to the things we left behind.

Stephen Batchelor reading Michel de Montaigne for the Tricycle podcast

Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred or transformed from one form to another.

The first law of thermodynamics

Sometimes I’ll delete Instagram from my phone for a while. Or set up blockers to keep me from looking at the web version of Twitter (since Tweetbot does a pretty good job of keeping me from falling down rabbit holes).

The other day I put Instagram back on my phone for a moment to check a message someone had sent me there, and within a few taps I inadvertently opened a video with spoilers for the new season of The Owl House.

At which point my brain kicked over to “In for a penny, in for a pound” and I fell down a rabbit hole with the app for several minutes.

The little lifehacks and quick fixes don’t work for me. There are plenty of others who feel the same:

Because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. (This is why simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” rarely works.)

Instead, you need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.

James Clear

I haven’t found the right replacement for some of the habits that don’t actually bring me any real joy (even if they bring me dopamine). Maybe that’s because I haven’t adequately figured out what need they’re trying to fulfill.

An app or a social network isn’t designed for an individual, but for a broad sense of what humans need and desire. When I let idle moments default to distraction, I lose definition.

I’m no longer here, in this space, doing and thinking and being. Instead I’m riding a current of other people’s decisions and thoughts. Surrendering to it.

And it’s not enough to try to run and hide from it.

Calculating Intention Debt

I’d love a to-do list app that totals up the estimated time for the tasks I have planned for the day so I know if I’m overextending myself. Even better: It tracks my time and suggests better estimates based on previous work.

I’d like a podcast app that tallies how much listening I’ve committed to with the episodes I’ve downloaded. Or to have streaming services tell me, based on the data they have about my viewing habits, how long it will take me to watch everything in my queue.

Or a toolbar widget in my browser that calculates how long it would take to read my open tabs. A Read Later app that shows the estimated reading time for my saved articles.

Tools like this would make it easier to stop creating Intention Debt, that long list of things that I think I’ll get to, but that just creates digital clutter.

A Netflix queue that you only sometimes see in the app isn’t the same as a stack of unread books on a table. One is tangible and the other can be ignored with a quick tap or click.

Knowing where I’m setting the finish line could be helpful. A concrete number could change my decisions about how to spend time in ways a vague sense of “I don’t have the bandwidth for this” won’t.