This is part 18 of 30 of Hammertime. Click here for the intro.

Up until today, Hammertime focused on improving one’s ability to achieve one’s goals. The next two techniques, Goal Factoring and Internal Double Crux, are designed to figure out what goals to pursue. For the largest goals in life, you should be able to make a detached decision about whether they’re worth pursuing before you throw your all into them.

Day 18: Goal Factoring

Previously: Day 7, Aversion Factoring.

Goal Factoring is a CFAR technique for systematically figuring out all the subgoals and aversions you have around an action, and what to do about them. The basic algorithm:

  1. Pick an action. It can be something you already do.
  2. Factor the action into goals and aversions. Write down all the costs and aversions to pursuing the action, and continue to factor sub-goals until they feel like irreducible components.
  3. Brainstorm possible replacement actions. Try to design another action that achieves the goals better and reduces the costs and aversions. This action can be an upgrade of your current action, something else altogether, or even a combination of two or more actions. Make a new plan.
  4. Reality check. Imagine instituting your new plan. Decide if you’re satisfied. Also, decide if it’s feasible by Murphyjitsu.

This is already quite a complicated and useful beast. Three things to keep in mind:

Use a focusing check to find all the subgoals and aversions. If I say out loud, “The only reason I want to go to the gym is physical health,” I feel a curtain of discontent that reminds me physical attractiveness is also important. Remember that honesty and attention to detail are essential to finding aversions, and this applies to goals as well!

Goal factoring might solve the problem at any step. Writing down your true motivations can be enough to figure out the right course of action. About three months ago, I noticed that the main motivation for my video game addiction is “Prove to my parents that it’s possible to be successful without giving up video games.” Writing this down made it impossible to endorse this action any longer.

Prepare to accept all possible worlds. Keep an open mind going into Goal Factoring: you’re allowed to consider all the alternatives. You’re also allowed to keep doing what you’re currently doing afterwards. Try to release any attachment to the action itself beyond its instrumental value. Get a little worried if your main reason to do action X is to become the kind of person who does X, but at least write this down as an explicit sub-goal.

Exercise: pick an action or habit you want to pick up or drop, and set a Yoda Timer for 20 minutes to Goal Factor it.

Daily Challenge

Set a Yoda Timer to Goal Factor “do Hammertime.” Share your motivations and aversions.

New Comment
4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

In Goal Factoring, does goal = motivation = desired outcome?

Hammertime aversions:

  • Currently procrastinating catching up on a few exercises
    • I want to follow through on my word to actually try every exercise
  • Perfectionism - don't want to consider a day finished until I've really done it
  • Lonely - I don't know anyone else IRL that would do this with me
    • I am highly motivated by social reenforcement
  • Feel guilty for not spending time on music/programming/career stuff
    • I am worried about the time I spend taxiing on the runway instead of just taking flight
    • Takes time and willpower
  • I often get distracted on the internet
  • My pomodoros/Yoda timers might be too short

Hammertime goals/motivations:

  • Get clarity on next actions in life + help strategize
  • Collect useful techniques
  • Practice "doing" instead of simulating
  • Introspection and personal problem solving
  • Collect low-hanging fruit and obvious things I've ignored
  • Clear up to-dos on my own terms
  • Write more
  • Contributing and interacting more

I'll just copy whole tree from org-mode with deliberations on Hammertime factoring with minimal editing

Maybe this will be helpful to someone, and if someone gives me feedback - that could be helpful to me too. Maybe I'm missing something, maybe I'm not going deep enough?

(Is there a way to hide long part of the comment under a spoiler?)

Initial plan: set 60 minute timer for whole daily Hammertime session.

Daily Challenge: 20min Goal Factoring for the Hammertime
** TODO hamertime goal factoring
** Let's go
*** Goal: create feeling of momentum in self-development
**** Goal: use this momentum to keep investing time into self-development, into reaching goals
***** Goal: have stable life, where my needs are being met, with joy
*** Goal: finish something that looks impressive
**** Goal: have more weight and approval in discussions around rationalists
*** Goal: invest time into practicing, so if I fail I could tell myself that I wasn't idle
**** Goal: to have internal peace in case of failure too
*** Goal: tingle joy of learning new things
*** Goal: decrease unpleasantness of having bugs - physical, mental, developmental, job related
**** Goal: have joy in things I do
**** Goal: have more energy to help people around me, see their happiness
*** Aversion: not always easy to understand what to do in remaining 60 minute timer, not wanting to approach
**** Goal: feel ease and clarity, evade discomfort and thinking
**** Goal: trust myself to invest time into helpful, useful things
*** Aversion: feeling that my notes will be lost, unusable and unhelpful very soon
**** Goal: trust myself to invest time into helpful things
i.e not having enough belief in helpfulness of the things I do right now
*** Aversion: my work table is less than pleasant to work on - table legs are in the way, easy to scratch myself
**** Goal: evade discomfort
*** Aversion: "but I'm falling behind on my regular job, getting lost"
**** Goal: support trust my colleagues have in me
*** Aversion: "I feel alone in this attempt to self-improve"
**** Goal: to have social support, to do things social circle approves
*** Updated Plan:
i.e can I improve /this/ thing or maybe subsctitue with another course of action that solves same goals, with less aversion or cost?
**** Immediately after Hammertime - keep daily hour of self development, with same techniques I guess
maybe also - learning and installing GTD, and second brain for a could of weeks
**** Some of the hammertime bugs can and should be attempted with the tool I'm learning on this particular day
**** Definitely write daily in the comments
maybe also write daily in the chat for russian lesswrongers?
  • didn't address the 'falling behind on regular job', will ignore for now, I guess

You'll notice that step 2 begins "factor the action," rather than "factor the goal." What this suggests to me pretty strongly is that this technique should be called "action factoring"; unfortunately Duncan has categorically rejected that name for a long time now. Curious if other people have thoughts on it; I think it's great.

Should we call prime factorization "number factorization" then? Is Goal Factoring "factor the goal" or "factor into goals"?