Instant gratification vs deep work

Ever realize that you spend more time in updating the applications/tools or customizing/tweaking the tool than in actually using it ?

Ever realize that you prefer to read a Facebook post than a long form article in the newspaper ?

Ever think about why you like to buy stuffs - e.g. gadget ?

Ever wonder why you like to take a bet ?

I heard about it several times but recently think more about this, people like instant gratification. It's the feeling of getting something right now, something we don't need to wait, to learn or patiently work toward it.

In a word, it's easy.

You just need to read the news, click "Update" and then "cool, I have the shiny newwwww version of my favorite application".

You just need to skim through in a few seconds and feel like you know something, or even have a laugh, "this post is so funny, I like it"

You just need to spend the money and "this is the newwww stuff, I have new thing to play with, yeah". You have something new in your life.

You just need to wait for 1-2 hour and feel the rush of adrenaline, the up and down of feeling when you placed a bet, no matter what the final result is.

It's indeed, very easy to have something new, something shiny, something challenging (as with the bet), something to fill our life with.

But it's not rewarding in long term. At the end of the day, you don't actually learn many things new by just reading Facebook post, the excitement of new stuff will also just wear out soon and during all that time, it's very likely that you don't even touch the "latest version" application you have to produce something.

You're not doing deep work. You are not a producer, you are a mere consumer.

Seeking instant gratification is not wrong and I can't really see me doing deep work all day. But I guess sometimes we need to re-evaluate the time we spent in each.

Example of deep work you can think about

  • Do not grab phone/computer etc. and mindlessly browse first thing in the morning. (Or before bed. Or at any time really.) But doing it first thing really starts your day on the wrong foot.
  • When seeking to relax, do not mindlessly browse the internet/social-media/tv. Read an enjoyable book. This is an order of magnitude more fulfilling and beneficial to you. And genuinely more relaxing: screens are stimulating, and might let you 'relax' in the sense that you can momentarily be completely absorbed in something 'other', and forget your day to day life; but they don't relax you in the sense of being calm and contemplative (in general, in my experience).
  • Reduce instant gratification from as many areas as possible. Do things that are rewarding longer term. Like reading, cooking, growing plants, hiking, etc.
  • Cut video games.
  • Block facebook + reddit + sites you waste a lot of time on, from main computer. Maybe have a secondary device you use to access these sites, for a set period each day (I recommend this mainly because it can be quite difficult to maintain a social life without facebook, (which is a terrible state of affairs)). Have days where you don't go onto these sites at all.
  • Spend as little time on screens as is possible -> if you can work on paper do so
  • have a regular exercise regime. eg. swim/run. Doing first thing in the morning really helps set your day on the right track, you have already exerted a good amount of self discipline, and achieved something, and this makes it easier to continue being disciplined.
  • I recommend reading 'The Power of Habit'.


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Jamie Larson