What’s your major time sink?

What’s true happiness? Of course, a stable and happy family is essential but for many of us, it’s also about seeking new opportunities, investing in ourselves, and contributing something useful and helpful to the world. All of these things fall under a large category of being “productive”. Even a happy family requires its members to be productive in order for things to run smoothly around the house.

What prevents us from being productive and being a vastly over-simplified definition of the word: “happy”? It’s activities where you don’t produce anything; things like watching TV or youtube, playing games, or browsing sites like failblog.org. It takes a lot less effort then actually producing the TV show, youtube video, or website but the ease of effort in passive consumption is what makes it so tempting.

Lately, one of my major time sinks were playing games. Games are addictive because of basic behavioral psychology of rewarding fake achievements. Hey, I know that. I took Psychology 101 in college. But why did I hardly play any games in college when I was first learning Japanese and began writing the Grammar Guide? It’s because I couldn’t afford it. I had no TV, console, and my laptop could play basically minesweeper and that’s it.

In fact, during college winter and summer breaks, I was dirt poor and bored out of my mind. Necessity really is the mother of invention: the necessity to save myself from going insane from boredom. It didn’t help that the rest of the academic year was spent in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota. Things were different for my good friend, who brought a new computer to college and a copy of the Sims. He would say, “Hold on, my character needs to go to work now,” to which I replied, “But the REAL YOU needs to go to class!”

Anyway, I’ve had a good run playing a whole bunch of games the past few months with my Intel Core 2 Dell and ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO. But now, the system is showing it’s age and doesn’t run GTA IV very well (which I just bought for a measly $20). I could probably afford to buy a new computer, or maybe even a TV and game console. But I’ve decided to just save my money and time by not enabling myself to waste it on games. Now, I really can’t waste my time playing games even if I wanted to.

I realized today that my major other distraction was the huge number of random RSS feeds that I picked up in my Google reader. Any time I go online to do something, it sits there, beckoning me to go dig for jewels of interesting content buried in a huge pile of junk. So I’ve cleaned up my list of everything except for 14 feeds including a few web comics like dilbert and xkcd which are quick to read, my wife’s blog, a couple of really cool or funny technical feeds like hacks.mozilla.org and thedailywtf.com, and cinemassacre.com (I can’t give up my Angry Video Game Nerd fix). Currently, my feed has 0 unread items.

I think proactively removing areas of distraction is really going to help me become more productive and accomplish the things I really want to get done such as the new Complete Guide to Japanese. What are your major distractions and what can you do to remove them? Oh, and don’t forget to add my feed to your RSS reader!!

16 thoughts on “What’s your major time sink?

  1. “From your 143 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 44,469 items, starred 0 items, shared 11 items, and emailed 0 items.”

  2. ditto with the google reader. it makes me SO unproductive. but i don’t have the heart to get rid of my subscriptions. 🙁

    • But what about something else? For me, now with video stream, I don’t think I ever need to waste $50 a month of cable.

  3. According to Facebook I spend an average of 55 hours a week logged in. I’m logged in for at least 95% of the time I’m on the internet, or on the computer for that matter. That’s 55 hours I would rather be spending doing something else but unfortunately the internet is a vice of mine. I would be FAR better at Korean and Japanese by now if the internet weren’t in my way. It’s my only time sink. I don’t play games. I don’t watch TV.

    And please don’t suggest studying via the internet and computer. The sites I go to are only available in English. 😛

  4. I have to say my biggest time sinks are Games & (downloaded, Japanese) TV.
    I’m trying to shift at least some of the game playing over to playing Japanese games & I’m now 18 hours into FFX.

    I can keep telling myself it’s practice this way…

  5. Games are it for me, but I enjoy them too much to give them up. I value them for entertainment, but know that they can take far more time than their value should allow. So I created an artificial barrier for myself–if a game I’m interested in doesn’t Metacritic a rating higher than a certain %, I don’t buy it. And I stick to it. As it was, my backlog of games to play was piling up faster than I could play through them. Regardless of any arguments one might make about score aggregators or even the validity of reviews, this was an objective way I could control my impulses. And as my life has gotten busier, I raise that score a point at a time. I’m at 82% currently (started at 80%). You’d be surprised how many games don’t qualify, games I would’ve bought in the past. I already cut out television entirely except for two shows my wife wants to watch together. I installed Leechblock on Firefox and put things like Facebook on it during the workday. I only buy Japanese games for my DS (and their American release counterparts have to match that % to qualify). When the next gen systems come out, I will import one and buy only Japanese games for it. The extra cost of importing also serves as a barrier. Etc., etc. Discipline + workable strategy = success.

  6. Games used to take up a vast amount of time. I love RPGs like Neverwinter Nights, Divine Divinity and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. Unfortunately I would play these six hours a day a few months ago. In the end I’ve forced myself to curtail gaming to the weekend only and 3 hours per session. I also treat myself to games when I’ve completed a goal in my language learning.

  7. The thing is, games for me also become (retarded) goals to achieve… especially Maplestory, which is mainly a grinding game on which I wasted a lot of my time on. Good thing I’m not in college yet, and I think I’ve learned my lesson.

    Let’s see… 95 items in Google Reader, the vast majority of which are webcomics- and I normally wait for webcomics to have a few unread posts so that I can read a longer chunk of the story in one go. Incidentally, I was reading this post via Google Reader when it cropped up.

    Recently I’ve been studying for the JLPT3… and the main reason I haven’t been distracted is that a family friend is helping me with studying, and I would feel bad if I looked like an idiot in front of her, and that since she’s putting in effort I feel obligated to do so as well. o_o Such is the power of social (and probably self-imposed) pressure.

    Also, I approve of taekk’s avatar. 😀

  8. I’d say that my major time sink is me. I can spend a lot of time simply mulling things over and puttering along, and can sometimes appear to myself to be being productive when I’m not really. Really I’d say it’s more how I do things than what I actually do.

  9. My biggest time sink is definitely Japanese TV Dramas. I usually watch them to escape really studying Japanese, and I use the “there’s no subtitles” excuse to convince myself that I’m studying. I can sometimes sit and watch 4 or 5 whole 45 minute episodes in a row without getting of the couch! (>_<)

    It's true that it's listening practice, but I never really go back and re-watch a scene that I didn't understand 100% so I just reinforce what I already know and don't really learn anything new. Its not so bad though, is it?

  10. Sometimes doing nothing productive is really productive to oneself 😉

    I didn’t know where to post this… Could anybody tell me if this is correct? は and が particle always mess me up
    「 お姉さん は しゅみ が 何 ?」

    I tried to compare it with the examples of the grammar but I failed learning the right way :S
    Thanks 😀

  11. Games for me. Wouldn’t give them up though, they’re my major hobby, and I don’t really consider it worse than reading (taking a English MA, so also do that a lot) – I’m not convinced that reading the epic tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (<3 Medieval Lit.) is really somehow 'better' for me than playing Final Fantasy. I'd say for a lot of people, a time sink like video games, movies or manga has been what prompted them to learn Japanese to begin with.
    I can try to play games in Japanese, too, so it can be productive that way (not that anyone can be productive all the time). So, for me, my time sink is worth it.

    Thanks for the guide, btw. Think I'm finally getting somewhere with grammar, and it's really down to it. ^_^

  12. my time sinks come in phases, being in my 4th year at university and not a very diligent student, over the years ive had alot free time to spend in various time wasting ways. one of the most unproductive was ff12, i dont remember my play time now, but i do remember drinking energy drinks, coffee and eventually just straight caffeine pills to keep playing days straight. that was for about 7 months. as you can imagine my grades were shit and i didnt have many real friends. but in contrast i’ve also had random less embarrising time sinks. for example, sometimes i would obsess about learning things that were very difficult like brain physiology or mathematics of quantum theory or whatever else that was out of my league so i would go to the university library and live there reading books, but ultimately it was a time wast because i could never commit myself to learn anything real. i got bored as soon as i started. but my studying japanese was different. ive studied on and off for 5 years now, but ive diffenetly learned something even though i may never apply it towards my career, i still fell proud have having accomplished something that takes consistent effort over a long time. and i think anyone who has studied a foreign language knows that its relatively easy compared to other things you could learn. but for those of you who have devoted enough of them selves to leave the beginner stage and reach more sophisticated foreign language learning related activities, it becomes more than just a hobby, but an aspect of your way of life. learning a foreign language requires your immersion and by that i mean you need to be obsessed with what your learning to really learn it. the difference between obsession and ambition lies in your plans for achievement.

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