Dopamine fasting and my first income update
The last couple weeks I’ve been on a dopamine fast.
The idea was an act of desperation. Despite making a public announcement that I would spend my energy building a business, a month later I had little to show for it.
The reason was that I just couldn’t focus.
I was starting to worry I had lost my ability to focus. That maybe it was something I couldn’t help. I even got an Adderall prescription.
But then I heard about dopamine fasting based on the research done by Dr. Anna Lembke and decided to give it a shot.
So for two weeks I didn’t…
Watch shows or movies
Use social media apps
Eat sugar (my vice)
Play video games (my other vice)
The only media I still used was listening to music and reading books.
A bit excessive? Yeah, but like I said, I needed something to work.
And it did.
The two weeks were rough but I quickly became aware of the unconscious habits I had developed that were keeping me from building a business.
My biggest realization was that whenever I was about to start a task I was uncomfortable starting, I would instinctively reach for my phone and open up Reddit or Twitter. I wouldn’t even think about it. The second I felt that discomfort, my phone was already in my hand.
But when you’ve deleted all your social media apps, you quickly realize you have no where to go. I would awkwardly hold it for a few seconds, set it down, and get to work.
As Dr. Anna Lembke writes in Dopamine Nation “we’ve lost the ability to tolerate even minor forms of discomfort. We’re constantly seeking to distract ourselves from the present moment, to be entertained.”
I was avoiding doing the uncomfortable things. Avoiding was ingrained so deep I didn’t realize I was doing it. It wasn’t until I broke the cycle I was able to see that using these apps were just an escape.
A lot of research has been done about Dopamine and its effects on our behavior. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that dopamine is responsible more for wanting that it is for pleasure.
Dopamine may play a bigger role in the motivation to get a reward than the pleasure of the reward itself. Wanting more than liking. Genetically engineered mice unable to make dopamine will not seek out food, and will starve to death even when food is placed just inches from their mouth. Yet if food is put directly into their mouth, they will chew and eat the food, and seem to enjoy it.
It makes sense when wanting a long term reward like building a business can get short circuited by the short term rewards of our dopamine saturated lives.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this clear headed and productive. While I’m done with my fast, I’m still removing my biggest distractions until my next milestone.
So give a dopamine fast a shot. I think you’ll be surprised at what you learn about yourself.
💵 Monthly income update
Total Income: $0
No surprise there. I haven’t launched anything yet. That’s going to change soon. I’ve picked my first product and I’m testing its viability. Stay tuned.
🧠 Psychology Patterns
A concept from psychology to improve your product.
Making a reward for a behavior seem random and unpredictable makes that reward more desirable.
A large part of what makes gambling so addictive, variable rewards can be build into behaviors that are far more positive.
If you were designing a habit tracking app, occasionally share an encouraging or funny message.
Provide random gifts or discounts to repeat customers.
🖤 Cool Things
📚 Book — Dopamine Nation by Dr. Anna Lembke
This book couldn’t have come around at a better time. I’ve always been someone who needs to understand the inner workings of something to know how to use it. Understanding the inner mechanisms of dopamine, addiction, and motivation has been a massive help to create systems to get things done.
🛠️ Tool — Paperlike
I got a iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil partly so I can spend more time sketching before jumping into Figma. The problem was drawing on the screen felt too slick compared to paper. Someone told me about Paperlike and I can’t go back. Paperlike is a screen protector for your iPad that makes it feel like you’re drawing on paper. I love it. Highly recommend picking one up.
Love the transparency and gems in this article! You may not remember me but with your encouragement I went on to build out my portfolio and landed a job with CVS Health. Thanks for your help and thanks for your articles!