The new year is a popular Schelling point to make changes to your activities, habits, and/or thought processes. This is often done via the New Year's Resolution. One standard piece of advice for NYRs is to make them achievable, since they are often too ambitious and people end up giving up and potentially falling victim to the what-the-hell effect

Wikipedia has a nice list of popular NYRs. For ideas from other LW contributors, here are some previous NYRs discussed on LW: 

  • Somervta aimed to spend at least two hours/week learning to program (here)
  • ArisKatsaris aimed to tithe to charity (here)
  • Swimmer963 aimed to experiment more with relationships (here)
  • RichardKennaway aimed to not die (here)
  • orthonormal aimed (for many years in a row) to make new mistakes (here)
  • Perplexed aimed to avoid making karma micromanagement postmortems (here)
  • Yvain aimed to check whether there was a donation matching opportunity the next week before making a donation (here)

(If one of these were from you, perhaps you'd like to discuss whether they were successful or not?)

In the spirit of collaboration, I propose that we discuss any NYRs we have made or are thinking of making for 2015 in this thread. 

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RichardKennaway aimed to not die

That was posted in late 2012, and as you can see, I succeeded, two years running! Not dying is clearly something I should make a habit of.

I have two resolution this year:

  1. Transition into a woman.
  2. Get a job that can pay enough that I don't have to depend on my girlfriend for housing.

The new year is a popular Schelling point

It's interesting that you use the phrase "Schelling point." Strictly speaking, is there any advantage for people who want to improve themselves to coordinate their efforts to start on the same day? Perhaps, but I don't think that's what you meant -- I suspect it's about coordination among the internal factions in one's brain/mind.

I was thinking of social support of other people's goals.

Strictly speaking, is there any advantage for people who want to improve themselves to coordinate their efforts to start on the same day?

Not really, but there's an advantage to having one particular day on which to do things, to avoid the "I'll do it someday" problem.

Not really, but there's an advantage to having one particular day on which to do things, to avoid the "I'll do it someday" problem.

I think that's probably true, although I think it's along the lines of what I mentioned earlier -- a kind of internal Schelling Point.

There's also the problem that it might create another kind of "I'll do it someday" problem. For example, a person might pig out on Thanksgiving and Christmas and justify it to himself saying "Starting January 1 I will eat healthy and hit the gym every day."

I too vote to avoid inflationary use of the phrase "Schelling point" (which dates back to this post, maybe?) People in the LWsphere are using it to mean "point of note" and that's lame. If you've got a fuzzy thought to share, you should use short fuzzy words. Don't use long precise words... you'll gradually destroy their precision over time, and they're also less accessible.

I too vote to avoid inflationary use of the phrase "Schelling point

I'm not sure I'd vote with you on that :). Because I'm serious about considering the concept of an internal Schelling point. Arguably, self-improvement is about coordinating the internal, competing aspects of one's mind.

To illustrate, my normal exercise routine includes 30 minutes on the cardio machine. Not 31 minutes and not 29 minutes. I've been doing 30 minutes a day for a long time now. Quite possibly it would be better for my fitness to do less exercise some days and more others. Or to exercise for some other length of time. But 30 minutes is a nice round number which all my internal processes can seem to agree on. Does it make sense to think of 30 minutes as a Schelling Point? I'm inclined to think so.

In fact, I think it's very useful to see self-improvement through this paradigm, i.e. coordination of competing factions within the mind and trying to come to a sustainable consensus among parties which often don't communicate all that well.

(I also agree that one can think of New Year's as a Schelling Point (for New Year's resolutions) in the more traditional sense. For example if you want to start going to the gym every day with a friend or a group of people.)

A few years ago I flossed for a whole January, but then became complacent and stopped. It might have been an altogether too hard NYR for me, so this year I have one good idea and a firm intent to keep it:

  • If somebody tells me I should check something with a doctor, I will.

I have a few reasons for this. I was raised to believe that if I visit a doctor more than once a year, I must be a hypochondriac. So I just didn't. Plus, since I almost never see any doctors, I don't really know what is worrisome and what is normal, I just used to ignore anything happening with my body. This is also an excercise in trust. I know I can't really trust myself in the matter of my own health, so I will consciously put trust in other people intead of waving away their good advice.

My list of goals, nice habits to have and general goodness tends to grow in length instead of shrinking for various reasons but I can make progress anyhow in implementing it. Also I know that having way too many goals at once is harmful, so here's the obvious caveat: This is a general list and brainstorming so far, with no real plan for realiable implementation, so take the goals, the length of the list and the commentary with the proverbial grain of salt. (Legend: "I vow" is certain, "I will" actually means "maybe")

  • Charity: There has been a delay in forming my contract for my student's job and thus also a delay in payment, which made me think about money a lot more than usual. Since for various reasons my cashflow will improve I hereby vow to donate 1% of my income below the taxation threshold and 10% of any income beyond that to a mix of GiveWell, CFAR, MIRI and Wikipedia of my choosing.

  • Health and charity: The weird case where self-interest and the public interest coincide applies for three things I have in mind

    • I will donate blood at least once in 2005. Of course I'll donate 10% of the remuneration I get.
    • I will get all my vaccinations up-to-date and take any additional as recommended by my physician. Maybe the payment from above will subsidise a shot not covered by insurance. One prick for another.
    • I will take a course and certification in first aid. It might just be one of my dearest people I can help or just the occasional stranger.
  • Education: No university and no school can offer comprehensive education, it has to come from many sources.

    • I tried audiobooks via Audible for the first time less than a month ago and I was amazed. At 10€ per audiobook it is quite a bargain and ideal for any non-fiction book with low information density like biographies. So I will listen through at least one audiobook per month, totaling twelve (12) books consumed in 2015.
    • Though this will happen at university, it still gets to the same heading. I will start learning Spanish and get at least to A1 level as I am currently pre-occupied learning Russian and developing a general love for languages.
    • Speaking of learning languages, as this is very fact-heavy and I start seeing the benefits of SRS, I will use Anki every single day instead of clusters of ten interspersed with pauses of a couple of days.
  • Travel: This might just as well put this under the education heading, but it deserves its own spot. I will travel to at least one country I have not yet set foot in, alone. Since I live in Germany, the bar is relatively low, but this is one goal that tends to fuel itself.

  • Interviewing: I will send out applications for part-time jobs, internships and stipends. Since I can control the material I send but not the answers I receive, the goal is set to the former. For far too long I have ignored the usual advice of getting at least one of each in internships, stipends, part-time-jobs and maybe a year/half-year abroad so I am looking for ways to fix that. The most obvious is to send out applications like crazy. This obviously ties into the points education and travel.

Some ideas I had before but I am unsure of in the face of total workload are to subscribe to a higher quality publication like the Economist and read at least one article every week or to read at least one book per month in addition to the audiobooks from above.

Great list! Hope you don't mind a couple of questions.

I hereby vow to donate 1% of my income below the taxation threshold and 10% of any income beyond that to a mix of GiveWell, CFAR, MIRI and Wikipedia of my choosing.

Any particular reason to donate to Wikipedia? I ask because I just read this interesting article about Wikimedia donations that was posted on the FB EA thread a few days ago.

Also, how many applications per month?

Great list! Hope you don't mind a couple of questions.

Thanks! There would be little point in posting to a discussion board if I wasn't expecting discussion.

Any particular reason to donate to Wikipedia? I ask because I just read this interesting article about Wikimedia donations that was posted on the FB EA thread a few days ago.

Until a few minutes ago I thought that people would on average not donate enough to Wikipedia enough. Actually, my thought was more like "Wikipedia was so useful in the past and I expect it to be useful in the future too, so I could donate a small amount to make up for my use." But I am revising that thought as we speak. The larger point anyhow was to signal that I am not completely sold on effective altruism and might also donate to the Red Cross or so.

Also, how many applications per month?

I have until the end of this year to decide. A modest goal would be one per week, but it would be way more effective if I make the rate dependent on time and domain. So let's say - and let me say that this won't be the final number - one per week for stuff in industry that is not seasonal and an adjusted number for seasonal stuff.

I am not completely sold on effective altruism and might also donate to the Red Cross or so.

Interesting, why is this? Do you mean effective altruism as a concept, or the EA movement as it currently is?

I am not going to start a lengthy discussion on this subject as this is not the place for it, so please do not read the lack of any further answers as anything else than the statemet above. That being said ...

I am not completely sold on the premise that all human lives are equal which puts the whole idea of a cheaper saved life in question. I am not donating out of a moral imperative but personal preference so my donations exhibit decreasing marginal utility making diversification a necessity. And finally I have generally massive skepticism towards anything and anyone that claims to solve a huge, long standing problem like poverty just like the EA movement tends to do.

This is the rough sketch of my reservations. I will not discuss it further here but I am willing to discuss it in a more appropriate place, like a seperate thread or the open thread.

Thanks! No need for a lengthy debate, I'm just very curious about how people decide where to donate, especially when the process leads to explicitly non-EA decisions. Your reasons are in fact pretty close to what I would have guessed, so I suppose similar intuitions are quite common and might explain part of why an idea as obvious as effective altruism took so long to develop.

But yeah, a subthread about this in the OT sounds like a good idea (unless I can find lots of old discussions on the subject).

[-][anonymous]7y 3

Hooray! Счастливого Нового года вам, и пусть у вас все получится. If you ever feel like you don't get enough exercise in Russian, just drop a line to me or any other Russian speaker here.maybe the are Spaniards around, too-who knows?..

Thank you very much! I will take you up on that offer.

It might be worth reading through some of the stuff by 80,000 Hours re jobs, internships, etc. Apologies for spam if you already know of them. :)

Am I unusually dense or is the site unusually inaccessible with regards to relevant advice re internships and generally?

The format seems to have changed since I last visited the site, so not sure. You might want to apply for coaching and indicate the information that you are looking for and have been unable to find - they might be able to filter out which info is relevant to your situation. Your comment might also be useful feedback to them, as it is often difficult to find out why people dislike a website.

I think that long-term goals should be qualitative and subjective, and supported by short-term goals that are quantitative and objective. I like my short-term goals to be achievable within 12 weeks at the outside, and preferably much less.

One reason for this is that as I learn by pursuing and achieving short-term goals, my outlook on the long term changes. Another reason is that the pursuit of long-term goals is hindered by getting stressed out over specific numbers or metrics, and made easier by pushing the edge of my subjective performance envelope. In other words, if I'm always trying to perform such that I feel mostly positive (which isn't necessarily the same as feeling good!) close to the point where I start to fail, I'm building a long-term positive association with my goal while incrementally improving.

This is easiest for me to illustrate with athletic goals. One of my long-term goals for 2015 is to feel physically light and subjectively strong. One of my short-term goals in support of this is to do 10 reps of the strict overhead press with 95 pounds at a bodyweight of 150 or less. Right now this seems subjectively hard, but I know from experience that I am probably less than 8 weeks from achieving it. When I get there, I'll make another short-term goal based on how I feel subjectively about the long term goal. This is probably too big a short-term bite for an area of practice in which one has little experience; I have many years of physical training experience to go on in making these goals. Some years ago when I had a long-term goal of getting back into coding, my short-term goals were things like "learn how to split a string in Python": something that I should be able to achieve in one sitting.

[-][anonymous]7y 4

Self-Made Renegade: -1000 Subscribers on Email List -Launch First Product -Make Enough to Quite Dayjob

Quantified Startup: -Finish Odin Project -Build at Least One Project I Use Every Day

Speaking Liaison: -Get Over Fear of Cold Calls -Book at Least One Paid Speaking Gig

Self-Made Renegade: -1000 Subscribers on Email List

At the first sight, this reads as if you want to prune your email list subscribers down to 1000 less, especially when paired with "self-made renegade". (I registered that before it even occurred to me that it may be impossible to throw subscribers off an email list, i.e. tell people what they can't subscribe to.) Surely that's not what you meant...?

[-][anonymous]7y 0

Haha, nope, the "-" was supposed to be a bullet, but LW decided to put all my bullets on one line.

Dashes are not recognized as bullets in the LessWrong syntax; asterisks are. You can make a bulleted list by putting a space after each asterisk.

* this
* list


  • this
  • list

Nobody asked for my advice but I'll give it anyway: Don't tell anyone your new year's resolution. Because if you tell people, it will give you a feeling of accomplishment which will undermine your motivation.

Keep your goals to yourself.

Keep your goals to yourself.

And yet the first thing in his bio on that page announces his goal: "Through his new project, MuckWork, Derek Sivers wants to lessen the burdens (and boredom) of creative people."

There is a time to speak of your goals and a time to keep silent.

And yet the first thing in his bio on that page announces his goal: "Through his new project, MuckWork, Derek Sivers wants to lessen the burdens (and boredom) of creative people."

Yes, I agree that's a bit of a contradiction, although I suppose one could say that it's more of a marketing schtick than a real goal. The real goal is presumably to build a successful business, to get acclaim, etc.

He's also rather overweight.

He's also rather overweight.

I'm having trouble understanding what you mean by noting this - would you mind clarifying?

I'm having trouble understanding what you mean by noting this - would you mind clarifying?

If he's overweight, it suggests that his self-help advice is ineffective. Of course there are a few alternate explanations: That his advice is effective, but not sufficiently effective to diet successfully. Or that he doesn't care about being fat. And probably others too.

Still, successful weight loss is one of the closest things to guaranteed success if you are able to get your s* together. As opposed to other goals like getting rich or finding and marrying the love of your life. And there are so many advantages to being thin that pretty much every fat person has tried to lose weight. Some of them, many many times. So I wouldn't trust a fat self-help guru.

Hope that clarifies things.

This is a good point, and in fact immediately after writing my comment I partially regretted it because of this.

The major upside for me, though, is that I could get advice and feedback on whether/how to achieve my goal.

My new years resolution, as part of a longer-term goal to become better at coding, is to make at least one commit to github every day in 2015. Not all of these will be public, because some of them will be currently private code associated with my lab work. But, I'll post a screenshot at the end of the year.

Has anyone tried a similar thing, have advice for me, or think that this is a terrible idea?

Trying to literally make one commit every day (as opposed to something like seven commits every week) ties one to a schedule that would be unrealistic for many people. I enjoy activities like backpacking, international travel, and spending entire days with my girlfriend; none of those are very compatible with a goal of making one commit in each 24-hour period.

It also seems extremely vulnerable to the "what the hell" effect. Miss one day, and you've technically blown the goal. Worse, the reason for missing a day may be largely out of your control (illness, power outage, blown CPU, whatever); unless you have a solid "when (not if) I fail..." plan, you may find yourself choosing not to push as hard to fix things because "it's not my fault".

+1. You could do it Beeminder style and make it so doing 10 commits in a single day gives you 10 days of runway.

Personally it sems that number of commits is a metric too easy to game. If you generally are honest with yourself, keep it, but I wouldn't use it if I were to set a goal for a group of students. Another metric that is less easy to game on a personal level is time spent with your programming environment open, which is effective if you tend to either not start programming or stop prematurely. Finally the ideal metric is to have a set of features or a certain output you want to achieve and have that as a goal with the caveat that these goals tend to be too hard to achieve in the mean time.

So overall, I'd recommend time spent programming as a weekly goal and a final product as an overarching goal with the explicit option of re-negotiation.

It's a great idea. The most important part (possibly the only important part) of learning to code is to actually write code, code that's useful to you. Small commits are a good habit (too many people have an SVN-era instinct that commits are "expensive"). Heck, if I were doing this (as someone with a full-time job that's mostly coding) I'd make it a branch every day, with at least 8 commits on it. (Perhaps if you want to follow CBHacking's suggestion you could make it a branch every week, with at least 7 commits on it; that way, to be "on target" you commit every day, but you can miss a few days and make it up if you need to).

My standard way to avoid the "what the hell effect" is: miss one and it's ok, miss two and it's all over.

I am not sure if there is much correlation between the programming quality and commit rates.

Based on ~5 years of professional programming experience, I'm very confident there is a strong correlation between programming quality and commit rates. (Though Goodhart's law may be a danger)

I totally agree that quality programming tends to lead to higher commit rates. It's the other direction I am dubious about, like you say.

That's probably true. Can you think of anything that I could do that would correlate with programming quality and that doesn't depend on other people? I.e., I could say get at least two GH repositories with >= 1 stars, but that relies on other people, so doesn't seem process oriented enough for a NYR.

Not exactly a resolution, but given the time of the year it is close enough.

I am also responsible to get better, because I can, and because only a better version of me will be able to solve certain problems and help in some circumstances. Tsuyoku Naritai!

Can't, sorry. The list is topped by "Be more secretive." (It continues in about the same vein.)

Couldn't resist, could you? :)

I considered posting the whole list, but it would have visibly contradicted the first item on it.

I'm going to stop making new years resolutions and stop behaving like i need to "overcome" myself in favour of some poorly explored goals and social stimuli.

This is interesting but I don't fully understand what you're trying to trying to get across. Explain further? Ie what does it mean to overcome yourself?

I often try to persuade myself i'll change some part of my behaviour at some peculiar point of time instead of researching why i still haven't done this. By "overcoming myself" i mean modifying the behaviour one part of me doesn't like in favour of some other behaviour some other part of me doesn't like.

[-][anonymous]7y 2

I'm going to stop using the word "universe". Its appliation across and even within different fields of science is a fiasco.

I'm not sure what's wrong with reality, that we need all sorts of strange names for it.

I'm going to start tracking when I go to bed, and make it earlier. Nominal goal is no later than midnight regularly, 2AM on "late nights" where I have unusual reason to stay out late. No limit on emergencies - I still can, and occasionally find it valuable, to pull an all-nighter - but by staying up to type this I'm in violation of this goal as it's past 3AM here. I also don't have a good way to track bed times yet, other than manual recording; any suggestions? I know many fitness bands claim to be able to track sleep cycles but I haven't tried any of them and am not sure if any are (or aren't) particularly good for this, or if there's an alternative approach people would recommend.

If you have a smart phone there are apps that will automate this -- for example, based on your location, or based on movement within your bed.

For Android, I think the best one is Sleep as Android, though it's been a while since I last explored the options.

I use beeminder to hold myself to a 1am bedtime (my graph is here). I don't use any fancy inputs, I just type the time I'm going to bed in on the app just before I get into bed.

It does give me flexibility to sometimes be up late, as long as I've gotten enough buffer ahead of time.

It was easiest for me to set the input format by entering time in a 24 hr format, where noon is 0. Thus, my bedtime of 1am is 13, and it's easy for me to indicate a midnight (12) or too late 2am (14) time without having to do math on how many hours past bedtime I am/use negative numbers.

I'd try Sleepbot for Android. Works well for me

I had trouble going to sleep early because I wasn't tired. I've had more success focusing on (a regular and early) waking time, and putting very little pressure on bedtime. It's easier and more accurate to log when you wake up (I just do it manually), and you avoid certain counterproductive situations where it's clear you're clearly not tired enough to fall asleep but still feel like you "ought to" stay in bed. At least for me, if I can occasionally force myself to wake up early despite having stayed up late, my overall sleep cycle eventually normalizes itself so that I'm tired at an appropriate time.

I have tried that before and found it doesn't work for me unless I have something really forcing me to get up early (classes did the job, work does not). I may just not be viewing my incentive to get up early correctly. On the other hand, my brain is bad at managing motivation in the early morning, especially if I didn't get enough sleep. It's a lot easier to see the importance in "go to sleep now" than in "wake up now", because the former happens when I'm already awake.

Also, I can (and regularly do) stay up well past the point that I'm tired enough to go to sleep, but not so tired that I want to go to sleep. The difference is usually 2-3 hours, and the net effect is that my sleep schedule creeps forward over time to the extent that, if there's nothing regulating it, I cycle through the full 24 hour period in about two weeks.