Intermittent Darkness: Everyday internet blackouts

I’ve talked about my experience and success with intermittent fasting. The idea is a variation on the concept of timeboxing: Taking a task and giving yourself a defined period of time to work on it.

The common thread in a lot of my growth on all fronts is the focus on timeboxing my effort in those tasks, from simple tasks to diet all the way to my work on stage: For the 2-3 hours I’m in this room, I’m going to take the work seriously and treat it like it matters. Once I walk out, I can forget it and go about my business. During the times where I’m not as motivated to practice improv, this mindset and approach is terrific: I ask myself to give a good couple hours of focused practice to a rehearsal, practice, show, etc, and after that I’m free to go if I wish.


We’re perpetually checking our phones, looking at our laptops, and otherwise constantly connected to the internet. Time and again people recommend we take time to disconnect, but habit makes it easier said than done. In fact, here I am right now typing on a PC with the intention of posting these words to the internet. I was looking at Facebook and Twitter before this and probably will do so after, as are the rest of you.

April Fool’s Day falls tomorrow, and the stupidity of the average prank post raises a doubly annoying harbinger… given the average “news” content posted on the internet either finds varying levels of absurdity or brings out various levels of absurdity in friends, family, colleagues and society at large.

Put the two together, and the prospect of looking at any internet feed on April Fool’s Friday seems so disgusting that once I considered an April Fool’s blackout day (no internet), I not only found exciting the idea of going dark… but I got another, more sustainably useful idea.

Considering my success with the habit of intermittent fasting, and also considering how many nights I turned in late from being on the PC… I think it would be a good idea to actively practice going dark every evening. Two hours before the time you generally turn in, just shut off your PC and phone.

For my general schedule, it’s best to go to bed around 11pm, so I would shut everything down at 9pm. I’d read books, practice calisthenics or poker or read books or go over my writing or whatever I feel like doing that doesn’t involve a computer, let alone the internet. If I’m doing an 8 or 10 pm show, then great. I go home afterward and go to bed, without checking anything.

Anyone who needs to reach me will know to do so before 9pm, or that I will not respond to them before tomorrow morning.

This is similar to how Ryan Holiday refers to his internet-free time on an airline flight as “enforced quiet time”. With no access to the constantly-updated internet, you revert to more holistic personal practices: Reading, writing, thinking, talking with people, studying, learning to do something new, meditating, exercise, etc etc etc.

But most of all, it’ll be easier to get to sleep without finishing the day with a light screen screwing with my circadian rhythms. By eliminating those stimuli, my body and mind can more quickly acclimate to sleep mode, and it’s much easier for me to turn in and get to sleep at 11pm (or midnight on those late-show nights).

So while I was compelled to do this out of a more isolated and annoying stimulus (April Fool’s Day), going dark at every day’s end is in large part an opportunity to extend the intermittent-habit practice to more of my everyday habits, and hopefully improve my life.

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