You should probably read the Anti-Akrasia Tactics Review, if you haven't already. There's lots of useful stuff there, and if it works for you but you haven't read it...

You should totally go read it, implement it, and not come back to this thread until you've internalized your favorite tricks.


Feel free to discuss outcomes here.

Did anything work for you?

Is there anything that should be added?


Note: this is basically a "bump", but I suspect that it's a worthwhile reminder. Downvote me if I'm wrong.

P.S. I'd actually really enjoy feedback on this.

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Over the last 9 months I've been steadily spending more and more of my time on things I want to have done. Here's what I'm doing. All the usual caveats apply.

In March, on a whim, I started going to strength workouts twice a week. (We have a gym at the office that's open 24/7, so I asked the coach to show me the correct form and then just started coming there all by myself. This may or may not be relevant.) At first it was a constant struggle to avoid skipping workouts, but after a month-long successful streak, an interesting thing happened: my fear of skipping and ruining the streak became stronger than my fear of the workout itself. Going to workouts became effortless, and skipping them became an act of willpower instead. It has stayed this way since. I haven't yet missed a workout.

After a couple months I said to myself, hey, let's add another habit and see how it goes. I decided to try cold showers every morning. The first time was unbelievably scary and difficult, standing there and shivering, unable to turn on the cold water, but I fought through it and then it became easy.

Skipping ahead, now I have five daily habits that I never deviate from, plus one twice-weekly habit (workouts) and one weekly. I'm spending a little willpower on the newest habit which I added a week ago, but it's steadily getting easier, and the rest are pretty much zero-maintenance.

This approach seems to require a lot of patience and time. Looking back, I couldn't have added the second habit immediately after the first. I would have just blown the engine. I really needed these first months of following one simple habit without failing even once, all the while still being unhappy about my akrasia in other areas.

Would you mind saying what the other habits are, and if they've helped you be more productive in any way? I'm sort of wondering whether they're more like exercise (which is obviously a gain) or routine cold showers (which I am dubious about.) Also might steal them if they seem useful.

I tried that with a cold shower and I literally could not fight through it, do you have any tips?

Choose a time period to take a shower for (like, 45 seconds), set an alarm, and instead of fighting through it, get in the shower, turn on the water, and helplessly give up, collapse under the cold water, and let yourself out when the alarm goes. You only have to do this once or twice to convince yourself you can physically survive the cold water; from there, resisting it should be easier.

Note that this is a little bit extreme.

Thanks guys, epic explanation even with the casual extremity :)

If you're afraid of even turning on the cold water, try telling yourself (truthfully) that it'll be just for one second. I can't remember any other tricks. It gets very easy after the first time.

Of course, how hard it is depends whether you're in, say, Indonesia or Finland!

Do you find a particular benefit from the cold shower?

I stopped catching the colds that had plagued me all my life before that. I also feel an increase in willpower, but that could be imaginary, or due to something else.

The main thing that's worked for me has been a bunch of 5-second level skills generalised over from cognitive behaviour therapy. Oh and making sure I get enough sleep at roughly the same time each night. When that one goes wrong I usually lose most of the next day.

Skill 1: Notice that I am being akrasic. This usually involves noticing that I'm actively looking for distractions, such as trying to remember sites that I haven't visited in a while or thinking about unrelated things such as what I'm going to have for lunch. I can also sometimes catch myself flinching whenever I finish the current thread/site/game that I was using to procrastinate.

Skill 2: Ask myself "why am I not working?". List the answers out, mentally if they're simple and relatively emotion-free, in writing if it's complicated and/or bound up with anxiety, feelings of failure, etc.

Skill 3: Immediately address the reasons why I'm not working. eg. if I'm not working because of trivial inconveniences such as not having a glass of water to hand or not being dressed appropriately then I'll go do those things and return to Skill 2 when I'm sitting in front of my computer again. If it's more complex I'll work out a general plan of attack and the first task I need to do and then start on that. If my reason for being akrasic is mostly emotional such as "I'm afraid to work on this because I think I'll fail" then I'll do things like read the Litany of Gendlin or break it down into sub-tasks that don't cause a flinch and then immediately start working on the first one of those.

I've kept this up with a moderate degree of success for the past 6 months, and have seen a marked improvement in the amount of time I've spent being productive. I've also recently been experimenting with allowing myself timed procrastination breaks, where as soon as the timer goes off I have to stop what I'm doing and get back on task, with initial promising results.

I can also contrast these skills with all the unsuccessful anti-akrasia measures I've tried in the past such as guilting myself into working, installing time-tracking software on my laptop, making to-do lists, meditation, and probably a bunch of others that I don't remember.

Edited for formatting

Do you have a litany that helps you when you feel tired? I find that when my lizard brain wants sleep it is hard to continue work, if you have any solutions that work for you I'd be happy to let you other-optimize.

No, sorry. Part of my current system involves optimising strongly for sleep, so feeling tired usually means I should stop working. If it's something I absolutely need to get done then it's usually urgent enough not to need the extra motivation, or I guess how long it will take and then set multiple alarms on multiple devices for early the next morning, allowing an extra half hour to an hour to crawl out of bed and wake up that early. (I find it easier to convince myself to get out of bed stupidly early than to pull an all-nighter)

On the other hand, if you mean feeling tired at times when you shouldn't or you're in an environment where getting enough sleep isn't feasible, I usually use the following checklist:

  • Have I eaten recently? (ie. is my blood sugar low? As opposed to eating as a way to stay alert)

  • Have I drunk enough water today?

  • Am I actually bored and that's manifesting as tiredness? Is this task really difficult/anxiety-inducing, enough for my brain to make this feeling up?

  • Have I moved around recently?

The first two are easy to deal with. For the third, I use the litany/break it down technique and remind myself of some of the bigger reasons I'm doing it. For the fourth and also if I go through the whole checklist and come up empty, it's time to go for a walk. It has the dual benefits of waking me up a bit and giving me mental space to think about the task. I also usually use the walk to go buy something sugary (if I can) so I can get a cheap burst of energy.

Increase the N!