What have you recently tried, and failed at?

by Emile1 min read5th Jul 2012131 comments

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Kaj Sotala said:

[I]f you punish yourself for trying and failing, you stop wanting to try in the first place, as it becomes associated with the negative emotions. Also, accepting and being okay with the occasional failure makes you treat it as a genuine choice where you have agency, not something that you're forced to do against your will.

So maybe we should celebrate failed attempts more often ... I for one can't think of anything I've failed at recently, which is probably a sign that I'm not trying enough new things.

So, what specific things have you failed at recently?

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I recently got into communicating with non-scientific people. I got really proud of a new way of trying to convince post-modernists that there was indeed such a thing as ideas that were 'more right' and 'less right' that I wrote up a blog post and posted it here for review. (http://lesswrong.com/lw/dfs/we_prosecute_ceos_for_failing_to_do_due_diligence/)

But I misunderstood the posting rules and put it on the main site instead of the discussions. 4 people didn't like what I wrote, which more than wiped out all of the karma I've built up since I joined.

I'm now trying to salvage the situation by at least learning what I misunderstood or misstated about epistemology. I'm hoping I'll get some more comments explaining what happened. Rest assured, I've already learned the other lesson - the one about where to post stuff.

I'm trying to celebrate this failure. And I suppose if I do get any meaningful feedback, I will indeed have something to celebrate.

It's very easy for new people to care way too much about karma. I did. I still care too much, but I mostly shrug it off if I get downvoted. It happens to everyone, even EY. So I'd encourage you to not worry about it too much, even though I know that's hard for new people to do. It certainly was for me. Just remember getting downvoted doesn't mean we hate you. :-)

Secondly, you can hyperlink like this: LessWrong by using this format: [LessWrong](http://www.lesswrong.com)

6avichapman9yThanks for both pieces of advice. Apparently what karma goes around comes around, because I'm back up to 2/3 or what I had before the misadventure started. I'm at peace.
-5Will_Newsome9y
1Viliam_Bur9yI never wrote an article to LW -- is it possible for the author to move their article from Main to Discussion? Or is some moderator help needed? EDIT: A nice functionality would be also to move one's article from Discussion to Open Thread, preserving the comment structure below the article. (This is not related to the article about CEOs, just generally.)
3RobertLumley9yI don't think Discussion > Open is ever going to happen, realistically. I can imagine that being a pretty big nightmare, coding wise, but I'm not sure.
0avichapman9yI think an admin has already moved it for me.
-1Vaniver9yIt's possible to move articles around. However, I believe that karma votes are saved as the value where they were originally given- and so if you write a main article, it gets downvoted to -4, and then moved to discussion, and upvoted (by different people) to 0, then the net karma change is (by my understanding) -36. Which is also a disincentive to write great discussion posts then move them to main, since the votes aren't magnified.

After half a year without self-harm, I relapsed again this week. I got too cocky and thought I could handle reading a certain website again. Nope, still triggers me and I'm just going to have to accept that.

6MileyCyrus9yAww, thanks :D (())
-5RobertLumley9y
2[anonymous]9yI'm so sorry to hear that :( If your self-harm trigger is exclusively his website, as say in another comment, then might I suggest blocking the website from your computer's registry? I can relate to your situation, and blocking the offending website from my registry has prevented me from going back, even if I had an urge to do so.
0MileyCyrus9yI should probably try that.
2CronoDAS9yOuch. (Would it be inappropriate to ask what that website is?)

I don't want this man finding out he has this effect me.

It's just a blog where one man writes his opinions. I'm not exactly sure why his blog in particular makes me so angry. Maybe it's because he wrote a couple of posts that reminded me of a traumatizing experience when I was a kid. Maybe his unique writing style. Maybe it's just an accident. But for whatever reason, when I read this man's blog, I get incredibly angry. No other blog (or anything else) affects me this way.

Sometimes when I'm reading his blog and I get angry at him, I imagine punching him. Then I punch myself. Then my brain releases the "someone punched you!" chemicals and I get even angrier. A positive feedback loop until I'm bloody and exhausted.

It's not nearly as bad as it used to be. When I was a teenager I was punching myself practically every day, only instead of getting mad at a blogger I was mad at my parents. I'm not mad at my parents anymore and I just made a half a year without punching myself, so hopefully this chapter will be over soon.

4CronoDAS9yO_O I'd say that it seems like the problem is that getting angry somehow causes you to hit yourself (rather than that various things are making you angry), but it seems sufficiently obvious that my saying it wouldn't make any difference...
0MileyCyrus9yIt's not "various things" that trigger me. At this point in my life, it's exclusively his blog/twitter account. I'll be the first to admit that my reaction to his blog is ridiculously out of proportion. Yes, his opinions are asinine, but a lot of people say asinine things and they don't worked up like he does. I guess I could try and break the connection between reading his blog and hitting myself, but I think it would be easier to just stop reading the blog altogether. It doesn't enlighten me and it just makes me angry. Almost any other site would be a better use of my time.
2CronoDAS9yWell, if it's just this one site, then you might as well just avoid the site. But simply getting very angry, in general, isn't something that one should need to avoid doing for fear of hitting oneself. Sometimes there are very good reasons to be angry. (Ask Ned Flanders! [http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Hurricane_Neddy])
1RobertLumley9yThis may have occurred to you, but it seems too obvious not to suggest - do stress release devices help at all? A punching bag seems to me to be a good idea.
0MileyCyrus9yI tried it for while but could never be bothered to do it consistently. Maybe I should try again.
0RobertLumley9yI was thinking more that whenever you got the urge to hit yourself, you could just hit the punching bag instead.
2Viliam_Bur9ynot hitting anything > hitting a punching bag > hitting a human The danger of the "punching bag therapy" applied uncritically is teaching you that when you feel angry, the correct reaction is to hit something. So if possible, self-control is the first choice. Only if not possible (or not probable), hitting the bag is the safer option.
3RobertLumley9yThat's certainly true (related [http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/08/11/catharsis/]). But hitting a punching bag is orders of magnitude better than hitting yourself.
0Alicorn9yI'm really curious who it is now. Will you tell in PM?
0MileyCyrus9yI'll think about it.
2John_Maxwell9yThat sucks!

Attempted 2 online courses on Coursera. Grossly overestimated my own free time and conscientiousness, failed to make it even mid-way through both.

I'm not giving up though. Have signed up for one course this month - the introduction to Quantum Mechanics taught by Umesh Vazirani. Must do better and complete the course this time because if not, I just might start to self-identify as someone who plans, but does not execute!

5[anonymous]9yI attempted Udacity's CS101 class. Got through several units of the program until the learning curve suddenly got very steep for me. Persisted through for another two units, but it wasn't getting better. I certainly got a lot out of the class, but I don't think it's yet within my ability to complete it. I was also attempting Udacity's ST101 and PH101 courses. The speed was too slow for me. If I wanted to learn the subjects, an actual book might be better. But I also realized that, for right now, it might be better focus on different subjects. (Such as programming and AI.) I'll be taking Stats I & II in the Spring, and Physics isn't required by my major. So I failed to complete three Udacity courses. But as a positive, it has let me take a page out of Cal Newport's playbook and simplify [http://calnewport.com/blog/2008/03/11/the-radical-simplicity-manifesto-doing-less-and-living-more-at-college/] so I can focus on what's important.
1[anonymous]9y.
0[anonymous]9yYeah, sometimes I struggle with inactive periods, too. Though through some pretty hard work, they've subsided for the past few months. Now I'm focusing on making my working time more productive. I don't know much about IFS, but I wish you the best with your phone appointment. Way to take a serious step toward self-improvement. Good job! :)
0[anonymous]9y.
1Kaj_Sotala9yI registered for a couple of Coursera and Udacity courses, figuring I'd do them on the side while not working, but soon dropped out of them when I noticed that I didn't have the energy for both my job and the courses. (I never even got to the point of figuring out whether they were easy or hard - by the time I was done with my day's work, even looking at the course homepages in order to look at the lectures and read the exercises felt like too much effort.)

As part of the background research for my study on PUA I bought a copy of the rules of the game. I was going to also do at least most of the exercises, but didn't really get any were. Part of this was due to lack of motivation (I wasn't actually trying to get a date) and part of it was circumstance. Strauss assumes that you will have the opportunity to interact with people you don't know multiple times a day. I have almost no legitimate reason to be in the presence of strangers on a regular basis and as I'm in a heat wave in an area with almost no "walkiblity" or even good malls, and I have a very small entertainment budget I'm not really up for trying to engineer encounters.

0Baughn9yHave you considered hiking? It's cheap, there are obvious health benefits, it's nice.. and there tend to be hiking clubs everywhere.
2beoShaffer9yYes, thats were the heat wave came in.
0Baughn9yAh, right. I might be underestimating this. What kind of heat wave?
0beoShaffer9yMultiple days of breaking the all time high record in an area were people already avoid going out during summer. I do hike a bit when its cooler out (it was one of my first ideas for meeting people), but I already do martial arts so I don't really need much more exercise.

First of all, this is a great idea for a thread, and I'd be interested in it becoming a monthly one. I can't upvote this enough.

Secondly, I recently failed at keeping up with my journal, although this was largely due to some systemic issues that I felt were corrupting my data. As I identified more and more of them, I became less and less enthused about keeping up with it. I saved all my data and restarted it about a week ago, making efforts to fix these things, and it seems to be going well. But it was very easy to keep track of for a little while last time too. (I ended up doing it for about four months, and came up with some interesting data that I may publish in some form to LW at some point..)

Edit: For anyone wondering, the most interesting find I found was that I eat statistically significantly (At p = 0.05) less food when it is rainy or stormy out than I do when it is clear or cloudy.

0[anonymous]9yIf you don't mind me asking, can your quantify the average difference between the amount of food you eat on clear/cloudy days than on rainy/stormy days?
3RobertLumley9yI'm considering sanitizing the personal parts (comments I've made, on the data, any data I wouldn't want public, etc.) and posting it when I make my post on it. I'm still not sure how I feel about that. But long story short, I don't mind giving that to you at all. This [http://i.imgur.com/1BMSy.jpg] is a screenshot of the graphing worksheet I made for reporting (categorical) statistics. (By the way, I was misremembering when I wrote that, the significance is only there for clear days, not cloudy. And there's really not enough data on rainy and drizzle days to say anything.) The p-value column displays the p-value of a one tailed T test with unequal variances between the first variable set (in this case stormy weather) and the indicated variable set. So I eat as much or less food (the null hypothesis) on a clear day as I do on a stormy day with probability 0.012164. I'm sure you can extrapolate the rest. What's cool about this is all I have to do is change the variables in the red boxes and it'll automatically report anything. The excel formulas are... long. It should be noted though, that in my second iteration of my journal, I'm changing both the way I record food and the way I record weather. First of all, when I started this the first time, it somehow didn't occur to me to record the weather. Which is kind of dumb of me, given all of the scientific literature. So I went back and looked it up retroactively for the first 3-ish months of data. Secondly, I only gave one description for the entire day, which was generally the most severe weather we had that day. So if it stormed for an hour, I recorded it as stormy, even though it may have been cloudy or clear most of the day. Now I record a morning weather and an evening weather, which hopefully should be much more precise. I still look at the same website to help myself, but it's tempered with my own observations too. I also use that website to grab the average temperature for the day though. Also, I'm now record
0Rhwawn9yI'd like to hear more about what results you've derived from analyzing the data, FWIW.

I failed to go 24 hours without consuming calories, attempting intermittent fasting. This is my 4th such failure. I am currently at a record high weight, and it's having health impacts and reducing my daily quality of life. Last night I had 2 Ben and Jerry's pint ice cream containers as dinner.

6Vaniver9yI'm biased against alternate-day fasts, because routines work better for me as daily things. (If you were trying to fast one day a week, then never mind!). What I'd recommend is trying a feeding period each day- the one I use is between noon and 8 PM. Eat normally during that period, don't eat outside of it. You'll feel full for part of the day, and hungry for another part, and are able to remind yourself during the hungry part that the feeding period is coming up, and you just need to wait. (You can even keep a list of what things you want to eat during the feeding period, if that helps you put off eating the food.)
1Rain9yHaving breakfast reduces my overall daily intake, but I have to force myself to eat it, since it makes me feel too full and I don't naturally get hungry until 11am or so.
0Vaniver9ySome people do a breakfast-lunch-supper window of around 8 am to 4 pm- the downside of that one is it makes social meals in the evening more difficult. (Mine is often functionally that, because I'll often wake up around 10-11.)
4drethelin9yI'm currently doing 16 hour fasts every day, and that seems to be pretty sustainable.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky9yShangri-La doesn't work for everyone, but it's very painless to try and works amazingly for some - have you tried it?
2Rain9yNo, but I will.
4aelephant9yHave you tried this in combination with low-carb intake? Insulin / blood sugar spikes and depressions can have strong effects on hunger & cravings. Also maybe trying to go 24 hours is too ambitious. Obviously YMMV but my current strategy is to skip breakfast and eat only eggs fried in butter when I find myself too hungry to bear it. Usually I end up eating only eggs for lunch sometime after 12 and then an ad libitum dinner around 6:30pm. The low-carb might also be helpful in limiting your calorie intake. I find if I start eating carbs, I can basically just keep eating and eating them until my stomach is ready to burst. With high fat & protein items, I seem to reach fullness & satiety much faster and it lasts much longer.
0Rain9yI attempted Atkins and after 3 days constantly felt like I was starving. Fried eggs work well, but are on the edge of my effort threshold.
2shminux9yThat must have felt both awesome and awful. Also, why do you think that intermittent fasting is a good idea? (I've gone 24+ hours without food or water on occasion, to keep company to an observant friend of mine, but I cannot see it helping one to lose weight. Incidentally, it's easier if you only eat a light meal before the fast.)
2Rain9yIt's one more strategy in a long line of weight loss attempts. I was doing very good with a 3 rule system until it broke down and I started eating too much again. I don't understand my stomach, and it seems impervious to any hackery, requiring copious amounts of fat, sugar, and carbs to "feel good". I may be overly sensitive to hunger or emptiness, or whatever it is that I'm feeling when I feel I've already eaten way too much and yet I know I need more to change the feeling to "right". Plus, it's an interesting test of willpower. I've always looked at drug addicts and said to myself, well, it shouldn't be too hard; you just have to avoid it until the withdrawal goes away. And yet I can't even avoid calories for a full day. It's altered my view of how much willpower I have in general.
1bbleeker9yI've just (yesterday) started to do intermittent fasting as well, but more of a 'light' version: I allow myself only ~500 kCal on diet days. This has worked for me in the past, and it was OK yesterday. Hopefully it works again; just eating low carb isn't helping this time (due to lack of exercise, maybe?).
0Jayson_Virissimo9yTry eating a half-stick (yes, half of an entire stick) of organic grass-fed better before your next attempt (no, I'm not kidding). Also, drink lots of water (with a pinch of salt). When you get sick of water, try tea.
0Jack9yAre you exercising? I've found dieting to be difficult-useless without burning calories and increasing metabolism. I also find that it jump-starts my discipline and will-power making it easier to avoid junk food.
0Rain9yI will start exercising this Wednesday.
1Jack9yHave you a good reason for waiting that long?
4Rain9yI started exercising a day early, since I got everything moved out of my bedroom, the new bed set up, and the rowing machine set up. Common advice says not to exceed 10 minutes on the first row, so I went 9 minutes and felt pretty good about it.
1Rain9yThe effort required will be lower on Wednesday. I purchased a rowing machine and a smaller bed to make room for it, and the bed arrives on Tuesday. Once I set it up, get rid of the larger bed, and set up the rowing machine, the effort to start exercising will likely be below my (admittedly too low) threshold. Similar threshold anecdote: drinking tea helps me lose weight due to making me not hungry for a couple hours, but I don't like filling the pot, heating it up, pouring, steeping the tea, throwing away the scraps, and waiting for it to cool. But a Keurig single serve coffee machine works great.
0shminux9yDoesn't a glass of tap water do the trick?
0Rain9yEach step is simplicity in itself, and yet the 6+ minute process combined into one "make tea" step is often too much of a hassle. Making each step discrete and separable, like with a Keurig, works great. There's a lot I don't have to do at that point. I don't have to watch how long the tea has been steeping. I don't have to wait for the pot to scream and then silence it. I don't have to turn on/off the stove. I don't have to throw away the cartridge if I don't want to. I don't have to fill up the water if I don't want to. Instead, I put in cup -> receive coffee. I have an extremely low activity threshold.
2gwern9y/gives in to the other-optimizing temptation I like oolongs and greens that resteep very well. So my process is essentially: boil water; dump into tea cup; occasionally sprinkle in some new loose tea; once every few days, dump out all the dregs. You don't really need a tea ball or strainer or anything once you have a nice clump at the bottom.
0Viliam_Bur9yThere is an electric tool for this, I don't remember the English word. Or you could make a lot of tea, and then just warm it up in microwave, or just drink it at room temperature. Even for drinking water, you can make it easier by bringing a whole bottle in your room, so you don't have to go to kitchen (and be tempted by proximity of food) for each cup.
0[anonymous]9y.
2Rain9yAnything that's "in my way" or at the polite, in-person request of someone else. As such, I've adapted many strategies for placing things in my way deliberately so they get done. Like returning Netflix DVDs: I place the DVD on the floor at the front door so I have to pick it up on the way out.
0[anonymous]9yYes? And?

Giving up porn for an entire month.

1sixes_and_sevens9yCan I ask what your motives are?
4stcredzero9ySee if I can free up more time and energy.
4sixes_and_sevens9yYou might have more luck regulating or rationing yourself, as opposed to going cold turkey. Unless you're planning on giving it up permanently.
6aelephant9yI've been considering designing a way that I can use porn as a reward in applying Behavioral Psychology on myself, a la lukeprog's post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2dg/applying_behavioral_psychology_on_myself/]. He uses candy worms, but I try to limit my carb intake. I've been trying to brainstorm other potential rewards without much success.
2sixes_and_sevens9yI've tried this. My own appetite for porn is too variable from day to day for it to be a reliable reward.

Simply switch to using it as a punishment on the days that you have little appetite. :)

I repeatedly fail to reduce the clutter and quantity of unnecessary stuff in my living and working environments. I have too many books, too many clothes, too many unclassified emails, too many file icons on my desktops, too many piles of miscellaneous clutter around my home.

I am not seeking advice about this -- I've read various minimality blogs from time to time, so any advice anyone instantly thinks of is unlikely to be something I haven't seen already. The one thread that I can see running through all of these is a habit of putting something on one side to deal with later, and not dealing with them as fast as they accumulate. But that's a description of the problem, not of a solution.

  • Bike maintenance.

Specifically, I failed to repair a rip near the valve stem of my inner tube. I thought I'd managed to patch it, but next time I tried to use my bike the tire had deflated again. So I got a replacement inner tube, and after putting it on the rear wheel yesterday I made a complete mess of attempting to put the wheel back on the bike. I attached the derailleur in the wrong place, and needed my friend to point out what I'd done. Then I twisted the chain, and when I couldn't work out how that had happened I gave up and untwisted it using a method that I was pretty sure was not the reverse of how it became twisted. That was stupid; eventually I had to re-twist and re-untwist it. Then I discovered I'd stripped a bolt, so I've got a replacement and I'll be trying again later today.

  • Grade estimation.

I had expected my final year project to receive < 60%. I got 70% for it. I don't feel like I deserve it. I had also expected to get more than 70% for General relativity, although I didn't feel like I deserved it (I thought the exam had gone pretty well, but I don't grok GR); I actually got 61%. My other six modules were within expected bounds. My overall mark was high e... (read more)

2[anonymous]9yJust curious, what country do you go to school in? I was confused when I read your grade estimation paragraphs, as that method of grading is completely unknown to me. (I'm an American.) For me, anything less than a 60% is a failing grade, and an average of at least an 85% is required to stay in the honors program. Maximum grade for any given course is 100%.
1Larks9ySounds like the UK. I don't know anyone who's gotten more than 92% on an exam.
0philh9yYeah, specifically Warwick. I've scored more than 92% on I think ~10% of my exams, and I gather that roughly one person a year gets more than 100% overall. (This is possible because if you take more modules than necessary, your average is multiplied by a factor based on the amount of extra work you did.) (I'm talking about the maths department here; few if any other departments have the multiplier, and I'm told that 90% is really rare in the humanities departments.)
1[anonymous]9yAh, okay. Thanks for clarifying.

Project Euler problem 384. I thought I'd be able to crack it in an afternoon, but a couple week's later I'm still stumped. I finally moved to another problem in the hopes of being able to return to 384 with fresh eyes, but no joy just yet.

I'm not sure if there's a lesson to learn from the failure, except that to do a good estimate about how much work something will take often itself requires a bit of work.

1RobertLumley9yWow. That looks difficult.
0BlazeOrangeDeer9yAt first glance I see a few sub-problems that don't look hard, but the list s(n) will get huge but have a ton of repetition so you could just make a list of occurrences of each number instead of just the list of s(n), and this would make finding the nth occurrence trivial. You wouldn't need to keep much of the list, only the fibonacci numbers.

I went 2-2 in the last MTGO Daily Event I entered, finishing out of the prizes.

::mumbles incoherently about manascrew::

1handoflixue9yI'd suggest reading some articles on mulliganing. I'd also suggest reading some articles on deck construction. I'm betting this probably isn't your issue, but an occasional refresher on the basics can make a big difference. I used to go 2-2 most events. Learning to mulligan put me at 3-1. I can't remember the last time I didn't claim prizes at an event. (The idea of "how does my deck win" and therefor knowing how I can win and how I can lose on any given turn helped a lot - especially in sealed, it has helped me go 4-0 with a card pool I would have considered hopeless)
0CronoDAS9yWell, when your 7 card has 1 land, your 6 card hand has 1 land, and your 5 card hand has no land, you're probably not winning that game. :( Any advice for the Delver vs Naya Pod matchup from the Delver perspective?

Using simple score-keeping gamification systems (eg.) for any sort of behavior modification. I just start ignoring the systems after a couple of days. Then again, I've never been big on playing computer games over and over for mastery either, compared to just trying them out long enough to get a rough idea of what novel content they have, often cheating if the challenges that keep me from seeing potentially interesting content don't seem fun enough.

I just started to write a list, but all entries in the list were of the form "I've been working on [x] on an ongoing basis, but over the past six weeks I've been doing really badly with it", where [x] includes items like exercise, eating sensibly, regulating my sleep properly, socialising, not interacting with dickbag-people, meeting my study obligations in a timely manner, etc.

I'm beginning to think that maybe I haven't been failing at all these things, and in fact I've just had a bit of a dodgy past six weeks.

0RomeoStevens7yThis is a great opportunity to practice recovering from the slipups in your routine life inevitably throws at us!

Pomodoro didn't work for me. I can see occasions where it might be useful to take occasional breaks, not necessarily at timed intervals... but it wasn't magic, didn't seem to increase productivity, and felt annoying.

I'm failing at Sweep Picking. When I attempt to do it at a high BPM I fail miserably. I can do it slowly, but that's no fun. Related, I also failed at recording a heavy metal version of some video game music, namely the snow stage music from Ninja Gaiden II (NES version) which includes some sweep picking...

I did not achieve a certain milestone at work that I had planned to reach by the end of the week. This means I have failed at estimating how much time I needed to reach it. This is bad because it happens fairly often, and the converse (finishing sooner than expected) happens rarely. Despite everything I know about fallacies and biases with predicting schedules, I keep predicting less work than is really required.

My work is programming. It is notoriously hard to quantify (or the managers could make predictions themselves without asking me). If I can't modify the intuitions I feel, I may have to try just multiplying my feelings by a factor - e.g. adding 100% time to each estimate.

5Viliam_Bur9yYou could measure your estimated time and real time, and calculate the factor from that data. Of course this works best if your bias is consistent, but the data would tell you how consistent it is.

I tried to set up a beer/sausage pairing for the 4th of July. Due to logistics difficulties and lack of planning, I failed. There were beers and cups set up somewhere, which was an okay feature of the party, and there were a couple of plates of sausage tastes, which was also an okay feature of the party, but arranging this to happen together and with any structure? Not even close.

I tried to start the habit of flossing my teeth every time I brush (morning & night) and was successful until my floss ran out. I have not gone to purchase a new one and thus haven't flossed my teeth in days.

I tried to start the habit of meditating regularly and did well for a few weeks, but got busy preparing for exams and cut it out recently; haven't been able to reinstate it yet.

Coincidentally, a friend posted this just the other day:

"If you don't fail at least 90 percent of the time, you're not aiming high enough." - Alan Kay

The administrative admin of the group I was working with told me something that started my habit of brushing and flossing: "It's simple. You only have to floss between the teeth you want to keep." This evokes lots of images for me.

That was 15 years ago, and my habit is still strong to this day.

4Rain9yI found that I couldn't get into the habit of flossing until I switched to single-use floss-picks. The store brand (rite-aid, whatever) are cheap and thin enough to fit through even my tightest teeth. I also discovered that, to my astonishment, at some point it stops hurting. It takes maybe 3 weeks to a month and a half, but then the gums are in tough enough shape that brushing and flossing feels more like scratching an itch than scrubbing a sore spot, and it's quite pleasant.
1DanArmak9yFloss is quite cheap here. I could buy enough thread for daily flossing for a year, for maybe 30$. Maybe you should just buy a lot of it next time.
1aelephant9yThis is a good suggestion. An alternative that I've been using is to just make sure I always have 2 of whatever item I don't want to run out of. For example, I always have 2 bags of coffee beans in my house. When the 1st bag is finished or close-to-finished I make a mental note to buy a replacement when the opportunity presents itself.
0Vaniver9yFloss picks (like Rain recommends [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/dg7/what_have_you_recently_tried_and_failed_at/6ywe] ) are good, but still run afoul of the 'replacement' problem. Consider getting a water flosser [http://www.waterpik.com/oral-health/products/cordless-dental-water-flosser/WP-360/] .

I've become an insufferable list-maker. I've been meaning to start a blog, largely to improve my ability to organize and effectively communicate challenging concepts. Every time I sit down to "start work on the blog," I find myself ending up with a stack of lists - what needs to be done, topic ideas, features of the website design, people to partner/affiliate/guest blog with, hooks for a viral video blog, and so on. Rinse and repeat - a new stack of lists every time.

1Viliam_Bur9ySomething similar happens to me too, though with a shorter list. (I need a responsive design [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_Web_Design], Atom/RSS feed or even better a few of them, navigable directory structure, links between multilingual versions of the same article, better admin part, support for JQuery and other libraries, syntax highlighting in code examples; and then articles about Java programming, rationality, education; buttons for social networks, a twitter feed... that's what I remember at this moment, without looking at notes.) Technically, the solution is iterative programming: Add one feature and make it all work. Add another feature and make it work. When the basic framework is ready, ask yourself which feature would be most useful to add next. Psychologically, I realized that I am afraid of failure. Often when I start a project, it grows too big in my imagination, and I don't finish it. It helped me to remind myself that I have also completed many projects; and that if I had to the make a similar project in my work, I would do it without problems and actually would consider it an easy project. -- It does not mean my web is finished yet, but it helped me to do some progress yesterday, instead of just avoiding the work.

Starting to go running in the early morning, right after I wake up. Idea was to get running done before it gets all hot and sunny. It seems to take some time after waking up for my willpower to kick in though.

Also, sticking to a regular running schedule, though I might get better at this by just acknowledging that early-morning running is a non-starter and trying to acclimatize to running in the heat.

4Brigid9yIsn't it also not "hot and sunny" in the evening? Couldn't you run right before sundown, or in the dark with reflectors on streets with lights? I am just asking because I had the same problem, until I realized that I just liked the idea of working out in the morning, not actually working out in the morning. I wanted to be one of those people who works out at the crack of dawn. By accepting that I am just not one of those people, and working out at lunch and in the evening, I am working out a lot more than when I kept telling myself that "tomorrow I will get up at 5 to workout." Also, telling yourself you are just going to run for ten or fifteen minutes can get you over the akrasia hump. And running a mile or two is better than none.
0Risto_Saarelma9yI live up north, so when it's hot, the sun also stays up until 10 pm or so.

Communicating successfully. I've had trouble with people reading my essays, and then not being able to tell me what the main idea was. Or they would offer objections I thought already entirely covered within the essay itself. This shows that I am insufficiently clear and organized.

1shminux9yThree-part structure is the usual way to deal with this. Start with a short summary paragraph, 1-2 sentences, then elaborate in the main body, then restate your point in the conclusion. If you are already doing it, then you probably need to work on your summarizing skills.

I recently decided to stop playing video games (for a week) and to stop fooling around on the internet (for the same week). The first has been fine so far, but the second is troublesome- there are a number of sites that I used to check several times per day, which I had mostly reduced to once per day, and now was trying to reduce to once per week. But the agitation from not checking them is high enough that I've still been checking them once per day, but at night rather than at the start of the day (and then a few times over the course of the day). I have ... (read more)

2aelephant9yI was thinking about my own repetitive checking of websites recently in the context of lukeprog's post about Behavioral Psychology [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2dg/applying_behavioral_psychology_on_myself/]. It seems to me that the reason it is so easy to become habituated to it is because it offers "Applied Intermittent Reinforcement". Your reward is reading some new nugget of knowledge or some great insight, but you never know for certain when & where you will stumble across it.
2Vaniver9yIt's possible, but the issue is that the sentiment is different for different sites. For example, if one of the sites I went to was a tumblr with smiling faces on it, and then I stopped going to that tumblr and I was less happy, the intermittent reinforcement wouldn't be the important mechanism. Some of the sites- like Facebook- were very much a "almost none of this is going to be interesting enough to devote time to, but at least it's novel" resource, and I don't miss them when I'm not going there. So the sites that I do miss must be giving me something, but it's not obvious yet what.
1TrE9yHave you considered using tools like LeechBlock for Firefox?
0Vaniver9yThe issue is psychological, not mechanical. If I elect not to go to the site, I don't go to the site. When electing to not go to the site causes discomfort, something else is going on that I want to examine.
[-][anonymous]9y 4

Bookshelves- I moved about two months ago, and my original plan had been to paint (to match the wall) the ugly, industrial, track shelves that I had taken down when I moved in, and fill them with books (so you can't tell that they are ugly industrial track shelves).

I figured that I would do this shortly after the move, but I have yet to start even painting them. I find that the problem is that the bookshelves are very permanent. Once I start painting them (the walls are different colors), and ESPECIALLY once I hang them, I won't be able to change my mind ... (read more)

I tried to implement GTD and failed. This wasn't the first attempt. I thought I could do it this time because I had more free-time to do it, but I realize that the main problem isn't that I didn't have enough time, but that I don't have the right software.

I'm also working on a knowledge mapping project where I feel like the main problem is that I can only theorize about knowledge mapping, but I can't really use the software to help me build it and I can't actually see what benefit a particular hypothetical feature would have.

So, I need to learn how to cod... (read more)

3Viliam_Bur9yIf you can't find the right software to implement GTD, why don't you just use pen and paper? Here is how I would do it: a plastic envelope for all papers; one paper for each project, one paper for each context, one or more papers for incoming ideas. Write any new idea on the "incoming" paper and process it later. On a project paper list all tasks that need to be done for this project; you can also use it for other project-related information. Make a circle around the "next task" (and write it on the context paper), then cross it out (on both project and context papers) when it is done. If any paper gets too ugly, replace it with a fresh version at home. You can keep an archive of the old project papers. Maybe you have a good reason for wanting a computer version instead of paper version, but I have noticed that many computer users have a bias for doing everything at computer, whether it's useful or not. For other kinds of information, computers have clear advantages: easier to process, not much space required for many data. However, GTD is different -- most of the papers you just use for a short time and throw them away. (You can always make a digital record of your completed projects later.) Paper gives you high speed and complete freedom to customize, and you can start right now.
0Curiouskid9yThe problem I'm running into is that many of the things I'm trying to work on are very multifaceted and so I feel that I need a computer to organize my thoughts on them. If I'm trying to make a complicated decision such as how to optimize my diet, there are MANY different things to read and you need to be able to break your research into manageable components. I feel like I can only manage this complexity with a computer. I find that even existing computer tools are really unsatisfying. Trying to use pen and paper sounds maddeningly difficult. I'm curious that it works for you. Also, I suppose part of the problem is that I need some help getting set up with GTD. I've failed so many times to set it up on my own, I don't really feel like trying again unless something is different.
0Viliam_Bur9yMy experience with GTD is: trying, failing, trying again, failing again, etc. So I wouldn't say it works for me. But I have noticed that waiting for a perfect implementation is a good excuse to procrastinate. And there is no guarantee the perfect implementation would make things work. Or I could change my mind and decide I now have different criteria for a perfect implementation. Etc. So it's probably just an excuse. I could start with what I have now, and it does not prevent me to search for a better implementation. And probably I am using it for much simpler tasks. Because my typical situation is simple tasks not being done. I can still imagine that for a complex project I would use a Word document in computer, and paper for "next actions"... because the "next actions" by definition are simple. How exactly did you fail in your previous attempts with GTD? My typical failure mode is simply giving up and ignoring the system. The same thing could happen to me with a computer implementation, too. Some problems have to be fixed outside of GTD. GTD is basicly for people who have no problems with procrastination, they just do tasks in a wrong order (less important ones first) or remember them in wrong contexts (e.g. forget to send an important e-mail when at computer, remember it when walking outside, then forget it again).
0Curiouskid9y"GTD is basicly for people who have no problems with procrastination, they just do tasks in a wrong order (less important ones first)" People don't do nothing when they procrastinate. "How exactly did you fail in your previous attempts with GTD? My typical failure mode is simply giving up and ignoring the system." Basically, I didn't actually use the system. I suppose this could be a failure on my part rather than a failure due to bad software. Thinking about this now, I'm surprised that I was able to rationalize things for so long saying that the problem was imperfect software. I suppose the problem is that the software does not definitely tell me which option is better, and so I don't commit to any option. Then, I just choose options based on what seems most relevant to work on at the time. I suppose the problem of definitively saying that one option is better than the other can't be solved (actually, this is a bit of a rationalization). But, I can still commit to options without strong certainty in the options because I am sure that it would be really coincidental if the thing I decided to work on in the moment were actually the most important thing I could be doing...
0Viliam_Bur9yIt's not literally nothing, but I'd say they often do some "infinite task" -- a thing that can expand to take all available time, and can be used to avoid anything else. Modern example is web browsing, but classic example could be e.g. house cleaning. Avoiding is the critical component of procrastination, but it can be masked by wasting all the time and then saying "no, I don't avoid it, I just don't have enough time, because I have so much work". Sometimes the waste of time is obvious, such as with web browsing, but sometimes one can do many relatively useful things just to avoid one unplesant task. GTD is good to fix bugs like: "you did a decision, then you forgot it, then you had to decide again, so you wasted twice as much time" or "you went to place X to do task A, then you returned home, and only then you remembered that you also have to do task B at the same place, so you had to travel twice". It supposes one is already efficient, but wants do be twice as efficient. So one creates lists of "all tasks that need to be done at place X", lists of already made decisions, etc. GTD is bad to fix bugs like: "you had enough time to do A, but instead you spent all the time on Reddit". One can write a list of projects and tasks... and spend all the time on Reddit anyway. Yeah, that's another thing GTD does not do (not 100% sure about it, but this is what I remember). It supposes that you choose a doable amount of work, and do it all. The only difference is that by being twice as efficient, the amount of doable work increases. Planning is a different thing than doing; and it shouldn't be done at the same time. -- When planning, we focus on how useful things are. When doing, we are inevitably influenced by how easy things are. When we mix planning and working, there is high risk of rationalizing the easier task as more useful, just because we prefer to do something easy. For me planning is easiest when the work is in the far mode; for example on evening, or when I
0moridinamael9yI recommended [http://lesswrong.com/lw/deg/less_wrong_product_service_recommendations/6xuv] the software Nozbe [http://www.nozbe.com/] in the product/service recommendation thread. It's worked wonderfully well for me personally. There are other recommendations in that thread which I haven't looked into simply because Nozbe is working for me, and this is the first time anything has worked for me for more than a couple of days.

Soccer. The people I play with are decent, so I should be able to (eventually) improve merely by doing.

I play a few times per week and would like to improve more rapidly. I sometimes practice with a friend who's better (and more experienced). I don't know any individual drills that would help dramatically. Readily available online instruction seems to mostly be about useless tricks.

I tried the Shangri-La plan as a suppliment to my current diet/exercise/suppliment plan. However, I noticed after a week that I was anticipating the taste (rather than say, the texture) of the canola oil. Which means that it was no longer registering as flavorless, so I stopped.

I might try it again with another product, but I know that sugar water registers a taste with me: probably due to drinking a lot of sugar water as a kid.

1wedrifid9yI use Omega three capsules---lots of them. Definitely can't taste those. I haven't kept data on how well it works.
0RomeoStevens7yBe careful with mega dosing fish oil. It has blood thinning effects.
0Jonathan_Graehl9yI've heard that you don't need too much O-3 so long as you don't have a high amount of O-6 in your diet. Also, there's some evidence that excess O-3 is bad (e.g. enhancing blood supply to tumors). (though for all I know, you're in the roughly-optimal intake region)
0asparisi9yHm. I'd have to consider that. I already take a large number of suppliments throughout the day, however, and I think that adding more capsules might increase my akrasia regarding the things I do that already work for me.
0wedrifid9yYou would prefer to spoon down canola oil than swallow Omega three capsules? I tried drinking vegetable oil and it was mildly unpleasant. (Not that such tasks being unpleasant always stops me. I chew down all sorts of powders at various times as part of my supplement routines. Some are vile.)
0asparisi9yIt was unpleasant, but only mildly. I put up with worse on a regular basis. It comes down to me thinking "I am already taking lots and lots of pills every day: screw it, no pills today." Which is not a GOOD mindset, and I value my current suppliments more than I do adding the Omega-3 capsules, in the absense of data that tells me that I should reverse that.