On Eliminating Internet Distractions

November 11, 2013

I suppose it’s a bit ironic I am posting this essay on the internet to distract you all from your work, but… well, what’s a guy to do?

This essay is thanks to the wonderful kickstarter backers who pledged for my book. The project is now over %400 funded! Because of their generous giving, this essay is going to be added to the Brick by Brick book.

Have you pledged for a copy yet? There are only 3 days left before the campaign is over! Please take a look!

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44 Responses to On Eliminating Internet Distractions

  1. Erin on November 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    This is great! Thanks again – the “free time” folder is a great solution to procrastination via the internet :)

    • stephen on November 12, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      Let me know how it works!

  2. gee on November 12, 2013 at 12:38 am

    hey thanks for all of this, it’s really useful! I just have one question: what about the ol’ problem of distinguishing between work and ‘free time’ stuff? especially for us creatives who are lucky enough to have work that’s also fun, and vice versa..?? 0.o x

    • stephen on November 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Work is what will make you money and feed you. Free time does not feed you. It’s good to motivate yourself with fun, but sometimes entertainment can still be more fun than the sweet art job you’ve landed– and that’s when you need to separate the two. The funnest thing in your work environment should be your work.

  3. Rachel on November 12, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Wow! Love this comic! What a great solution to a real problem. I’m definitely going to implement this one!

    • stephen on November 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Awesome! Let me know how it turns out!

  4. Kristina on November 12, 2013 at 9:23 am

    That’s the perfect comic and advise I just needed!
    Since I took part in the NaNoWriMo challenge and write away, I learned that there is nothing more important to me and everything else outside there bores me and I have no interest in it at all. So i browse the internet far less. I’m just aware of what is really important to me and what matters to my work/life/skill. And whenever I have a writing session I disable wifi, so I have absolutely no distratction to look up something on amazon and end up many minutes later researching something on wikipedia or watching cat videos.

    • stephen on November 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Good practice! Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves what really matters.

  5. Thomas Geelens on November 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Hi Stephen, I love this one! What RSS Reader do you use?

    • stephen on November 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      I use feedly!

  6. goldentigers on November 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    this reminds me of opera actually has a feature called stash exactly for this reason

  7. Damani on November 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    so glad i happened upon this site and was able to back your kickstarter! nice to know that there are so many artists out there willing to help one another!

    • stephen on November 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks so much for backing!

  8. Angelina on November 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I have seen many internet articles/comics/whatever on the topic of internet procrastination and I can honestly say this is the only one that’s truly helpful and practical. Not only that, but it’s presented in a very fun and satisfaying way. Thank you so much, Stephen. You’re awesome.

    • stephen on November 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      You’re welcome!

  9. Khatn on November 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Do you have any ideas for overcoming “Pile Paralysis”? You know — when taking even a small first step on an overwhelmingly huge task (decluttering my house) paralyzes me because the first pile (step) of stuff is so intertwined with everything else (finding something that needs to go into another room, which needs to go in another room, which needs to go into another room….) that I’m totally freaked out by just looking at it. So I avoid it and it gets bigger!

    That, and “Landmines.” These are things that have high emotional or psychological content, and even finding them accidentally spins me into a depression or a manic high and I’m sucked into it’s gravitational pull and “have” to spend an inordinate amount of time on just that ONE thing, and it can trigger “aftershocks” (random thoughts that pop into my head and stop me emotionally/psychologically in my mind track, even months later. It’s almost a form of post-traumatic stress disorder or at least it feels that way…..

    Thanks for all the great ideas and the novel approach to getting things accomplished. Putting fun into the mix is definitely going to help a lot!

    • Dennis on November 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Hi Khatn,

      Here is some advice that might help. You said the following thing: “because the first pile (step) of stuff is so intertwined with everything else..” A good idea would be to break it down in even smaller parts or idea’s. Let’s say to break down the work to such a small part that it’s comfortable for you, even if it is just relocating one piece of paper..and than continue from there on! No judgement upon yourself, only congratulations to yourself for getting things done!
      And a second think that might help in the sorting is to have only 3 actions (keep, discard or donate) AND the most important part of this; to have no ‘in-between-locations’ meaning that once holding the item, you have to choose a permanent location. No more placing things from the one place to the other.

      The first idea is the best to start with and afterwards you can see if you can work on the second idea, good luck! ;-)

      • stephen on November 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm

        Great ideas Dennis, thanks for sharing!

    • stephen on November 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Hey! I’d recommending checking out the work philosophy of Get Things Done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rU7heoKJuI

      That’s really help me keep focused on what I need to do next. If you have any questions, please come back and we can talk about it!

  10. Dennis on November 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Nice comic! I found it on deviantart and it reminds me a lot of what has to be done. Thanks for the conscious reminder and success with your new book!

  11. Erica on November 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    When will the comic be out :) Looking forward to it!

  12. Erica on November 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    errr.. the book.

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  14. ben on November 23, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Hot Tip: second to last pannel, dude’s thumb is on the wrong side…This is cool stuff. Always happy to see someone trying to uplift and enlighten all the confusion out there. And yeah I’m just a frustrated nobody who gave up on his art for the last 13 years so I need to get my quick ego fix from criticizing you…with only having just stumbled upon your site and rushing through maybe two full comics. Because I see your creativity as a threat, bitter old me.

    • stephen on November 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      DOH! Good catch. Man– I thought I had gotten past making that mistake, ha ha. Thank you!

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  16. Bianca on November 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I really really need it !

  17. Dora Chen on November 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I really want your book as a Christmas gift this year.. But I don’t know if it’s sold out or where I can get it..

    Could anybody please help me >.<? Thanks!

  18. Darren on November 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Do continue what you are doing! You rock!

  19. Mags on November 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for this, i am struggling right now with this, to improve my art, somedays i just would like to go and just cancel my internet cotnract, i am desperate ;_;

    thanks again, gotta put it in practice *hugs*

  20. zlig on December 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Great, just spent all afternoons reading this comics ! ;-)

    • stephen on December 2, 2013 at 7:55 pm


  21. Rachel on December 3, 2013 at 3:28 am

    For a second, before the rest loaded, I thought the first panel was the whole essay. And that really ought to be enough!

  22. Brittiny on December 5, 2013 at 1:27 am

    I am an aspiring artist and I think your comics and thoughts with this project are so beautiful and helpful. I just found this website and work today and I would love a copy of this book. It is amazing. Where can I buy it??!? :D

    • stephen on December 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      You’ll be able to purchase it here on the site– sign up for my newsletter if you want to receive a notification when the book’s available!

      • Isaac on July 25, 2015 at 4:14 pm

        I would love to work for a Neonatologist. I think it would be an extremely ffiullling job! Helping infants who may be critically ill and being a part of resolving their health issues sounds like a challenging yet comforting job. The fact that infants are helpless and completely dependent on us to survive means that much more. I could truly see myself loving every part of helping. I know some cases could be hard to understand how such a small being could be so ill or premature. In the end I am sure looking at how strong they are and how they fight for life from the second they are conceived, it really sounds rewarding. Then being able to send them home with their family to be surrounded in love, a true healing in itself.I could never see myself working for a Podiatrist. Simply put, I don’t like feet. Even though I am aware their job involves much more than just feet, I know given an option it’s not one I would ever veer toward. I can imagine this job could be rewarding as well and am sure those who choose it have their reasons. Not for me I am sure.

  23. mismoniker on December 10, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Lack of good sleep can make you prone to internet addiction too. I’ve discovered that’s when I’m most vulnerable :)

    • stephen on December 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Good tip! Sleep is a tough one for me too.

  24. Myrena on December 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Making a “free time” folder right now, your webpage will be the 1st one in it :) Thank you for the great idea!!! :)

    Keep up the great work!


  25. Neo on January 5, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Very handy. Of course, the best steps I know of are to just take a break from the internet for awhile.

  26. Nojuan Especial on April 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Pinterest and tumblr laugh at my Free time folder.

    • stephen on April 19, 2014 at 12:05 am

      Ha ha– yeah. If only tumblr could fit in the free time folder.

  27. Cari on December 11, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    For those who’ve never enjoyed any appeal in gambling, this helps explain why the internet habits of some don’t gravitate towards aggregated forms like social media. (Actually, this applies to any entertainment, not just the internet.)

    For instance, I’m personally reluctant to seek out new things on social media, and end up gravitating towards caches of interesting content (like this site) that I can binge on in my own defined sessions. Those binge sessions help to elevate the suspension of disbelief, and I’ve noticed that when I can achieve this, it recharges my mental faculties and boosts creativity. When I’ve had my fill, it feels the same as when I wake up on my own from a good night’s rest full of really engaging dreams. Now, on the other hand, if you sit me down in front of a social media feed cluttered with content I find irrelevant, I’ll lose interest very quickly.

    It’s hard to wrap your brain around it if it’s not the way you think, but observing others who are the gambling sort, their compulsions seem completely irrational to me. If I give it a try to see what all the fuss is about, it doesn’t click. There’s this lingering uncertainty of “will I win?” that some find tantalizing and others are repulsed by.

    What if you like to have everything laid out in front of you, so you have a clear grasp of the full breadth of it? What if you prefer to watch well-established shows that have amassed a uncatalogued of episodes already? What if you like reading tankōbon/anthologies instead of weekly issues? If so, then following something that’s episodic can be annoying when you catch up and have to wait for updates.

    It’s just an interesting observation. I’ve seen some comic readers who stick with authors through every update like clockwork, but there are others who come to the party late, binge til there’s no food left, then leave just a short while later because they got bored. Also, with the latter type, they tend to come back to check up on progress after some time, but the more this needs to be done, the more likely they are to lose interest.

    Something that’s not too short but not too long seems to be the best of both worlds. It needs to be long enough to allow the bingers to binge, but not so long that they don’t see an end in sight for the series. An example from personal experience since I can serve as a subject to examine for the binging type: back when Naruto came out, I found it after there were about 4 issues out. It was captivating at first, but as years passed, I lost interest. Eventually I saw it was running for so long that I assumed there was no end in sight– this was the breaking point that caused a total loss of interest.

    With regards to games as another medium that has this same kind of division, there are gamers who prefer to power through a game that has a goal in mind, and there are gamers who relish in never-ending sandboxes/MMOs/endurance Again serving as a guinnea pig to examine, I can attest that as a binger I can’t get invested in MMOs or sandboxes (build and grow a character/a world without clear scripted direction/endless shooters/etc), but am enamored with games with clear conflict (a hero needs to defeat the big bad villain/accomplish a defined goal).

    Actually, that reminds me of something. Hey, Stephen, since you’re interested in interdisciplinary studies, I want to recommend a youtube series called Extra Credits. It’s mainly about video game design/theories, but they cover a lot of the same topics you cover here, but in the context of game design. A good deal of it applies to comics and pretty much any creative media, to be honest. It sounds like it would be right up your alley, given what I’ve seen from you.

  28. Thara on November 26, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Hey this is actually great advice.
    Definitely going to try it out.

    Another thing I do to prevent – or reduce – browsing on the phone, is putting all the apps (especially the distracting ones *glares at the Social Media*) into folders, so that there is one more step to get to them, and so they aren’t the first thing I see when I unlock my phone.

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