This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for June 1-15. 

It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit
  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves. Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Thanks to cata for starting the Group Rationality Diary posts, and to commenters for participating.

Previous diary: May 16-31

Next diary: June 16-30

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13 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:42 AM

I just made this decision about 5 minutes ago, so I'm posting it here as some form of commitment to stick to it.

A while ago, I decided to make a Minecraft adventure map. An embarrassing amount of time was invested into making it, but sizable progress was made in that time. That's what kept me going. The feeling of making progress on a big personal project.

But taking an outside view on it...

How much time will it take to complete? A whole hell of a lot more.

What could I do in that time instead? Make more friends, learn a programming language or two, plenty of stuff.

What will probably happen if it is completed? I will probably get a few dozen downloads of the map and that's it.

What benefits will accrue by completing it? Not enough to justify the time spent on it.

Somebody is calling this project an example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy. How would I respond? Hang my head in shame.

Is it fun? Somewhat, but much more fun things could probably be done with the time instead.

So I give up. It's a really huge sunk cost by this point, and it feels terrible that I used so much time on something I just abandoned halfway through, but every time I imagine what someone smarter than me would say, it is some variant of "Finally you realize it now." Time to walk away from Minecraft, permanently.

You could have also spent that time watching TV or surfing reddit. I'd rank a half-finish project that genuinely used your creative energy above those sorts of things.

I guarantee you most of the people on this site have a mountain of similar half-finished projects.

Actually, that gives me an idea. I've noticed that I have difficulty reducing goof-off internet time below about 90 min/day, so I'll only work on it to funge against internet time.

I guarantee you most of the people on this site have a mountain of similar half-finished projects.

I must say that does make me feel better.

It reminds me greatly my making of conlangs (artificial languages). While I find it creative, it takes vehement amounts of time to just create a simple draft and an arduous work to make satisfactory material. And all I'd get is just two or three people calling it cool and showing just a small interest. And I always know I'll get bored with that language in few days and never make as much as to translate simple texts.

And yet every now and then I get an amazing idea and can't stop myself from "wasting" hours, planning and writing about some conlang. And I end up being unsatisfied.

I don't think it is about Sunk Cost. It's more about a form of addiction toward creative works. Some kind of vicious cycle, where brain engages in activity, that just makes you want more to do that activity. The more you work on it, the more you want to do it, until reaching saturation, when you just can't look at it anymore.

I am transitioning from grad school, where life was very intense and focused on projects that were part of the large and wonderful enterprise of scientific advancement, to the professional world where I am paid more, work fewer hours and have much more stability.

This leaves me in a pretty good position, but I don't have that big blazing "THIS IS MY LIFE MISSION" thing going on any more.

I have realized that now is the perfect time to focus on more general improvement - focusing on exercise, relationships, hobbies - rather than trying to find another BIG LIFE MISSION to make my new life more similar to the old one. That can come, but it can come later.

Had a realization while on a campout; A major motivator behind my actions is a feeling that I'm constantly behind in my understanding of things. Without an understanding of the situation, I have no control. I feel like I can't even formulate a calm and steady reaction when I don't know what I'm dealing with.

This became clear when I got all out of sorts because no one would follow my clever ideas for campout activities. I foresaw a lack of a predictable structure bothering me, I set out to enforce a structure, and still wound up in the middle of confusing random noise. And then with neither laptop nor quiet, comfortable place to think I had no way to process any of that confusion.

This week:

  • Still haven't done that habit murphy-proof.
  • Took on a challenge to do some items from a self-chosen theme every day for a week, and if you fail to do a day then you have to complete that plus the next day's task in order to check it tomorrow. I chose Summer Solstice Party planning as my theme. I did the first day and then things started to backlog.
  • I'm trying 20 minute zazen every morning. It is maddeningly boring. As a side note, there is something about buddhist philosophy (at least, as rendered by an anarchist author I'm reading) that appears so close to aspiring rationality that I feel horribly betrayed when I look closer and notice the serious clashes. It's like the uncanny valley effect, or reading Professor Quirrel's dark reasoning.

This week:

  • I've changed from going through 1 Lojban lesson a week to ensuring that I actually PRACTICE what I've learned so far.
  • I have a to-do to murphy-proof my GTD/habit process. Things are backing up, so I want to think of ways to avoid that in the future. Hopefully I'll actually get to that brainstorm at some point.
  • I did some offline training for my morning routine today.

How did that work out after your realization?

Oh dear, I did not turn this realization into concrete actions! It worked out to me feeling stressed about how stressed everything was making me and retreating into the highly predictable world of fanfiction for a week.

I expect next campout I'll put less emphasis on trying to get other people to follow my plans and just figure out things I can do for myself. Set a flexible schedule, pack my own snacks so I'm not beholden to the schedules of others to eat, search for a fortress of solitude right off the bat... I'll be sure to actually write down when people mention what the overall plan is instead of letting myself forget each tidbit as it passes by. Collecting such information is what I have a little red carrying notebook for.


I'm going to forgo my typical "Good habits/Bad habits" structure this time for something a little more prose. My mind these past few weeks has been focused on one issue so that's all I have to write on at the moment.

I have been struggling with a decision over how to approach my first job out of graduate school. I wrote several diaries ago that I had a choice between taking a job in my rural, isolated home town with a very very low pay scale but high stability vs. moving to a larger, more diverse city where jobs in my field paid much much better but were not easy to get.

After a lot of debate, I took the job in my hometown. I am now a library director. And I am very excited.

The pay is low but, if properly managed, should still allow me to move out of my family's home and to invest up to 200 a month. These are two very important issues for me. Living with my family makes it impossible to work on personal projects because my family is loud, abrasive, and overbearing. Being able to have a place of my own will give me the space I had while in school when I was able to work daily rather than monthly on projects. This isn't just something I want to do for a potential monetary pay off. I write creatively, and it relaxes me and gives me a sense of personal pride, which is important to me. So, having this space will also increase my quality of life if properly utilized.

The investment is less than I had hoped. I had wanted to invest at least 500 a month but the pay scale is smaller than I was led to believe, which took away some of the extra cash I would have after bills. I'm looking at chopping expenditures where I can, but the fact that I will at least have 200 a month to invest is still better than nothing. Investment is important because I do not want to wait to improve my finances. Retirement is only one of the important moments in my life I'm saving for. Buying a home, having security, signing up for cryonics, these are all important and all require stable finances which I do not yet have. But with this job I can at least get my portfolio off the ground.

I begin my new job next month. I am already planning to meet with certain community organizations and leaders to make my presence known and to establish some rapport with them. This is a stable job but I do not want it to be easy. I have several ideas for projects and hope to begin trying them as soon as summer ends and my learning time is over. When I have space to begin writing regularly again, I have projects I want to work on. For the next few years, I am stable. I want to make the most of it.

I've started spending a significant amount of time per day studying various CS topics: HTML, CSS, JS, discrete math, Java, etc.. and building a portfolio of "to do" projects when I have the basic skills. I am choosing to do this over the much more fun and interesting playing and recording music.