As the dictum goes, “If it helps but doesn’t solve your problem, perhaps you’re not using enough.” But I still find that I’m sometimes not using enough effort, not doing enough of what works, simply put, not using enough dakka. And if reading one post isn’t enough to get me to do something… perhaps there isn’t enough guidance, or examples, or repetition, or maybe me writing it will help reinforce it more. And I hope this post is useful for more than just myself.

Of course, the ideas below are not all useful in any given situation, and many are obvious, at least after they are mentioned, but when you’re trying to get more dakka, it’s probably worth running through the list and considering each one and how it applies to your actual problem. And more dakka won’t solve every problem - but if it’s not working, make sure you tried doing enough before assuming it can’t help.

So if you’re doing something, and it isn’t working well enough, here’s a dozen ways to generate more dakka, and how each could apply if you’re a) exercising, or b) learning new mathematics.

A Dozen Ways

  1. Do it again.
    1. Instead of doing one set of repetitions of the exercise, do two.
    2. If you read the chapter once, read it again.
  2. Use more.
    1. If you were lifting 10 pounds, lift 15.
    2. If you were doing easy problems, do harder ones.
  3. Do more repetitions.
    1. Instead of 10 repetitions, do 15.
    2. If you did 10 problems on the material, do 15. 
  4. Increase intensity.
    1. Do your 15 repetitions in 2 minutes instead of 3.
    2. If you were skimming or reading quickly, read more slowly.
  5. Schedule it.
    1. Exercise at a specific time on specific days. Put it on your calendar, and set reminders.
    2. Make sure you have time scheduled for learning the material and doing problems.
  6. Do it regularly.
    1. Make sure you exercise twice a week, and don’t skip.
    2. Make sure you review what you did previously, on a regular basis.
  7. Do it for a longer period.
    1. Keep exercising for another month.
    2. Go through another textbook, or find more problem sets to work through.
  8. Add types.
    1. In addition to push-ups, do bench presses, chest flyers, and use resistance bands.
    2. In addition to the problem sets, do the chapter review exercises, and work through the problems in the chapter on your own.
  9. Expand the repertoire.
    1. Instead of just push–ups, do incline push ups, loaded push-ups, and diamond push-ups.
    2. Find (or invent!) additional problem types; try to prove things with other methods, find different counter-examples or show why a relaxed assumption means the result no longer holds, find pre-written solutions and see if you can guess next steps before reading them.
  10. Add variety.
    1. Do leg exercises instead of just chest exercises. Do cardio, balance, and flexibility training, not just muscle building. 
    2. Do adjacent types of mathematics, explore complex analysis, functional analysis, and/or harmonic analysis.
  11. Add feedback.
    1. Get an exercise coach to tell you how to do it better.
    2. Get someone to grade your work and tell you what you’re doing wrong, or how else to learn the material.
  12. Add people.
    1. Have the whole team exercise. Find a group, gym, or exercise class.
    2. Collaborate with others in solving problems. Take a course instead of self-teaching. Get others to learn with you, or teach someone else to solidify your understanding.

Bonus Notes

For the baker’s dozen, in addition to Dakka, make it easier in other ways. Listen to music if it helps, remove things that make it harder or distract you, make sure you have the right equipment, books, and space, find a more convenient place to do it, and get people to reinforce your work positively.

And there is a secret 14th technique, which is to figure out if what you’re doing is the right way to accomplish your goal; it might improve some metric, but not accomplish what you really care about. If you still aren’t getting the job, make sure it’s not because of something other than your physical appearance or math ability. If you’re not losing weight, exercising more often doesn’t help. And if you’re getting stuck on the math, or feel that you can’t understand it, make sure you understand all of the prerequisites well enough.

Hopefully, this post is helpful. If it wasn’t, of course, you might try reading it again, reading it more slowly, rereading Zvi’s original post, thinking of additional examples yourself, coming up with another method for getting more dakka and generating examples for the listed domains, coming up with a new domain and trying to figure out what might qualify as more dakka under each example, using other rationality techniques to supplement dakka, explain this to someone else, or figure out if there’s some other reason more dakka isn’t working.

Disclaimer

If you’re still not sure, ask your rationalist guru whether more dakka is right for you. If more dakka causes headaches, anxiety, loss of sleep, excess posting on lesswrong, or increases existential risk, discontinue more dakka immediately and seek amateur advice.

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

I've bookedmarked this; thank you; I expect to get use from this list.

The LessWrong Review runs every year to select the posts that have most stood the test of time. This post is not yet eligible for review, but will be at the end of 2025. The top fifty or so posts are featured prominently on the site throughout the year.

Hopefully, the review is better than karma at judging enduring value. If we have accurate prediction markets on the review results, maybe we can have better incentives on LessWrong today. Will this post make the top fifty?

[-]Steven108

I would add “finish it”. Many projects don’t actually get finished, you skip the last working set etc etc

[-]kave79

Curated. Since this post has been published, there's been a couple of times I've heard the whisper of "More Dakka ... do it again". I've booked additional appointments with potential lawyers and tailors, called around for more quotes, and bought spares of trousers I like.

I haven't explored most of the bullets in this post, but I think posts that (a) move concepts closer to next actions, (b) flesh out concepts in a bunch of different ways and explore them from different angles and (c) give examples are undersupplied. This post does all of those!

 combine more approaches!

This is a great list, thank you.

As someone lately looking for all the dakka to overcome a nagging cough, I came across #13 "make it easier in other ways" from an angle I found particularly useful; namely, by thinking of it as a third feedback source under #11: my body.

After trying to "control" this cough by all manner of hacks Reddit had to offer, and learning that reportedly not even ICU nurses can reliably control such a seemingly simple and universal thing, I came to the conclusion that if body want to cough, body will cough. Therefore I might need to pay more attention to wacky ideas that bubble up in the back of my head on how to feel good, than on what "should" feel good or fix it. 

Jury's out on whether the ensuing bizarre hot-shower-ritualistic-act is really why I'm currently coughing much less, but it definitely didn't hurt (more than I can say for some of my previous remedy-attempts).

Very happy to see a concrete outcome from these suggestions!

[-]robo44

Counterpoint worth considering:

It's hard to get enough of something that almost works.

(Vincent Felitti, as quoted from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction)

I think there are two very different cases of "almost works" that are being referred to. The first is where the added effort is going in the right direction, and the second is where it is slightly wrong. For the first case, if you have a drug that doesn't quite treat your symptoms, it might be because it addresses all of them somewhat, in which case increasing the dose might make sense. For the second case, you could have one that addresses most of the symptoms very well, but makes one worse, or has an unacceptable side effect, in which case increasing the dose wouldn't help. Similarly, we could imagine a muscle that is uncomfortable. The second case might then be a stretch that targets almost the right muscle. That isn't going to help if you do it more. The first case, on the other hand, would be a stretch that targets the right muscle but isn't doing enough, and obviously it could be great to do more often, or for a longer time.

[-]nim20

"and seek amateur advice"

well said!