Digital Dopamine

Status: draft

Using apps and websites in a fashion that reflects my values is tricky.

General thoughts and inspirations

  • I want to incorporate artificial barriers between me and my bad habits. Atomic Habits, James Clear. Highly recommend the book.
  • Social media usage comes at a cost higher than we often admit to ourselves. Fulfillment and value are found in deep work. Deep Work, Cal Newport
  • Abstinence is easier than moderation. Phones or food are hard to abstain from. Self-binding strategies acknowledge the limitations of will and create barriers between compulsion and action. Dopamine Nation, Anna Lembke

My Systems

Tracking Progress

First, I was looking for a data basis to evaluate my behavior honestly. I find it hard to estimate how much time I am spending on which website or how often I revert to opening Strava. RescueTime helps track the time spent across all devices and platforms. I believe it's important to have it running on all devices. I reevaluate how well my systems and habits are working based on this data.


I decided to treat my new laptop as a bad-habit-free device. Thus, I am not logged into Netflix, or most social media and only allow myself to watch educational YouTube clips. I don't need any capacity to evaluate what's allowed, and what isn't since the rules are strict and simple. To maintain that, it's important to not start cheating and open the lee-way. If I want to indulge in one of the habits I have fallen into more than I want, I'll have to use my old laptop.

Phone (Android)

This has been more tricky. I want to use instant messaging and some social media there. The phone is also always with me in some dull moments at the bus stop. I actually would like to refrain more and more from the need to fill those moments by opening whatever app.

If I open an app or the phone, it should be consciously and not a reflex.

Stay Focused helps me getting to that stage by allowing to:

  • Group apps
  • Apply restrictions on the groups or apps individually
    • Maximum daily usage duration
    • Blocked time ranges
    • Amount of app launches
  • Permanently show today's usage time and the amount of screen unlocks

Using the night mode of the system settings, the OS turns to grayscale from 21:30 until 07:00 to further incentivize routines without the phone around bedtime. In the evening to wind down, and in the morning to start the day on a positive-productive note.

Further digital helpers