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After a full day, I am tired, and often end up mindlessly surfing the internet in the evening. It is the easiest thing to do when I've already made a lot of decisions during the day. Unfortunately, this practice bakes little bread, and I feel empty and hollow after doing it.

I am not opposed to surfing the internet. When I am alert, it is incredibly fun to learn new and interesting things. But when I am tired, I hardly have the imagination to surf in a fun way.

My question is what can I do when I am tired other than surfing the internet? (For others, you could substitute watching television with surfing the internet.) I either want it to be something more relaxing, or something more productive. Either would be better. In addition, how do I overcome the barrier of doing the easy thing instead of something more worthwhile?

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Why do I have this irrestistable urge to say - have some children? – HLGEM Aug 30 '12 at 20:57
How about sleep? – Dave Newton Aug 30 '12 at 21:00
Sleep is good, but sometimes you are tired earlier in the evening, and you won't fall asleep anyways. If I could easily fall asleep early in the evening, I would. But I can't. – nayrb Aug 31 '12 at 14:23
@HLGEM The question was not about how to go from tired to fried and exhausted! :-) Although, yeah, pretty worthwhile overall. – eflat Sep 4 '12 at 20:51
You do not seem to realize that surfing the internet (jumping from one topic to the other) makes you even more tired. – Jan Doggen May 1 '14 at 8:18

17 Answers 17

up vote 23 down vote accepted

I've started keeping a list of hobby-related things I want to do. I usually have ideas during my "alert" hours. Examples might be:

  • Learn to play song ________ on the piano
  • Write a Hello-World program in some new language

Then in the evening, when tiredness starts to set in and I feel myself tempted to veg out in front of the TV, I look at my list and pick something from it.

What's important about this method is that I'm leveraging the moments when I'm motivated and "saving" those ideas for later, when I lack the motivation to think of something valuable to do.

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This is a good idea--there are many things I want to do during the day, but it is possible I do the easy things too early in the day when I have more energy. Thus I do not match my energy to tasks requiring the same amount of energy, which creates waste. – nayrb Aug 31 '12 at 14:25

Why not try reading a book? Fiction, or something related to an interest you have.

Or how about learning a craft, cooking etc.

The possibilities are endless.

Just turn the internet off - seriously - just turn the computer off and stand up. Make a cup of cocoa, go outside and watch the sunset.

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This in part isn't really helpful. Of course there are many possibilities, but part of the problem is realizing them, particularly when you are tired and you've developed habits. – nayrb Aug 31 '12 at 14:26
The thing to do is not have to realise them - just the simple act of turning off your computer lets you think. I do agree with @Avian though - making a list when you are able to concentrate and use this when tired is an excellent idea. – Rory Alsop Aug 31 '12 at 14:33

This is what worked for me trying to break the same habit.

Walk. Get out your house and just wander somewhere. Better still listen to an audiobook or a podcast or something at the same time, something that will captivate your attention so you don't feel bored and time starts to fly by (music works too but I find listening to something on a topic helps better).

It's not much but you get some exercise and depending on what you choose to listen to you can absorb lots of interesting knowledge, all without really having to really focus.

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Are you physically or mentally tired?

If you are mentally tired but not physically tired, doing exercise may be the best option as it is good for health, reduces levels of stress hormones, and releases endorphins that make you feel good.

If you are physically tired but not mentally tired, perhaps reading a book or playing an intellectual game like chess is a good option. Doing crossword puzzles or sudoku may be fun too if you like it.

If you are both mentally tired and physically tired, I guess the only thing to do is to sleep. :)

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When you think you surf on the net but you are too tired to have results and benefits from it... Well I've discovered Memrise really recently in a post on a stackexchange forum... (it was not more than one week ago I think)...

Well it is SO MUCH fun to use that my time on Facebook and Youtube, and news sites has dropped significantly (more than 4 times less).

So pick a foreign language (or several) to learn on Memrise. You'll be astonished.

It won't be tiring, it will be relaxing. Words learned are flowers that you keep alive in a garden... I can't say more, just try.

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Ooops. I've just "wasted" four hours in a row on Memrise! :) Thanks a lot @Stephane! – Michal Mau Apr 11 '13 at 23:55
Thanks for the link, Memrise is great! – Håkon Hægland Apr 26 '14 at 23:57

When I am tired in the evening, I take a hot bath and then turn on some relaxing music (chill out, lounge). Then I am doing yoga for about 40 minutes.

It is very refreshing and brings me many ideas.

Before sleep, I usually read a non-fiction book or practice drawing.

I heard that the best way, however, is to manage your cognitive resource better, so that you are not mentally tired in the evening. So taking regular breaks and doing small exercises during the day will bring you more creative evenings.

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I think I might want to be mentally tired in the evening, because that means I mostly put a lot of effort in during the day. If I can extend my mental focus for longer, that is great, but at some point I will still be tired. So the problem will remain, if the during of it is shorter. – nayrb Sep 9 '12 at 18:28
@nayrb I've recently read the book "The Power of Full Engagement". It reveals how to fully engage in work and fully disengage then. The motto is: Life is not a marathon, it is a series of sprints. So they recommend to achieve your best at work, do a little more, and then recover. Just like when you are training your muscles. Going little over the top and then recovery fully is the key. Surfing web simply cannot be taken as a form of relaxation when you don't feel refreshed after doing that. My own experience:) – Libor Sep 9 '12 at 19:13

I'm answering to "how do I overcome the barrier of doing the easy thing instead of something more worthwhile?"

I have the same problem with pointless internet-surfing and just having the list of activities other than surfing doesn't help by itself. Usually, after a lot of surfing, getting tired and decided to go to bed, I turn the PC off and suddenly realize, that there is a plenty of good things I'd like to do (reading, cleaning, playing my guitar) - but it's too late. This moment of "enlightment" is like waking up from an uneasy sleep.

Sometimes, however, I get distracted, i.e. by a phone call or supper, and "wake up" comes earlier. Once you "woke up", it's pretty easy to overcome the barrier (abandon the PC and do everything else).

So the key point is to wake up. The most easy method for this is to promise yourself to turn off the PC and "wake up" after, say, an hour of surfing. And set an alarm and don't ignore it. So you concentrate only on one smallest goal - turning off the PC. Then it runs automatically without requiring any willpower: alarm -> put an effort to turn off the PC -> "wake up" -> good mood and motivation to do things -> spending your time in a better way.

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What about surfing the Internet productively?

Browse Chrome Web Store for useful software

What I do is go the the Chrome Web Store, look around for tools, download a few.

There are some nice things that let you draw better diagrams, neater photo processing, tools that do tedious tasks in one click, recipe/news site aggregators, house planning software, flight discount sites. They're fun to mess around with and let you do things faster.

You can spend your free time upgrading the tools that you're already using.

Contact old friends

Aside from that, there's always little maintenance tasks. Another thing I like to do is browse through Facebook, delete 'friends' I don't really know. Write "Hi, how are you? What are you up to?" messages to people I haven't contacted in years.

Sometimes you'll find that an old friend has a solution to a problem you're facing, like getting a new job. Or say, if you own a store, an old friend might be a supplier for things you're buying.

Most of the time you'll actually feel good about keeping in touch with someone from a long time ago.

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+1 for contacting friends. – nayrb Sep 9 '12 at 12:52

When Browsing Internet (other than the time when you are bored) bookmark the pages that you find interesting, knowledgeable - that you want to read but just don't have the mood/time at the moment.

Then when browsing the net because of being bored and having nothing to do, read those articles.

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After a full day of work, I play first person shooter games for 30 minutes. The rush of adrenaline refreshes my mind and I am ready for another evening of work on personal project.

If I start to become too hooked up by the game (it is a double edged sword) then I replace the game by viewing an episode of an anime full of action (like Bleach) to get a similar adrenaline kick.

UPDATE: I wrote a blog post related to this topic:

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On evening after hours I like to watch a good [comedy] movie.

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I suggest either watching a show you really like or even better read a book. This can be accompanied with a friend or your significant other. And even better - get an espresso machine.

Since we got an espresso machine, my wife and I sit once in a while (after the kids are sleeping), we drink a good cappuccino and either talk or study (the bible in our case).

This is interesting, fun, and you feel that you got something out of it.

my 2c

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Sit down. Be silent. Remove yourself from the need to do something.

Be present in the moment.

Sooner or later you get the impulse to do something. Maybe you think that the thrash should be brought out. Follow the impulse and do the task. Afterwards you go back to waiting for a new impulse. If no impulse comes you relax while you wait.

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Use SelfRestraint to block the websites you constantly go on (blogs, video-sharing, social networks, forums), and produce content .

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I have the same problem - pretty much everything I want to do (other than spending time with my family and exercising) is online. The only things I've found to take my attention away are 1.reading a hard copy book (the iPad is so tempting, but it's still looking at a screen), and 2. scheduling time with people.

The second is really the only way I've found to successfully stay offline - plus it satisfies a few other needs (stimulating conversation, community, etc.) - so in a way all the time I spend online has been helping me focus on spending more time with actual people vs. less! :-)

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The problem is that you've tired yourself out to the point when you've exhausted your self-control, so you're spinning your internet browsing wheels instead of doing anything productive.

So, think about what internet browsing gives you, but reproduce it in a more beneficial form. For example, you might be craving social interaction, exploration, effortlessness, freedom from self-control, opportunities for creativity...

Then consider, what other activities have these same qualities for you? For example:

  • Cooking
  • Meeting friends for a chat
  • Audio novels
  • Drama
  • Playing an instrument (not formal learning, but jamming along with records, jazz)
  • Freestyle dance
  • Building with LEGO
  • Playing with children (Calvinball-style)
  • Painting
  • Interior design
  • Creative writing

In other words, you need to go play.

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When tired, it's difficult to motivate yourself to do anything. Now, there's a couple of options.

1) You can do something that will make it so you feel less tired and more motivated to do regular tasks that doesn't involve sleeping. One way in which you can do this is by taking a cold shower. Sounds crazy, but oh boy does it work. Wakes you right up, I'd even go as far to say as it makes you feel hyper. Just crank that tap up to freezing and spend a few minutes under the water.

2) The other option is to simply rest. Power naps (naps in which you sleep until the point where you're going to enter deep sleep) are great for restoring energy and after only a few minutes you can come out feeling great on the other side. However, if you're like me, and you feel worse after naps, then I'd recommend against this one.

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