I think it helps to create specific, interlaced frameworks, algorithms, schedules, and plans for more forms of behavior.
Although this is boring and complicated to read about, here is an example:
- I have a spreadsheet, which I use as a schedule. I'm a full-time student, and on that spreadsheet, I list every assignment for the entire quarter. I color-code it as I complete things.
- But in addition, I have a schedule of work periods and break periods. In the morning I work 100 minutes on, 20 minutes off; in the afternoon, 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. I also take a 20-second look away from the screen break every 20 minutes.
- I have a list of permitted and banned activities during breaks, and types of chores that are only permitted during work time or only permitted during breaks.
- I've also divided forms of work into categories: school, paid jobs, side projects.
I allow myself to modify this framework freely, and I don't follow it on all days. But when I do, it's a very helpful guide that improves my productivity as well as my sense of wellbeing.
Yet it is very far from a natural/intuitive way of operating. There are lots of timers. I take breaks when I don't think I need them, and choose not to do what I normally would.
As another example, I've also crafted an explicit set of commenting and karma awarding standards for participating in LW conversation.
When I'm not working, I don't use these frameworks. They're a tool I pick up when I want to be more agenty, and put down when I don't.
To me, what it means to be an agent is that you have an explicit framework that's unambiguous in your mind, which dictates your behaviors and the way you allocate time. Just creating a framework, adding to it, and playing with it until you've shaped it to be a net improvement is a good thing to try.
Being agenty should be easier and feel more natural than not being agenty if you're doing it right. We're in an unnatural system. If you bring your evolved patterns to an unnatural system, they'll grate against each other. If instead you can create a framework that helps guide your behaviors to fit more smoothly with the unnatural system, everything can work much better.