Notes on utility function experiment

by taw 1 min read5th Sep 20099 comments


I just finished a two-week experiment of trying to live by a point system. I attached a point value to various actions and events, and made some effort to maximize the score. I cannot say it was successful in making me achieve more than normally during the same period of time, but it made more clear some of the problems with my behaviour.

Here's some notes from my experiment:

  • Points are marginal utilities, they are for things you want to do more of, but don't due to akrasia. If you want to exercise more you'll assign very high value to half an hour of exercise, but that doesn't mean you want to spend 8 hours a day cross-training. As expected, I got most points for thing that weren't that important but I finally got myself to do more.
  • Values can be put on terminal values (results), or instrumental values (effort, and partial results). Valuing only the former tends to be highly demoralizing, valuing the latter tends to be highly encouraging.
  • It's a good idea to assign some points to cleanup of your system (decide against doing something that was previously on your list, get trivial thing off your list). It cleans your mind, even if it doesn't progress your big goals.
  • Another good idea are points for sitting down and thinking, making mindmaps and so on.
  • One big problem that the system didn't cover at all were distractions, like spending too much time on Wikipedia or TvTropes.
  • Another big problem were times when I didn't have enough energy to do anything big, but wasn't sleepy enough to sleep. It's usually pure waste of time.
  • During the first week I was more successful (in terms of points) almost every day, then it went far downhill, perhaps due to my enthusiasm running out. This made me decide against extending the experiment past the original two week schedule.
  • In other words - there was some value to it, but akrasia mostly won again.

Anyone else wants to share their anti-akrasia experiments?