Over the last few months I’ve developed a very bad habit – I spend inordinate amounts of time reading the news online on my smart phone: sometimes Google News, sometimes the New York Times, sometimes Apple News. Actually, I wasn’t quite accurate when I said my habit started a few months ago. It actually started some years ago but has accelerated over the last few months.

Take this morning for instance. I woke up and looked at the time: 6:24am. I had my alarm set for 6:45am and had to leave the house by 7:30am. So, to “get into the groove of the day,” I started reading Google News since I had about 20 minutes until my normal wake up time. I shut off my alarm since I was already awake.

Next time I took note of the time, it was 7:10am. I had 20 minutes to get out the door. And how the heck did I just spend nearly 45 minutes reading the news anyway!?

The story only gets worse. At the end of this 45 minutes of “suspended animation” I felt bad, disheartened and enervated. Too much crap going on the world: war, refugee crises, political turmoil at home and abroad, poor job growth numbers, weakening economy.

I had just spent 45 minutes of my day – and not just any part, but the part that immediately followed my “coming back into consciousness” after sleep – reading stuff that:

  1. Didn’t really add much value to my life.
  2. Made me feel emotionally drained and empty.
  3. Kept me from spending my time more consistent with what I believe is important.

And the story gets worse still. If today would be like any other day in recent months, I will slip in another 45 minutes or so surfing the web, reading online newspaper or magazine articles.

That’s 90 minutes of my leisure time spent on sheer uselessness!

I feel like an addict. In the morning I tell myself, “Just a few minutes to ease into the day.” In the afternoon, I tell myself, “I need a little bit of relaxation.” In the evening I tell myself, “I’m too tired to do anything else.”

Now, none of those things I tell myself are true. Reading news online does not ease me into the day. Rather it eases me into a foul mood. In the afternoon it doesn’t relax me. It makes me feel guilty for spending still more time uselessly. “Think about all the good and feel-good things I could have done instead,” I rebuke myself. And in the evening, I act like reading junk on my smart phone is the only thing left when I’m too tired to do anything else.

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So much about our happiness and success in life has to do with habit. The bad news about habits is that they are stubborn parts of ourselves. Of course, they’re stubborn; that’s the reason they exist. Habits add predictability to our lives. Without habits we would move through the day adrift, like a dinghy cast on the ocean. We are designed to be creatures of habit for our own good.

The good news about habits is they are changeable. It takes a great deal of initial effort and ongoing vigilance. But we all do things that are hard if they are important enough to us. Going to work is hard, but we do it. We raise children and that’s harder still. Also, there are techniques that make changing habits easier. (I’ll write a post on that in near future.)

So, my struggle for this week is to get off that darn phone. And to replace that time with time spent on more valuable things.

I don’t need to wonder what message I’m sending my kids when I spend so much time on the screen. I KNOW it’s not good.

I’ll keep you post on my struggle deactivating my bad habit and forming a new one. Please write and share your story with me and the 2000 other readers about effecting change in your life. Thanks.

Until next time,

Dr. Jack


Today’s Quotes

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

These four simple statements are powerful tools for improving your relationships and your life
– Ira Byock, from “Four Things That Matter Most, 10th Anniversary Edition,” 2014