This is an extension of a comment I made that I can't find and also a request for examples. It seems plausible that, when giving advice, many people optimize for deepness or punchiness of the advice rather than for actual practical value. There may be good reasons to do this - e.g. advice that sounds deep or punchy might be more likely to be listened to - but as a corollary, there could be valuable advice that people generally don't give because it doesn't sound deep or punchy. Let's call this boring advice

An example that's been discussed on LW several times is "make checklists." Checklists are great. We should totally make checklists. But "make checklists" is not a deep or punchy thing to say. Other examples include "google things" and "exercise." 

I would like people to use this thread to post other examples of boring advice. If you can, provide evidence and/or a plausible argument that your boring advice actually is useful, but I would prefer that you err on the side of boring but not necessarily useful in the name of more thoroughly searching a plausibly under-searched part of advicespace. 

Upvotes on advice posted in this thread should be based on your estimate of the usefulness of the advice; in particular, please do not vote up advice just because it sounds deep or punchy. 

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When in need of a conversation topic, ask a question about the other person's life. Anything about their life. (If I can't think of something else, I ask about weekend plans.) Listen for what part of their answer they're most interested in. Ask followup questions about that thing. Repeat as necessary.

People like to talk about themselves. This cuts awkward silences down to nothing and makes people like you. I've also learned all sorts of fascinating things about my acquaintances.

Although it should be noted that while this is usually a good idea, it doesn't work on everyone and you should notice if your conversation partner doesn't seem very enthusiastic about talking about themselves. (Yes, I do mean myself - not a big fan of vacuously discussing what I'm up to, most of the time.)

In this situation, what would you suggest for your would-be interlocutors? Would it be acceptable for them to make clear that the conversational ball is now in your court and be fine with nonconversation meanwhile?
Realistically? They'd start asking me how my things are going, and then I'd give some vague general comments and instead ask them how their things are going and then we'd talk about their things. Not sure what to do in the symmetrical case. Maybe try to find non-personal topics to discuss (e.g. books and other fiction, politics, anything else) with the major challenge being finding out which topics both people are interested in (and don't disagree too much on).
The stereotypical example of that is the weather.
Is anyone actually interested in the weather? I thought it was the stereotypical thing that people turn to when they can't think of anything interesting to talk about.

It is the sterotypical thing to talk about, but the point is not the actual weather. It is signal that they would rather be talking to you than be silent. It's an invitation to start a conversation, since people don't routinely come up to you and say 'I would like to being a conversation with you - please suggest a topic'. They say 'Raining again!' instead.

Also, talking about a shared experience is powerful, no matter what that experience is. Compare other generic conversation topics: if you both saw the same movie lately, or both watched [$SPORTS_EVENT], then that's a shared experience. You can't necessarily rely on the other person having seen the latest cultural whatsit, but you can be pretty sure they've experienced the weather.
I'm somewhat interested in the weather-- it affects my quality of life. One problem with being asked about one's life-- when some people do it, I feel like I'm being interrogated. I've got a friend who makes it feel like being interviewed by someone who's got a friendly interest, but I'm don't even have a theory about what creates the different effects. I've got some ability to do small talk. What I'd like to be able to do is bet better at making a transition to more interesting topics.
Hmmmm. Challenge accepted.
Agreed! Regardless of the reason, pressing someone who wants to disengage is a Bad Thing. (Although I'll note that, if done right, this technique doesn't have to be vacuous. The key is to let the other person guide the conversation towards the things they actually do care about. This takes practice, but it's worth it. Interested people are interesting.)

Do you have more examples of specific questions you like to ask? I've been trying to figure out a good way to get people to talk about the people in their lives (friends, family etc.), just cause I usually like to hear people talk about that.

Simple things I've asked are:

  • Do you have family around here?
  • Do you have siblings?
  • Do you have roommates?

    But I'd like to figure out how to get people to tell me stories and descriptions of the people in their life.

EDIT: I just now realized that your comment above is a great example of the sort of follow-up questions I'm talking about. Well played.

Examples from the past week:

  • Started with the "how was your week" thing. The guy had been on an MIT board discussing their strategy for building MOOCs, and I got to hear a lot about business models in education and how that's changing with technology.
  • Him: "I'll be leaving early tomorrow." Me: "Where are you going to be?" Well, he's helping his son move, and also trying to deal with the previous landlord because apparently his grandkids damaged the walls, and there's all sorts of drama around that...
  • I overheard someone talking about hockey. I know absolutely nothing about the sport, so I asked some extremely basic question, I can't recall what. I learned a little about the structure of the game, and then a lot about how stricter enforcement of the rules in recent decades has changed the dominant playstyles.
  • Right now, in my IRC window, I am hearing about changes to World of Warcraft in the ~5 years since I've played after asking about a cryptic comment someone made about downloading a patch.

As you can see, this is a... (read more)

I really like that. It gives you a good sense of how they relate to people and also how probably what they value, assuming they give any indication at all of why those people are important.
Thanks! :)

Try to live close to where you work. Failing that, try to work close to where you live. Commuting takes a lot of time and you don't get paid for it.

Alternative: commute effectively. Taking a train to NYC from Long Island I get almost 2 hours to read/watch lectures or entertainment. Some days these are 2 best hours of the day.


A few months ago I got a new job that required me to commute for two hours each day. I tried doing many different productive things while sitting on the bus (the means of transportation I used), including reading, listening to audiobooks, watching videos, and even meditating. Eventually, however, I reached the conclusion that doing Anki reviews (using the AnkiDroid app) was, by a wide margin, superior to all these other activities. If you own a smartphone, you might want to give it a try. (And if you don't own a smartphone, you might want to consider obtaining one.)

Good advice, I think a lot here depends on the quality of the commute. Big heavy trains are the most comfortable and lent to most potential productive activities. Anki-on-smartphone you can do while standing up in a subway.
What do you use Anki to review? I see that lots of people use it so it seems valuable, but I don't know what I would use it for.
See here.
I use it for all sorts of things. I even listen to music on Anki. :-) In addition to arundelo's link, you may want to check out this list of Anki decks by LW users.
Here are a few things I use it for.

Not all people can read on trains comfortably. (Likewise, some but not all people can sleep on trains comfortably.) Therefore, Beware of Other-Optimizing is particularly relevant.

I don't know, but I suspect this might be trainable. As a young child I used to get very nauseous reading in the back seat of cars. But since I would get bored with nothing to do, I would read until I was to nauseous to continue, and then try again once I felt better. At some point I stopped getting carsick from reading. I don't Know that I trained this though, it's possible I just grew out of getting carsick, all sorts of stuff changes as you get older.

I suspect it's fairly common to become less carsick with age (it happened to me as well, and it's not like I trained -- I hadn't read in a car for years before trying to do that again and noticed that it bothered me much less). Anyway, in my case the problem is not sickness (I don't get sick at all when on rails), but just that I can't concentrate very well when on a train. So I can read short stories or poetry no problem, but I usually don't even try to read textbooks or papers.
I still get carsick when reading on buses or cars. I no longer get sick when reading on trains. I used to be truly awful to take in a car (every single car-ride I got sick). Even now, when i do get sick... I don't recover. I have to stop the car, wait half an hour (at least) before moving on (or eating, or anything apart from sitting on the ground feeling miserable). I don't know if it's trainable... it has gotten better in the past 30-odd years... but not gone away totally.When i learned to drive - I learned how to avoid as much of the g-force-inducing movements as possible. I always choose train-transport over other transport. but I am just one data-point.

Alternative: Prioritize the ability to telecommute over raw salary, if you're in an industry where you're able. Consider the time spent traveling when considering jobs.

If you can telecommute, also consider that you can live in a different state. Your paycheck can go further still when you aren't paying income taxes.


Telecommuting might not be the best thing for everyone. At home I have less social interaction and more distractions.

I've heard that telecommuting makes promotion less likely. If so, then you need to consider more than your current salary.


What, you want to put me in a position where I'm responsible for what a bunch of -programmers- do? Did I do something wrong?

And commuting is apparently just fairly horrible in general.

Practically all of the discussion I can find about this is very US-centric, and so conflates "commuting" with "commuting by car". A long public transport commute that was ideal in other ways (train journey, no changes, door-to-door, frequent trains with seats, signal) could be much preferable to a shorter drive; I use my commute to read, look at my TODO list, catch up with blogs etc.

Euro here, I used to enjoy commuting by car more than by subway now: * personal space * safety from potentially aggressive travellers, the annoying drunks who try to yell at people on the subway * it is an exciting activity to drive as long as you can find tricky routes with little traffic, these will be usually narrow roads where you don't even need to exceed the 50 km/h speed limit to make it feel risky and exciting and if you do, no police there. * feeling middle class, not mixing with the "proles" * more freedom in choosing how to dress, less having to take the weather into account * resisting the temptation to drink alcohol right after work, at least starting later in the evening * music without annoying earplugs * hands-free phone calls, my dad used to be excellent at it, he was an entrepreneur and phoned through his whole 45 min long commute, by the time everybody arrived to the office every employee and subcontractor was briefed, problems reported back, things were in motion. This way the commute is worktime. * having useful stuff with me all the time in the trunk And now I am nostalgic for my car. We live car-free now because it is very expensive, €80 mandatory insurance a month etc. but sure as hell I would want to have it back.
I would not recommend combining this with this In fact, I think there's good evidence that hands-free phone calls are considerably more distracting than drivers tend to think.

IMO the optimal distance is 15-30 minutes by bicycle. That'll give you some exercise you don't have to do anything extra for, that doesn't take a lot of time. I've been working from home for close to 2 years now, and my fitness has taken a big hit. I've just started to ride my bicycle for about half an hour daily, but the problem is, I don't really need to do it, so it's easy to skip it if I'm busy or just don't feel like it.

I've considered this several times because I'm in range for it; but always reject it on the grounds that I don't want to sit around feeling like dried sweat and stink for eight hours. How did you deal with that when you were biking?

I put on deodorant in the morning, and I don't race, I just go ~16-17 km/h (on average, that is; faster on straight stretches, like ~20 km/h). On a normal city bike, not a racing bicycle. I might get a little sweaty sometimes, but never so much that I got smelly. (Edit: typo)

For what it's worth, I do exactly the same thing with the same result.
Ditto. Hills can add some sweatiness even if you go very slowly, if your range of gears isn't wide enough.

I've considered this several times because I'm in range for it; but always reject it on the grounds that I don't want to sit around feeling like dried sweat and stink for eight hours. How did you deal with that when you were biking?

Showers. (One of the advantages of large workplaces.)

and sometimes if not at your workplace, then nearby (or in a gym/mall/etc nearby that is willing)
I actually do race (when I actually bike to work) and I've almost never had a problem as long as I just wipe off the sweat when I get to work. I do tho bring a separate set of clothes (shirt and pants), as even in the fall and spring I completely soak my shirt (probably because I wear a messenger bag).
Just happened to see this old comment. Sure enough, the cycling got skipped more and more often, until I just forgot about it completely. I really need to find something fun to do to get myself moving again.
Also, consider remote work.
Our neighborhood is a residential one that's fairly close to the main city center. Our streets are almost always lined with rows and rows of cars of people, many of whom come from distant parts of town, park their car here (to avoid ridiculously expensive parking fees in the city), and then take a 30-40 minute bus to their workplace. Now I used to think that my 30 minute commute was bad. The buses come just twice an hour and are never on time, there's always traffic, and half the time you wind up standing. But these folks just astound me. I just can't imagine doing that each day - driving to a residential neighborhood, finding a parking space, then enduring the horrible public transit system, then doing the exact same thing in reverse to get back home. I hope they're getting paid tremendously well.

A major mental change that allowed me to own less things was someone mentioning "treat craigslist as free storage." The idea being that if you ever really need X you can get it fairly easily. But this extends to retail goods as well. I now keep in mind that everything that costs<(.1)(paycheck) is already mine and I only go pick it up if I really, actually, need it.

This is a nice comment. It's a useful frame of reference and I especially like it because it jives well with the intuitions I've developed since I started studying Economics. And probably my identity as a Neat Person and someone who enjoys experiences over things.

Start your post or comment with a summary when posting anything over 3-5 paragraphs.


Also: use paragraphs.

If, realistically, you aren't going to do a thing, proceed immediately to figuring out the best way to not do it.


the best way to not do it.

This sounds too punchliney. What do you actually mean? What part of not doing it needs figuring out? How to avoid it? What to do instead? Something else entirely?

How to avoid it at minimal cost, retrieve the resources spent on preparing to do it, get some of the (refactored) results you wanted out of it, and update on the information that you're not going to do it to avoid being in situations where you're supposed to do equivalent things later.

Can you give an example?
Already did.
The best way not to do something is to do the best thing you could be doing instead in the best way.

Very insightful. Not boring at all.

Too insightful! Not boring enough!

Intriguing! Do you have any concrete examples? I'm having a hard time visualizing any.

From today:

"Yeah, I'm not gonna get around to making those cookies today. I will put the butter back in the freezer, instead of leaving it out on the off chance I change my mind."

Basically, don't be poised to do things when poising takes resources and you won't do the things.

Basically, don't be poised to do things when poising takes resources and you won't do the things.

I much prefer this version to its grandparent.

If you are looking for employment, tell everyone you know. I have gotten 100% of my jobs from friends saying "hey, did you hear about this one".

This includes posting "I'm looking for a job" publically on your facebook page, on linkedin and any other social-networking you may have. Use the magic of the internets to reach out to as many friends-of-friends that you can. note: don't do this (or only post to friends) if your current employer does not know you are looking elsewhere...
Related: When looking for a job that is different from whatever you're doing now, go on informational interviews. Come up with a list of specific things you are curious about, related to the field - intensity of work, skills used, related jobs, terminology that's unclear to you, advancement opportunities - and ask those questions during the interview. The point is not to get a job from the person you're talking to, but to search many nodes of your social network. If you decide you do want to work in their field, you should ask, "Whom do you know, who's hiring?" And always, always ask, "whom else do you know that I should talk to?"
It took me a long time to believe people actually liked to talk about their jobs/companies and were quite happy to refer me to other contacts, but it seems to be true.
Yes, this. Even with a good resume you might cold e-mail hundreds of companies and never get a bite. Knowing somebody almost always gets you to interview stage.
Extremely belated reply, but for what it may be worth, I didn't actually have contacts at some of the jobs, just friends keeping tabs on some outlets I didn't (for example, neighborhood listserves I wasn't subscribed to, printed postings at businesses I didn't frequent.)
Interesting, I got only one that way, and that was a former coworker, not a friend. How are friends are supposed to do if I am good at working at an entirely different industry than they do which they don't understand? And how could they know of open jobs in mine? Well, I figure this only applies for specialists.
I think it more likely that it reflects different cultural backgrounds between you and therufs, both the local microculture around yourselves and the larger cultures of where you live. My picture of the archetypal LessWronger is a twenty-something in a place like Silicon Valley, working in computing, living with, working with, and mixing with the same sort of people both online and in meatspace, with no more than the fuzziest of lines separating "work" from "leisure" and "coworkers" from "friends": it's all LessWrong memespace. People from the former and current Russian-controlled states (and you seem to be describing that from personal experience) have a rather different milieu.
My mental image of LW is New York. Not sure why. Perhaps because a lot of people have Jewish names. Yes, the aspect of AI topics sound more Valley. But LW is a bit too altruistic for what I thought of the Valley, I would imagine the Valley as kinda egotistical Libertarians, even Objectivists, and I would associate effective altruism, charitable giving, these kinds of ethics stuff with NY. I always thought NY is "nicer", more in the bleeding-heart kind of stuff, more typically liberal, more social conscious, while the Valley is more "I deserve privilege because I am smart" kind of stuff. And LW gives me these good-guy vibes definitely, not the me-first vibes. I find it interesting how work and leisure is not separated. Importing leisure into work sounds like discussing work related things at parties, apparently it suggests being really enthusiastic for that work, it is not something done just for the money. Importing leisure to work, hm, it sounds like having a really trusting employer :) BTW my life experience is mainly Europe, but all over it - post-Soviet, UK, "can't hear you over our No. 1 quality of living" type of stuff in Vienna in Austria, etc. etc. very varied. This kind of thing - doctors befriending engineers, having no idea what each other do - happened a lot of times.
There's no good reason to pick work for which one isn't at least partly enthusiastic for skilled and smart people in Western society. Even when nobody who was at our last LW meetup in Berlin works at the same company 5/7 people did talk about work in a way that influences their work in a meaningful way. Building friendships with your coworkers is good for the employer. Just because some of your friends do have other professions, doesn't mean all of them have.
I think there. Perhaps with multiple-generation middle-class Westerners who look forward to inherit wealth this is not the case. But first-generation ones, or multiple-generation ones who come from a poor or broken family it is the case. People may talk about the welfare state but in reality it only keeps you out of the direst poverty, but it does not even cover living in an average sized rented apartment. That is around €800 a month in Austria for example with utilities, and that is roughly how much the welfare is and then you have not eaten anything or bought a shoe. So if you don't look forward to any help from parents nor inheritance, you have a pressing need to find any work to pay bills and secure a basic comfortable exsitence. That is on the expense side. And on the income side, it is basically so that if you go look at job ads on e.g. Monster, they tend to cluster in a certain kind of industries and jobs: I see lots of logistics and accounting but very few about historians or drawing comics books. Even in those industries, only a subset offers a straight line in the sense of get a degree, find a relevant job kind, often e.g. they are looking for salespeople where no degree assures you a job, it is mostly life experience you gather anyhow. Thus, for most of the decent, not burger flipping jobs, you don't have this straight line. The logistics or accountant expert can just get a degree and apply for job ads, but the salesperson cannot and the historian cannot and the comics drawer cannot. They need to rely on their social skills, networking, which only works for extroverts or people who generally like people and so on. The whole thing is not sure, not secure, not "promised", and maybe it works out in the long run, but does not necessarily make you meet the next bill. So basically people who can rely on parental support can pursue these fun careers because they can afford to spend years on building their network and diggin themselves into their niche industry
I made a point of speaking about smart and skillful people. Of course there are unskilled people for whom it's difficult to find meaningful work. Of course the salesperson needs social skills, that's what being a sales person is about. If you don't enjoy social interaction then pick another job. Neither Dilbert nor Randal needed anybody to give him a job. Those are the comics that I actually read and both of those people make money from their work. Of course they both have skills that they didn't develop through a degree, but I don't think that's a problem. Warehouse guys don't have cool jobs, but having a motivated workforce is useful in most circumstances and relationships facilitate it.
Somehow we are misunderstanding each other. Let's take Dilbert. It is a skill developed outside college, but without anything like a clear job and career promise. Relying on only this IMHO takes a lot of courage. Having a Plan B, like draw comics but also learn to be an accountant, is probably what they did unless they are very brave. In this case, the question is do people have passions or interests that are monetizable, for comics drawing probably does not come as a career choice, but more of a hobby as first.
I don't buy the premise that a "clear job and career" promise is needed for anything.
Needed for feeling safe. Needed for not needing courage. Needed for not feeling existential angst, insecurity or anything like tht. Needed against the nagging feeling "will anyone ever really pay for this bullshit I am doing here?" One thing I did not mention that if your parents instilled a no pain no gain mentality into you, then you feel like if you are enjoying yourself and doing something you like, you are not gaining anything, you are using up capital, wasting time and you feel you cannot possibly get paid for it in the long run.
Basically "lack of skill". Basically "lack of skill".
No, I don't see it is the case. It could be an underestimation of skill, or the underestimation of the environment's suitability for that skill. And the instilled mentality has absolutely nothing to do with skill, it just makes one kind of puritanical.
Hmm. As an American, my view of the two is flipped, but both are in the reference class of "elitist cities that lean heavily liberal and have a strong cultural class."

Spend more money/time on optimizing boring things you use a lot:
Tailored clothes
Hygiene products that work well for you
Kitchen accessories (part of the reason you don't cook healthy meals for yourself might be because your kitchen work flow sucks)
Ergonomic setup at computer


Find what is best for you, and buy a lot of them. Then you can ignore this topic for a long time.

If you buy more identical pairs of socks, if some of them get destroyed, you can make pairs of the remaining ones. On the other hand, if you buy similar pairs, you will waste a lot of time sorting them.


...and a pillow (or two). Try different sizes and shapes.

Kitchen accessories

For example a cutting board should be large and easy to wash. An increased size can make cutting much easier.

If you buy more identical pairs of socks, if some of them get destroyed, you can make pairs of the remaining ones. On the other hand, if you buy similar pairs, you will waste a lot of time sorting them.

I recently had a sock cull, in which I got rid of every sock that couldn't immediately be visually matched with one of its fellows. I must've reduced the total number of socks I have by about two thirds, but the overall availability of matched socks is now much higher.

I have tried this with pants, because I have trouble finding comfortable ones. Unfortunately by the time I have a pair of pants that I'm sure are comfortable and I'm ready to buy five more of them, nobody stocks the same model anymore.
A mail order catalog that doesn't change much might help with this, if you can find one that has the sort of clothes you like. Both LL Bean and Land's End usually carry the exact same thing or close to it for several years. I don't have much experience with others besides those two, though.
In this case, they might be found inexpensively on Ebay. I know exactly what shoes I like to wear to work, and I buy a couple pairs on Ebay whenever one of the colors (brown, blue, black) wears out. It's up to you, if you're willing to wear used shoes (you can also buy them new) but the pair I'm wearing look brand new and cost 1/20th the department store price. I also buy identical pairs of socks in bulk. When they did stop selling the brand I liked, I got rid of all the old type knowing how much trouble it is to match different brands of the same colored socks.
I am lucky to have many pairs of identical socks which have their sizes written on the bottom side. Nobody sees the bottom sides of my socks, but it is so easy to look there when sorting them. So they don't get mixed with the older socks of the same color. If in the future I don't have the same luck, maybe I could just make some marks on the bottom sides. For example one small colored dot, using a washing-resistant color. The most work would be finding that color. But marking the already sorted socks, that would be a question of a few seconds.
That's an excellent alternative to throwing out perfectly good socks. This is something I can immediately apply to the socks of my children, since the issue there is that they're necessarily white-but-different-sizes (and it's difficult for me to tell just by looking at them whether they're 'little' or 'medium-little'.)
Pay attention to what qualities work well for you. Next time you buy pants... consider yourself entering a "trial period" of, say, one month. Wear them a lot during that month. At the end of the month: if they fit all the good qualities. and have no bad qualities... go buy another pair - you have now entered the second phase... which lasts, say, 3 months (time can be varied as you get more skilled at this). At the end of the three months... if you've decided these pants are really awesome and comfy... you should still be within the same season in which the pants first came out - and can go buy another five pairs (or whatever makes you happy). The idea being: after a month, if you put in a concerted effort to pay attention - you can probably tell whether a pair of pants will be perfect for you.... but if you're unsure - then buying just one extra means you have at least got two pairs of really good ones, but haven't spent too much extra if you suddenly find out that they fall apart on the dot at 2.5 months old. By the time you hit the longer period - you'll have worn them for a season and should have a very good idea of whether they fit really well (=1 to buying more), and whether they are wearing out unusually fast (-1 instead).
(For casual clothing, short (like, no-show) black socks are mostly more fashionable than white socks.)
For men, navy or possibly grey are good defaults for non no-show socks.
Depending on where you're using it. When my roommates leave the kitchen to cluttered to use, a small cutting board that fits on the desk in my bedroom is really nice to have. (Use case is usually eating cheese or carrots while doing homework - it doubles as a plate. I wouldn't want to chop meat that way.)

If you feel sad when you shouldn't feel sad consult a medical professional or therapist, they can help.

[Wish I'd realised that a few years ago.]

How do I know when I shouldn't feel sad? Also, it's scary. :(

The parent post shouldn't have made you sad.

How do I know when I shouldn't feel sad?

My personal metric has been that it's reasonable to feel sad when there's a specific event (as opposed to a circumstance) to be sad about (death of someone close to me, breakup of a relationship, loss of a job.)

But whether or not you "should" feel sad, professionals can help.

Also, it's scary.

The voice that is telling you that awful things are loitering just outside the edge of your awareness, I call The Jerkbrain.

I can self-report that directly and emphatically addressing it as such (usually "shut up, Jerkbrain!") has had helpful effects including:

  • increased aptitude for dealing with problems in the physical world
  • much less energy wasted dealing with problems that exist only in distant possibility (and maybe not even there.)

I am not my jerkbrain, and you are not yours, either.

I guess it would be helpful to have a "normal" range of time in which it's reasonable to feel sad or weird after a death, break-up, etc. Sometimes, it feels like they all pile up.

If it's been more than a year, and it's disruptive to your daily life (trouble enjoying pleasant things, pervasive thoughts, crying spells, difficulty functioning at work, difficulty connecting with new partners, etc.), it's probably worth seeking help.

Heck, if it's been more than 3 months, you'll probably benefit from help.

If you have friends you trust, asking them is probably best, since they'll know how important that particular person was to you.

If you feel like it's "all piling up", that's a sign that you're dealing with more than you know how to cope with. That's exactly when getting someone else to help can be most useful.

Now I just need to convince myself to take my own advice here :(

Yes, I called it the Saboteur. I think this might be a very helpful piece of advice for non-depressed people. Locating self-defeating thoughts and behaviours "outside" yourself and telling them to take a running jump is a great technique.

If you find this list describes you well some fair portion of the time (say, more than 20%, though even that sounds like a lot given what I know about people who don't have chronic depression), that's probably a start.

As to it being scary -- yeah, it is. One really important thing to do ahead of time if you decide to seek help is figure out how to make a safe exit if you're uncomfortable, or don't want to continue with a specific provider. Some people find that easy; others find it challenging. Not sure which you are, or how much trouble you have asserting your own boundaries, but it's a very useful skill.

One practical matter of safety here: if you want to walk away from someone and you're worried they might escalate, know that in most cases they can only act without your consent if they believe you pose some specific danger to yourself or others. Think about what you're going through that might be interpreted that way, and be careful before sharing anything like that if you think you might want to stop seeing that provider.

figure out how to make a safe exit if you're uncomfortable, or don't want to continue with a specific provider.

Yes. The first therapist I saw was so bad that I called him to cancel after the first visit (though I still didn't have the guts to say it in person). Keep in mind that this is always an option. "I don't think this is a good fit" is a totally acceptable thing to say to a therapist or doctor.

Wow, a lot of things on that list describe me. I'm not even feeling that unhappy... I thought it was just low self-confidence plus some nasty ugh-fields.
Regardless, is low self-confidence getting in your way and making your life worse? If so, seeing a therapist might be one way to work on that.

I think a functional definition is best. Do your negative thoughts (sadness, depression, anxiety, or suchlike) interfere with your ability to live your life (hold a job, attend social events, etc)? Then talking to a therapist may be helpful.

You wouldn't be ashamed to visit a doctor for advice on how to deal with a nagging cough - emotions that impose a similar level of difficulty can be improved with expert attention.

I seriously don't understand this. E.g. in post-Soviet Eastern Europe lot, really a lot of people go through life functionally in the sense of being able to hold down a job, stay in a marriage, raise kids, while being wholly joyless / anhedonic and just doing it from a sense of duty. And coping via drinking etc. Are you talking from the viewpoint of a culture where people refuse to do things they don't enjoy and thus their anhedonia becomes visibly dysfunctional? For example, social events aren't "mandatory" in the sense job/family are (in the sense of your parents probably did not drill it into you that you must do these to be allowed to not feel worthless about yourself), they are mostly for fun, so it is difficult to say what it does with functionality if we do not link functionality with joy. Again the people I am talking aboud do not attend to social events, if getting shitface drunk with the neighbor does not count as one. At any rate I do not yet see a culture-neutral link between anhedonia and dysfunctionality, it seems they are only strongly linked if people define functionality itself as an enjoyable, autonomous life, but when people think they were born to fulfill certain mandatory roles and tasks, they can go through it efficiently while still feeling totally empty inside.
For instance if you are having thoughts of self-harm.
Talk to some friends first. Much of what we fret over are problems shared by others, or problems that we have blown out of proportion for ourselves. Much of depression is trying to live up to a false image of yourself that your friends don't have.
Plus, y'know, neurotransmitter deficiencies.
Unless you're talking about feeling sad for like two weeks in a row, that's excessive -- do this first. (Unless you're not counting “I have slept/eaten/whatever less than usual lately” as “you shouldn't feel sad”.)

If you are trying to do X, surround yourself with people who are also doing X. Takes much less willpower to keep doing it.

On a related note make sure that they are people who are actively doing X, or at least making credible progress towards it not just professing a desire to X. This is an easy mistake to make.

Doesn't this, to a large extent, describe LW?
Which part?

Learn to cook at least a handful of simple, cheap, fast meals. This will have more effect on your resolutions to "eat healthy" than temporary spurts of mega-motivation.

(also recognizing that spurts of motivation are temporary in general, do not rely on them for lasting change)

Also make a list of those recipes (including ingredients) and store it somewhere in the kitchen.

When you catch yourself repeating the same three recipes over again, just look at the list for a new-old inspiration. Do it before you go shopping, so you can immediately buy the necessary ingredients. (If you go shopping on your way home from job, maybe you should put the list online so you can read it before leaving your job.)


Related: Shop with a list. Do not buy anything not on the list. If possible, do not put anything on the list that doesn't require cooking to eat.

(not having anything snackable on hand is a great way to ensure that you only eat when you actually need to. Most people won't go out of their way to cook just to satisfy the "hrm, I'm bored, let's eat something" impulse.)

If possible, do not put anything on the list that doesn't require cooking to eat.

Exception: vegetables.

not having anything snackable on hand is a great way to ensure that you only eat when you actually need to.

Preparing a snackable version of vegetables (e.g. clean a few carrots, cut them to small pieces, and put them into the bowl) and putting it next to your computer could be an easy way to make yourself eat more vegetables.

In my exprience, following this advice leads to me skipping approximately every fourth meal. Edit: to my detriment.
Does it generally make sense to cook one meal at a time rather than making a larger batch?
the time savings from batch cooking do add up surprisingly quickly, especially when you include cleanup.
Not if the idea is to deliberately introduce trivial inconveniences.
Converge what you enjoy eating with what you can cook.
Objection: simple, cheap, fast meals don't exactly need to be cooked. Wholemea rye bread has an insulin score of 56, better than fish, a satiety score of 154 and decent amount of fiber. Put anything on it and call it a sandwich. The taste sucks, but it is a good-conscience meal in 20 secs. Cooking has multiple definitions, I personally don't consider a scrambled egg with onions cooking, or a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad, and I used to live on these kinds of stuff for years. If the bread part was wholemeal rye and you added vegs, it is decently healthy. Yeah I know for some people this would be called cooking, but I think cooking begins at the level of the five mother sauces, this is not cooking, just hot food preparation.
For reasons I realise I don't know[1], the primary meaning of "cook" for me is to make nontrivial changes to food by means of heat. (Consider the word "uncooked" as applied e.g. to meat and eggs.) So, for me, scrambling eggs counts as "cooking" even though it's not exactly a difficult task. Other forms of food preparation shade gradually from not-cooking to cooking as the effort expended and the extent to which the food gets transformed increase. So putting together a sandwich or a simple salad isn't (usually) "cooking"; grilling cheese on toast just barely is because heat is involved; making (say) ice cream is just barely "cooking" even if you do it without making a custard, because you're doing something quite nontrivial to the ingredients (I guess applying cold is a bit like applying heat); etc. [1] It looks as if the OED largely agrees (most of the senses it lists explicitly or implicitly give preference to the application of heat) and also doesn't really know why (it says "cook", v., is derived from "cook", n., and says nothing more about the etymology of the former; the latter has always meant anyone whose job is preparing food, without any particular preference to doing so by applying heat).
Interesting! I realized now that I consider ice cream making cooking, because it is a higher skilled thing. My wife makes several no-heat cakes and I consider it cooking. My mental image of cooking is stirring something with a wooden spoon, a something made from multiple ingredients. Probably because my ethnic culture is sauce-oriented. I should also add that in my native language to cook and to boil are the same words and I never fully grasped the difference in English. So I would cook a soup but roast a chicken.
In English, to cook is to prepare food, especially by applying heat, but there's no assumption of a particular means of applying heat. Boiling and roasting are both varieties of cooking (in both senses). So are zapping in a microwave, searing on a griddle-pan, grilling under an electric overhead grill, etc. I think you could say the following: "When you make meringues, they don't really cook in the oven, it's more that they slowly dry out". So maybe "cook" means not merely "to prepare food by applying heat" but something more like "to prepare food by applying sufficient heat to denature proteins", the underlying idea presumably being something like "to heat food up enough to make it safe to eat". Of course I'm using "'cook' means not merely X but Y" as shorthand for something like "a lot of skilled native English speakers, when they use or hear the word "cook", are thinking about Y as well as X". So what I really mean is that when I use or hear the word "cook" the following ideas are all somewhat active in my brain: * preparing food * heating things up * making food safe by killing bacteria and parasites * performing a skilled activity * making something particularly tasty but for me there's no very strong activation of, e.g., * boiling as opposed to other modes of heating * stirring as opposed to other skilled cooking-related activities I dare say that if I attempted to draw a stereotypical instance of "cooking" it would be quite likely to involve stirring a pot or pan, but it would be quite likely to involve someone wearing a chef's hat and apron too and those obviously aren't part of the meaning of "cooking".
I looked a bit into the etymology. It is not helpful. Cook as a noun or to cook means the same thing all the way down to Latin coquus and to PIE *pekʷ-, with only the later having one more meaning: to ripen. Heat application is there all the way, but not really specifying how. I would suggest that probably people boiled or simmered more than they roasted in historical times, because, well, convection, that makes even hardest meat sooner or later soft without burning it, and does not waste nutrients into the grease falling into the fire. For example, if you have an old rooster, a soup or a stew is really the only option. However, roasting seems to be a higher-prestige way - medieval nobility is commonly depicted feasting on whole roasted animals, not sure how accurate that is. Perhaps the prestige comes from the difficulty. Roasting a whole ox, which was a way inviting a whole town to party, is very, very difficult. Back to practice: I recommend telling people "learn to prepare a few easy meals" this sounds less scary than "learn to cook".
More likely from the fact that you roast meat and poultry which are expensive foods compared to grains and vegetables.
If cooking means heating food up until it is safe to eat, I couldn't cook carrots or apples. I would suggest that a word can mean different things in different contexts, and especially, a more general meaning and a more specific meaning. Saying that meringues aren't cooking is a use of the more specific meaning.

Never post a web link that requires readers to click on it to find out if they want to click on it.

On that note: middle-click (or Ctrl-click) on links while you're reading to open them in a background tab. Later, glance at the tab to find out if you want to have clicked on it. If the answer is "No, I don't really want to have clicked on that link," just close the tab. (The downside is that this may lead to tab explosions on web sites like TV Tropes.)

If a complete stranger or an acquaintance can do something useful for you, ask. (Politely. At a convenient time. With an appropriate amount of honest flattery.) If they say no, don't press them.

Failure case: make someone else feel important. Success case: get a favor, maybe make a connection.

Always remember to thank them after they agree to help you and again after they've actually helped you, see for reference Ben Franklin effect , the 299th rule of acquisition, and the power of reinforcement.

A thousand times yes! And since this is a thread for boring, useful advice, I'll include the general version: Thank people who do things for you, whether or not you asked them to do it. It conditions them to help you. Thanking people reliably and sincerely is a powerful tool, and while there's a bit of skill to doing it well, it's more than worth practicing.

Does anyone know why the rest of my comment isn't showing? There should be links to an article on conditioning, an article on the Ben Franklin effect, and the rules of acquisition.
See if it's one of these problems. If not, I'll look at your Markdown source code if you email it to me. (My username AT or
That worked, I had en.wikipedia instead of http://en.wikipedia.
I don't know, but you have a chance of finding out if you click on the edit icon (the pencil in a square) for the comment. There's probably something wrong with the way you formatted the links. See if the Show Help box has anything useful.
I've done both and it looks correct.
I'm worried about tactics like this being overused. Pleasantries really do become mechanical through repetition, and I'm not sure if short term benefits are worth it. More likely than not, a person may be conditioned to think that flattery is only given before a request.
That is definitely a danger. It's important to also express honest appreciation when you have nothing specific to gain. (I've been making an effort to do more of that, lately.) If you do, you and your peers will be justifiably happier, and you also get to use tactics like the above without poisoning the well. You should be a good person to everyone you meet — it is the moral thing to do, and as a sidenote will really help your networking
Failure case: They feel compelled to help, resent you for it, and destroy your reputation by speaking ill of you.
Preemptive Solution: Leave a line of retreat, make sure that there is little/no cost for them if they choose to refuse; thus reducing the likelihood that they will help you out of compulsion.
How do you do that?

As far as I know there's no single sure-fire way of making sure that asking them won't put them in a position where refusal will gain them negative utility (for example, their utility function could penalize refusing requests as a matter of course) . However general strategies could include:

  • Not asking in-front of others, particularly members of their social group. (Thus refusal won't impact upon their reputation.)

  • Conditioning the request on it being convenient for them (i.e. using phrasing such as "If you've got some free time would you mind...")

  • Don't give the impression that their help is make or break for your goals (i.e. don't say "As you're the only person I know who can do [such&such], could you do [so&so] for me?")

  • If possible do something nice for them in return, it need not be full reciprocation but it's much harder to resent someone who gave you tea and biscuits, even if you were doing a favor for them at the time.

Of course there's no substitute for good judgement.

Connected to this: A preemptive favor is more likely to result in later requests (even if larger than the initial favor) being fulfilled, but the end result may or may not be a more positive opinion of you. The abstract of this paper seems to indicate increased liking of a stranger that does this, but paywalls and general laziness prevent me from getting a more comprehensive idea of what can happen.

Obtain a smartphone. It will make your life better. (If you don't have one because you feel like they're overhyped, remember that reversed stupidity is not intelligence.) Here is a list of things I use my smartphone to do, in no particular order:

  • Record things I want my future selves to do in RTM on the go
  • Record sleep data using Sleep Cycle
  • Take notes on conversations using either voice memos or Evernote
  • Record various kinds of things in Workflowy, e.g. exercise data
  • Respond more quickly to emails (people I know have debated the value of doing this, but I get really annoyed when other people take a long time to respond to my emails and don't want to do that)
  • Receive calendar alerts, alarms, and Boomerangs from my past selves that remind me to do things
  • Look things up, e.g. on Wikipedia, on the go (e.g. when I am waiting in line for something)
  • Read academic papers on the go
  • Search my email for important information on the go, e.g. the location of some event or an ID number of some kind
  • Look up directions on the go, e.g. to the location of some event
  • Look up places on Yelp on the go
  • Look up prices and reviews of an item I'm considering buying IRL on Amazon

There is a possibility ... (read more)

Many years later, I think the effects of owning a smartphone have probably turned net-negative for me, and I've historically been more happy in periods that I did not have one.

My guess this has to do with the internet becoming more pervasive and the marginal value of the internet being more accessible being negative.

It may be worthwhile figuring out how to minimize the disadvantages of smartphones.

Look things up, e.g. on Wikipedia, on the go (e.g. when I am waiting in line for something)

Upvoted for this. I think possibly the single biggest impact of the existence of smartphones is that in a world where its possible to carry device cappable of accessing Wikipedia in your pocket means that no one ever has an excuse for being ignorant of basic facts about any subject that they had a reasonable amount of time to prepare for.

Another thing: I've found that listening to podcasts while doing mindless, repetative tasks (mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, cleaning) makes the process much, much more enjoyable.

My main objection to smartphone use is that by putting anything you want to pay attention to at your fingertips, it can introduce a certain distance from what is actually going on. I would not advocate, say, spending your 4 hours at the DMV observing your surroundings (that would be a waste of time). But I am concerned that time spent with portable Internet corresponds to ever thicker-walled and less-apparent echo chambers. Is this an issue you have thoughts on?

By way of example, I'm trying to think about the difference between reading a novel on the subway and reading the internets on the subway; the main distinction is that when I'm reading the novel, I'm aware that I'm not actually paying attention to my surroundings.

If I'm interacting with people, I treat it as rude to pull out my phone without asking. If I'm already not-interacting-with-people, I don't see why it would be any worse than a book. So many other people have smart phones that "socialize while waiting" is dying off regardless of what I do, and a book generally kept people from trying to strike up a conversation anyway. As to the "not aware I'm not aware"... I've always felt equally towards books and smart phones. Possibly a bit more aware with my smart phone, actually, since dropping it or having it stolen is a much bigger deal.
This is probably true, but I think this is a small negative and is outweighed by the large positives. If you decide you want to pay more attention to your surroundings with a smartphone, you can add an RTM item or use calendar alerts to remind yourself to do that periodically.
Indeed, one of the ways in which owning a smartphone has improved my life is by reminding me to do things which I need to do regularly in order to change a trait or habit. For instance, I used to have bad posture, which I corrected after setting A HIT interval timer to vibrate every 10 minutes, and interpreting these vibrations as reminders to improve the way I was standing or sitting.
I infer that when you read the internets, you aren't aware that you aren't paying attention to surroundings. I have trouble understanding why that is.
(And having a camera good enough that text in pictures stays legible is sometimes very handy IME.)
The only feature I regularly use on my phone is the alarms. They're absurdly useful. Advanced alarm functionality alone is worth the price of admission.
What exactly is 'advanced alarm functionality' and how do you recommend using it?
I'd hesitate to pin it down to any particular feature set, but the following two features have been very useful to me: Date-based alarm scheduling - I don't want a feature-heavy calendar application running on my phone, so this has been useful. Custom text for alarms - Useful for gym reminders; I can plan exercises for each day in advance, rather than deciding what to do in advance. (Again, I stay away from feature-heavy applications. I like lightweight.) Day-based alarms, and multiple alarms, while trivial features on most smartphone alarm apps, are in fact quite useful, and weren't present in my pre-smartphone phones. I have two alarms set for waking up, for example; the first tells me to down an energy drink (Xenadrine drink mix, supposedly for dieting but my favorite energy drink, or Redline energy drinks, are both awesome for this) or extra-large cup of coffee. Thirty minutes later, when the second alarm wakes me up, I wake up easily and without grogginess. (Alternatively, you can use an alarm application that wakes you up in the ideal part of your sleep cycle. That's a bit... feature-rich for me, however.)
How do you have a cup of coffee ready to go before you wake up? I'd think it would be cold and unpleasant...
...cold and unpleasant? You mean perfect? Yes, I like my coffee cold. I like my soda and beer warm, too. I'm just that kind of guy.
I suspect that the vast majority of coffee drinkers disagree with you, and thus your advice is probably inapplicable to most people there. I could be wrong, but you're the first person I've ever met who considers 8-hour-old coffee to be a good thing.
8 hour old coffee is insufficiently aged; it has yet to achieve peak bitterness.
You missed the point...
You missed that I already acknowledged other people don't share my tastes, which was the point about liking warm beer and soda. You can substitute in your own preferences, even if it's a coffee pot set next to your alarm clock/phone scheduled to turn on shortly before your alarm goes off; it's unnecessary to copy the specific implementation to get utility out of the general concept. At that point I was merely being amusing; missing the point was rather the point.

Don't smoke.

Also seriously look into regularly using other sources of nicotine unless it's included in your workplace's drug screens.

The 80/20 rule is especially true for cleaning. Better to get it 80% clean twice as often than 99% clean half as often.

Not to mention the fact that getting it 80% clean will take much less that 80/99 of the time it'll take to get it 99% clean.

My understanding of the 80/20 rule was "80% of the work takes 20% of the time", so this seems already covered?

Yes, what was I thinking?
Eh, I do this too since optimizing for saying more obvious things. But on net it's been a big improvement and worth the occasional brain fart.

Don't beat yourself up.

Stop doing stupid shit seems relevant.

To summarize: if you're good at something and it doesn't seem like it's taken serious effort to get to where you are, there's probably some low-hanging fruit that you haven't picked, because you haven't looked for it. Put a serious effect into improving and fixing your small, frequent mistakes.

It's a meta-boring advice: Instead of looking for new cool things you could learn, do the boring work of fixing the mistakes you make.

Link doesn't work.
Updated to the web archive link; hat tip to KnaveOfAllTrades.
For ramblier inspiration, see also Stuck In The Middle With Bruce.

Always negotiate on salary, i.e. ask for more than their initial offer. Patrick McKenzie explains why.

Take melatonin a half hour before your desired bedtime. Set an alarm on your phone so that you remember to take it at the exact same time every 24 hours. This gets you to bed at roughly the same time every night and establishes a steady 24 hour cycle, but requires almost no willpower expenditure since you are already awake and it's just a matter of taking a quick pill. Worked for me.

My upvote goes mostly to the "set an alarm on your phone" part. So boring; so useful!

I can confirm this. I set alarms for the most ridiculous things -- eg, "Umbrella" 5 minutes before I leave the office so I don't forget it.

Set double layers of alarms. I've turned off the first one and slept another two hours, way too many times!

Get in the habit of not turning off alarms unless you're doing the thing you're supposed to do. This sounds impossible for some people I know. I used to be one of those people that would set 10 snoozes. But simply doing what the alarm says immediately IS a trainable skill. Every time you set the snooze you're reinforcing setting the snooze.

Yes! For example, if you have trouble getting up when you hear an alarm, you can repeatedly practice lying in bed and setting your alarm for one minute from now, then immediately getting up when you hear it.
While you're at it, you might as well practice getting up, getting dressed, making the bed, starting the kettle (or whatever you would do for breakfast), etc. (Disclaimer: I haven't done this; I've only read about doing it.)
You might want to make the habit a bit shorter than that so that it is easier to practice and repeat a lot.

Watch your internal monologue for two patterns: Hero stories where you are in the process of solving problems, and victim stories where you are incapable of solving problems. Attempt to reinterpret victimization stories into as-yet-unresolved heroic stories.

Tips on giving a speech or presentation:

  • Practice your presentation several times out loud (if possible).
  • The first thing you should talk about after introducing yourself and your topic is why the audience should even care about your topic (and don't assume it's obvious).
  • If using a hand-held microphone, hold the microphone near your mouth, not in front of your chest.
  • If you're using a computer for slides or a demo, set it up ahead of time if possible.

If you're using a computer for slides or a demo, set it up ahead of time if possible.

This. In my experience at least 50% of computer presentations started at least 15 minutes late because of some technical problems. But people always believe that the computers are the same everywhere, therefore nothing could go wrong. (Then they turn on the projector and see only a blue screen. Or the light bulb is burned out. Or a remote control is missing; or a cable. Or the presentation is in PDF and the computer can only run Powerpoint, or the other way round. Or it's a different version of Powerpoint. Or the computer does not recognize the memory stick in the USB port. Or, most importantly, something else.)

Seriously??? I always save my presentations as PDF in order to be sure that they'll run on whichever computer I'll use -- is that not a reasonable assumption?
Depends on how reasonable and computer-literate is the person who prepares the computer. I guess this improves over time; most of my data are like 10 years old. (I met people who didn't know that Internet is not the same thing as Explorer, or that companies other than Microsoft make software too.) Probably the risk is lower if a person prepares the computer for presentations of many different people; and higher if it is usually for the same three or four people from the same organization. Lower if the organization is computer-related (university teaching computer science, IT company) and higher otherwise.
This applies to posts as well. If you've got a long one, start by giving the reader a clear idea of where you're going and what his payoff will be. Motivate the reader.
If you are nervous about a presentation or performance, practice while standing on top of your bed. In a pinch, a picnic table or playground equipment will also do.

If you are going to try to stand on a picnic table, check to see how and whether the top is attached to the base.


Get some decent winter clothes if you live in a climate where this is necessary. I can't tell you how many people I know at my college that have been going here for four years, complain about the weather, and don't own anything more than a sweatshirt to keep them warm. If it's windy, a raincoat can go over a fleece-style under layer and makes a huge difference. If it rains or snows, get some boots and maybe some wool socks. A hat and some gloves work wonders, too. Glove liners work nicely as light-weight gloves that can keep your hands warm when either driving or walking places but will get wet quickly if you put your hands in snow. There's no reason to be uncomfortably cold.

Long johns seem to be something that a lot of people who didn't grow up in the snow never think of. Standing around in freezing weather being cozy is awesome.

Conversely, sometimes people wear dark-coloured, tight-fitting, full-length clothes and then complain about the heat. I understand why in certain situation someone might not want to wear tank tops or shorts, especially if they (think they) are not very conventionally-attractive, but lighter colours, looser-fitting clothes would still help. Combining the two, I've meet at least one person who would dress more or less the same way in January and July and complain both about the cold and about the heat. ---------------------------------------- EDIT: I meant “I understand” in a descriptive way (‘I think I know what's going on in their minds’), not in a normative way (‘ugly people had better please cover their bodies’). Body policing is evil and I'd rather not do that.
Look for the clothes somebody who has to work in the absolute worst of that weather buys. Oilcloth dusters and hats are versatile all-weather gear, and available in tractor supply type stores. Australian cuts are the best I've encountered; since they're designed for airflow, they're appropriate for hot weather, and can be mixed with more typical winter underlayers to provide all-year protection.

Be helpful. I have built a significant network of useful people, and in many cases the relationship started from from me offering to do small favors - as small as helping put away chairs after a lecture - and striking up a conversation.

Addendum: while on occasion I use this technique consciously, there is some concern about seeming transparent (still don't let this stop you, especially with unique opportunities at stake). Best reward yourself for being a helpful guy/gal, make it part of your self image. As your status grows it will be quite natural to offer help to important people (I once got the nerve to offer help to a very rich mayor of a major US city, as I had something to offer. Nothing came of it, but still).

Google it.

And always read multiple results, even if that means having to Google with a different search string.

Some previously posted boring advice about maintaining an exercise routine:

I was successful in keeping a strict (but light) exercise routine for a year. Here are the main things I think helped me form the habit:

  • Not worrying about quantifying, or optimizing. I would immediately get into the rabbit hole of analysis, when I knew that any exercise was much better than procrastinating until I found the perfect method. Once the habit is formed, then you can optimize it.
  • Reduce physical inconveniences to actually exercising. The thought of going to a gym immediately turns me off, so I knew it had to be at home. That meant obtaining equipment. To keep it simple, this consisted of a yoga mat and a resistance band.
  • Doing it right after waking up. I think this was vital to habit formation, as my mind wasn't very active, and it was easy to fall into routine. Only very rarely did I find myself considering not exercising.
  • Doing it every other day - not too often to get burnt out, and not too infrequently to form the habit. In order to keep a consistent sleep schedule and not have to wake up very early, I alternated morning routines - exercise days and shower days. My workouts weren't intense enough to necessitate a shower immediately after. Also, I worked it in with my intermittent fasting routine on non-exercise days.
  • Tracking it. Noting days that I exercised did give me a couple of achievement hedons. The effect diminished, but not before the habit was formed.