Outsourcing Decision

I finally finished Better than Before. I can’t say I liked the style — far too chatty for me — but I made lots of notes and it gave me lots of ideas. One idea in the book was “outsourcing decision”, eg to a schedule: I make the decision to put something on a schedule, but once it’s on the schedule I just follow that. The schedule idea can be used to encourage activity / build a habit (eg go to the gymn every morning) or to ration an activity / weaken a bad habit (eg only eat junk food on Thursdays).

One bad habit I have is surfing twitter. In moments of boredom or mild anxiety it is very accessible and very easy to while away … too long. And it leaves me not refreshed but even more enervated. “Just take it off the phone!” but Twitter is occasionally useful/informative/cheering/etc — only about 10% of the time perhaps, but you never know which 10%.

Twitter itself is not the danger, but the way I use it — the association with boredom, anxiety, …, and the way it fills and even expands that anxious moment.

Scheduling “twitter time” didn’t feel right, so my brainwave has been to toss a coin first thing in the morning: Heads = twitter; Tails = no twitter today.

Amazingly, it works. If the coin turns up tails I don’t even think about looking at twitter that day. Even several days in a row. I’ve been on the programme for a month now and it is very robust.


  • It is weakening my twitter habit overall: on twitter days I surf less and tend to catch up, then close the app. Interesting links I email myself rather than just like or bookmark.
  • It is weakening the association with boredom/anxiety: the association is now with the random coinflip.
  • It means I am having to find other ways to respond to boredom/anxiety. As these are not habitual but are consciously chosen they tend to be more wholesome — eg go & get something to eat, do a minor household chore.

So far so good. It has not been an unalloyed success however. Just as the “Tails” gives a strong and effective prohibition that I don’t question, the “Heads” gives a strong feeling of permission. This over-rides an earlier prohibition that had been working quite well (more on that another time but you can probably guess).

So — more work needed, but a simple, powerful and fairly effective device.

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