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What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

by Mark Xu1 min read16th May 2020157 comments

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Sometimes, people have life problems that can be entirely solved by doing one thing. (doing X made my life 0.1% better, PERMANENTLY!) These are not things like "This TAP made me exercise more frequently", but rather like "moving my scale into my doorway made me weigh myself more, causing me to exercise more frequently" - a one-shot solution that makes a reasonable amount of progress in solving a problem.

I've found that I've had a couple of life problems that I couldn't solve because I didn't know what the solution was, not because it was hard to solve - once I thought of the solution, implementation was not that difficult. I'm looking to collect various one-shot solutions to problems to expand my solution space, as well as potentially find solutions to problems that I didn't realize I had.

Please only put one problem-solution pair per answer.

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My realization that smoking was associative, led me to try to do it alone. I told everyone in my social circle that i had quit, and smoked in secret when I had to. I don't generally espouse lying but it might be a prerequisite in this case. I stopped using smoking as an aid to social situations, or as something to do with my hands and mouth when i was pensive. I focused completely on the very process and did not accompany smoking with anything else at all. What this method encompasses is, being very aware of smoking, from lighting it, putting it on your lips, inhaling the smoke, exhaling, to flicking the ash and throwing the butt away. I also focused on the sensations in my mouth and lungs, as well as the blood rush. It reduced my daily intake immediately, made me despise smoking, and along with other measures, helped me kick the addiction for good.

Reminds me of something Nate Soares wrote:

When I was quite young, one of the guests at our house refused to eat processed food. I remember that I offered her some fritos and she refused. I was fairly astonished, and young enough to be socially inept. I asked, incredulous, how someone could not like fritos. To my surprise, she didn't brush me off or feed me banal lines about how different people have different tastes. She gave me the answer of someone who had recently stopped liking fritos through an act of will. Her answer went something like this: "Just start noticing how greasy they are, and how the grease gets all over your fingers and coats the inside of the bag. Notice that you don't want to eat things soaked in that much grease. Become repulsed by it, and then you won't like them either."
Now, I was a stubborn and contrary child, so her ploy failed. But to this day, I still notice the grease. This woman's technique stuck with me. She picked out a very specific property of a thing she wanted to stop enjoying and convinced herself that it repulsed her.

Ah, right. Twix. I forgot about this one. While depressed, I gradually ramped up my consumption of Twix from the vending machine near my office to over 1 per day (2 since they came in pairs?). I wanted to stop, tried several times and failed, remembered about a technique I'd seen on LW. Tried it. Have not had a single Twix for many years.

Technique: bought one Twix. Slowly, mindfully, broken off pieces and threw them in the trash, carefully imagining that I was tasting the Twix and that it was full of maggots. Took... a few minutes? Craving gone.

Instead of lying you could just set a bounty that you pay $10 dollars to anyone who catches you smoking in a social situation. That will get you to stop smoking in social situations.

I used to have really strong emotions that could be triggered by trivial things, which caused both me and the people I was around a lot of suffering.

I managed to permanently stop this, reducing my emotional suffering by about 90%! I did this by resolving to completely own and deal with my emotions myself, and told relevant people about this commitment. Then I was just pretty miserable and lonely feeling for about 3 months, and then these emotional reactions just stopped completely without any additional effort. I think I permanently lowered my level of neuroticism by doing this.

There is research that claims that suffering might serve as an honest signal to get help from your group and that humans suffer more than other animals due to this reason.

you might have taught your system 1 that emotional suffering is useless for signaling purposes and it stopped using it.

If it's true it could be an extremely impactful and even groundbreaking intervention.

3moderock1yI wonder if there's a correlation between the American emphasis on comfort and loss of utility for suffering as a social signal? At least within notable chunks of American culture that I currently have a lens on -- don't live in the US at present, so do take this with a massive salt-boulder -- it seems that visibly suffering quickly earns the sufferer a large amount of sympathy/compassion/support/etc. This begets more visible suffering -- to the point of harmful neuroticism -- in order to garner more support from the community, and I doubt this is in any way a conscious effort on behalf of any of the involved parties. Similar to an unruly child that keeps throwing temper-tantrums because her parents quickly give in and reward the unwanted behavior -- neither the child nor parents are really aware of the feedback loop in which they are trapped. Moreover, in my observation, cultures where publicly visible suffering is ignored (or even punished!) don't seem to suffer from the same levels of neurotic behavior that I regularly see in specific American subcultures -- although increased suicide rates do seem to be an issue for when those cultures have yet to evolve mechanisms whereby suffering can be alleviated.

Can I get clarification on what sort of emotions were problematic and/or what reactions were problematic? I’m wondering if this was rumination or in the moment reactions.

7Adele Lopez1yThe main emotion that was a problem was feeling very hurt/insecure by some perceived slight or something, which resulted in in the moment reactions, like crying or getting upset with someone

For what it's worth, I had a similar journey. Not as much with strong emotions being triggered by trivial things, but I would routinely blame others for my negative feelings.

Coming to understand that I, and only I, was responsible for both my situation and my emotional responses was a difficult journey, but it also helped me address those negative feelings in a useful way.

The next level is presumably, resuming offloading only the emotions for which sharing the processing work is beneficial (shockingly few qualify though)

I was always wary of using drugs to solve my problems (I always thought I should just apply more willpower), but then my anxiety got so bad that I cried every day for nearly a year. Going on SSRIs immediately made a massive difference. I only cry about once a month now and have far more good days than bad.

Similarly, sucking it up and taking ibuprofen when I feel a migraine starting is way better than 'powering through' it. You requested only one problem-solution pair per answer, so I'll generalize this to 'significant life improvements when I stopped blindly rejecting drugs on principle.'

I frequently got trapped browsing the internet on my phone, so I removed the web browser from my phone. You would think that I would just reinstall the browser, but adding 5 extra seconds delay is apparently sufficient for me to have impulse control.

It really is surprising just how much you can get from a very little amount of time. When I quit smoking (and even some of the times I unsuccessfully tried) one simple trick I used when I felt the urge was to simply say "I'll go in 5 minutes" and resume whatever I was doing.

Every single time it was 30 minutes, an hour, a couple of hours later that the next urge for a smoke returned. Moreover, I never really felt I was waiting in anticipation of that 5 minutes to expire.

Now, I don't think that is what ultimately accomplished the quitting but it did address one of the problems that will lead to not quitting.

6Viliam1yProcrastinating on bad habits is a powerful thing! Saying "never" leads to an internal conflict, but saying "later" often doesn't... and as we procrastinators already know, it often has the same result. I only use this method randomly, but it has about 50% success rate... I mean the chance that "later" becomes "not today", without having to make an explicit decision about not doing it today.

SelfControl is also good for this.

I've successfully done this as well!

I like to use the add-on LeechBlockNG (I don't know if you can use it on mobile). You can use it to outright block sites, but also delay access to the site before you actually enter, and also put time limits. The delay is something I haven't seen other apps/add-ons use a similar feature, and it's kind of a deal-breaker, since it solves the problem of "instant gratification" that makes social media (etc.) addicting.

I grew up in warm climates and tend to suffer a lot in cold weather. I moved to a colder climate a few years ago and discovered scarves. Wearing scarves eliminated 90% of this suffering. Scarves are not exactly a bold and novel invention, but people from warm climates may underestimate their power.

Setting a recurring alarm at 9:30pm and taking melatonin right away. Got me in the habit of getting tired and going to bed more consistently.

IIRC getting up at the same time each morning (including weekends!) is more important than going to bed at a consistent time. Though doing both is best of all.

In particular, if you go to bed late, don't change your waking-up alarm. You'll be a bit tireder the next day, but will probably correct for it automatically by falling asleep faster and sleeping deeper the next night.

I was using my phone too much in bed, so I moved my phone charger far enough that it wouldn't reach my bed.

This also helped me for getting up on time!

Ever since I put my phone on the opposite side of the room at night, I find it a LOT easier to get up in the morning, as well as getting to sleep faster

I discovered a year ago something that substantially improves my mood and energy. In the shower each morning, I rub the sole of each foot for just a few seconds with a facecloth (or anything slightly rough would do). This produces a buzz (kinda endorphins + caffeine) that lasts all day, without wearing off as it is renewed by standing or walking. It hasn't diminished over time. It's an amazing free lunch. Not just making life 0.1% better, I'd genuinely say 30% better.

Perhaps I have particularly sensitive feet. But presumably this works for some other people, they just haven't tried it; after all, it took me decades to discover it.

Big if true!

Going to shower right now and try this (I needed a shower anyway). Will report back...

Edit: post shower, my feet feel tingly a little bit. My methodology was to rub my feet five times firmly with a wash cloth at the beginning and end of my shower. I do feel good about life right now, we’ll see how long that lasts. Results inconclusive.

1irarseil13dI'd be curious to know if you kept on doing that and, if so, what the results were.
8lincolnquirk13dI didn’t do it any more. I forgot about it next time I showered.

Tried this with no noticeable effect except for noticing the sensations in my feet more throughout the day.

Problem:
Regularly eating unhealthy snacks/food.

One-time solution:
Put all the unhealthy snacks/food in a hard to reach shelf in the pantry, and shove them all the way to the back.

Notes:
This solution is very effective in reducing the snacking and junk-food eating. It's based on two laws of behaviour change.

  1. Make it Invisible: If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. With the junk food tucked away, you'll be tempted a lot less, if not completely forget that those foods were even an option.
  2. Make it Difficult: Bending all the way down to reach into the bottom shelf of the pantry (for me, that's at floor level) is really tedious, and that bit of resistance is surprisingly effective in reducing my desire to get that snack/food.

Bonus point — A similar trick is actually well-known in retail: whatever product you put in the top shelf (waist-height) near the cashier will sell much more than any product you put in the bottom shelf (even if the bottom product is a much better-known brand).

* These laws come from the book Atomic Habits, which I've read twice and have grokked fully. As a result, I was able to easily come up with dozens of these one-time solutions for all my daily problems. I consider it a life-changing book and I highly recommend it (and I'd love to chat with anyone about habit design, just PM me).

Writing down ten ideas a day. This "exercise" of my idea muscle, with just a few months, completely rewired my brain to start thinking more creatively.

James... This is the second time I've come across you recommending this on the internet. I'm taking that as a sign. I'm interested in your process for the "10 ideas". Do you hand write a new list each day? Do you use a spreadsheet, word doc? I'd like to try your "exercise" but would like to have a system in place to catalogue the ideas.

2Raven1yI'm also interested.

This one rang true for me, whenever I write down a couple of ideas, the ideas just won't stop, and I ride that high for the rest of the day.

I'm curious on how well it works when done intentionally, and for a prolonged period. I'm going to implement this as a habit over the holidays, and see how it goes.

For those interested, I found this article from James on his own website where he talks at length about this idea and provides details around implementing it:
The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine

I only started doing cardio consistently once I paid the upfront cost of trying 14 different pairs of shoes till I found some that made my feet hurt less.

Getting rid of all but ~100 belongings permanently decreased how much time I spend cleaning since the worst things ever get still only takes 10 minutes.

Learning to make 3-4 meals, not in the sense of 'I know the procedure' but in the sense of 'I buy these specific things at these specific stores in these specific quantities and follow this exact procedure each time' ingrained it into muscle memory enough that it no longer occurs as aversive.

Buying a Reach Access flosser made me floss.

Practicing the muscle memory of opening a new note in my favored note taking app and reducing the number of buttons I need to press to do so eventually bootstrapped to a very robust note taking system.

Learning to make 3-4 meals... in the sense of... muscle memory

I confirm that it makes a different experience when it feels like the cooking (and shopping) can be done by System 1 entirely. Here is a list of trivial inconveniences it removes:

  • you don't have to choose from a long list of recipes you know (or you could google); additional criteria like "I have all ingredients at home" and "not the same thing I had yesterday" sometimes immediately narrow it down to 1 choice;
  • you don't have to read the recipe to know the list of ingr
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Thanks for mentioning the 14 pairs of shoes. I felt a bit silly when doing something similar but I realized that while it's a hassle to carry lots of boxes to and from the local UPS drop off location, I'm not doing anything that is out-of-the-ordinary (if I were buying shoes in person at say, Nordstroms).

To extend your thought a little...if you have any pain walking around and switching shoes doesn't help or it hurts while walking barefoot, consult a doctor.

What was the root cause of your feet hurting?

I'm going through the same thing, but don't know if I've found the right pair of shoes - I have flat feet and tend to overpronate

4romeostevensit1yNever identified from multiple run labs. I do pronate but only slightly. I also tended to 'kick out' my right foot on the backswing a bit, and fixing that improved things. But even with good shoes and analysis and practice of running form I can't run more than 3 miles. Don't have flat feet. I settled on Altra shoes, which is one of the few companies making shoes shaped like a human foot as far as I can tell.

Have you tried barefoot running? I haven't tried running with shoes on all that much so I don't have much to compare to but I find barefoot running really fun and anecdotally it seems my knees act up a bit less with it. I was partially inspired to try it originally by:

https://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_mcdougall_are_we_born_to_run?language=en

2romeostevensit1yI tried 3 different barefoot shoes. I like them for grass and sand.

Installing freedom.to, which lets me deactivate websites that are distracting, and sync them acros devices. (I previously tried various things to add a delay to particular websites, not of which worked nearly as well)

I think for Freedom to work, it needed me to also have an active project I was working on that I actually enjoyed. I think otherwise I would have found other ways to distract myself and eventually undermined it to the point that I gave up.

Plus one! I tried several free tools of this nature, but managed to find loopholes and self-sabotage every single time. Shelled out 20 bucks or something for freedom, and solved the problem instantly.

I've long tried to block distraction in the absence of something else I enjoyed. I used Cold Turkey to commit to blocking websites for the next 1-2 months, which has the ability to add websites to the filter whenever I wanted. I use iOS Screen Time blocks to lock myself out of my own phone. The idea is that most distractions are bad coping mechanisms, but some are worse than others. For example, the internet browser on my phone is far worse for my sleep than podcasts.

Quarter-on-quarter improvements to my blocking strategy are hard to see on a graph, but I

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it needed me to also have an active project I was working on that I actually enjoyed. I think otherwise I would have found other ways to distract myself and eventually undermined it to the point that I gave up.

Same with me. Although it's still better than nothing: the usual distractions are more habit than actually fun, and I've found that I read more interesting things instead of just mindlessly browsing social media.

I frequently stayed up late on my computer. A timed outlet that turns off my monitor at 10pm almost completely solved this problem by forcing me to actively choose to continue using it.

I've set up my macbook to turn off once per half-hour between 11pm and 7:00am, for similar effect. I think it gets me an extra 30 (maybe 60-90?) minutes of sleep a night.

1Gursheel Singh1yHow do you do it? Is there an app for it or you can do it from settings?
3Raemon1yI ended up writing up a little how-to here [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/T6kjHbzgbNiCQweF2/automatically-turning-off-computer-at-night] .
2Raemon1yI unfortunately had to write myself a bunch of custom cron jobs.

In windows you can also use the task scheduler to sleep.

Problem:
Endless watching of Netflix (or Youtube).

One-time solution: 
Disable auto-play on Netflix (it's a config setting, which applies across all devices).

Notes: 
Auto-play on services like Netflix is extremely dangerous, especially when watching TV shows whose plot advances episode to episode as if it's a really long movie. For me, watching videos is really immersive and induces a flow state, which famously causes time to dilate (in this case, it shrinks). Hence, without a clear signal that a "unit" of watching has completed, I would get stuck watching for hours at a time.

Additionally, the tiniest bit of resistance (i.e. having to reach for the controller/mouse to click the "Continue" button) seems to be just enough to allow me to regain a semblance of control.

Finally, I instituted a rule for myself: I can watch as much Netflix as I like, provided that before I click the "Continue" button, I must do at least 1 productive thing. Interestingly, most nights, after watching a single episode, I end up stuck in a flow state doing the productive thing instead and the whole evening turns out great!

A friend tells me that they would have a new cold sore every ~3 weeks during winter months. After reading this paper: https://proceedings.med.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/A151218DG-WH-edited.pdf they told the local pharmacist that they needed the chickenpox vaccine since they never had it as a child (which was a lie). Since then (about 3 years), they have only had one cold sore which was much milder than the previously typical ones.

As a side note: it seems to me like it would be worth trying this as a pre-exposure prophylactic for genital herpes if you have sex with multiple people.

I had bad carpal tunnel pain and RSI due to my coding job 3 years ago, to the point where it was very painful to type, and moderately painful all the time. I was worried I would have to find a new career.

I solved it by seeing David Bacome at Psoas in SF. After about 7 sessions the pain went away completely. He also taught me how to do some exercises to help prevent it from happening again, which I do whenever I start feeling lots of tension in my wrists. It hasn't been an issue since then, and I have no problem using a keyboard for both work and many of my hobbies.

Could you share these exercises? As somebody who suffers from RSI, I would be interested to know which techniques worked for you, without needing to see a specialist

3Adele Lopez4moBasically, you move your arm around until you get to a position where it starts to hurt (or hurts more). Then you try to find a spot with your other hand where if you apply a shear force, the pain goes away when you try to move again.

Signing up for email from Superhuman. I went from "always have a pile of unchecked email, very bad responsiveness, feeling of overwhelm" to "I look forward to checking my email and inbox zero everyday effortlessly". 

The change happened basically immediately after the 1h onboarding session. 

This was actually a major update in how building software to reduce frictions can cause qualitative changes to my productivity.  

I could rave about superhuman for a long time, enough that this answer will just sound like an ad. But take it upon my karma and reputation as an LW user that it's just my genuine opinion. 

This?

The website leaves me confused about what this … app? web app? … has that might generate the effect you describe. Could you say a bit more about what aspects of Superhuman were responsible for the improvements you mentioned?

3jacobjacob8moIt's sort of like a frontend for gmail. It primarily does super fast load times + keyboard shortcuts for everything, but also has a collection of other neat features solving various email schleps.

(I, too, now have pretty effortless inbox zero, as opposed to my previous inbox ten thousand.)

Inbox was awesome and I used it from day 0 to day day -1. Adding a note to the reminder when you snooze was the most useful part.

Using duct tape to tape my floss to my toothpaste has moved my flossing compliance from ~80% -> ~98%

Ask your body what it wants before you do something that affects it. Picture yourself doing something, like eating a candy bar or a steak. Your body will either respond to encourage or discourage with muscle contractions. You can use this for what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, when to work out, what workout to do list, when to drink water, when and how to keep your teeth clean, how to wash and keep yourself from smelling bad without chemicals and perfumes. I'm still experimenting with what more information I can get from this system.

1oast4moAre you able to elaborate on the muscle contractions? If there anything in particular to look out for or are you able to give specific examples?
2Zera4moLook for how your body reacts when you're thinking about something you already know you dread doing. Same for when you're pleased about something. That will tell you what to look for. 80/20: muscles tensing up (jaw, neck, torso) is discouragement.

1st problem: waking up on time/not going back to bed:

Moved my alarm clock into my office (which is situated right beside my bedroom). Forced me to get up, take a few steps, and consciously turn off the alarm. Since the closest place to rest was the office chair, I found myself not going back to bed and waking up on time with almost 100% compliance.


2nd problem: dishes

I don't have a dishwasher in my apartment, they all need to be done by hand. we (my partner and I) recently limited our cabinets to 4 of each item (cups, plates, bowls, cutlery) and the amount of dishes we need to do is now 90% less. We keep the other items in a closet incase we have company over.

Problem: I had a lot of back pain. Some days I'd wake up in pain, and it wouldn't go away for 1-4 days afterwards. Almost once per week? No rhyme or reason.

Solution: Replace the blanket I was using to sleep. My blanket was too small, I would curl up too tightly to stay under it. Now I still very occasionally get the same problem, I'm guessing because of habits, but it's more like once every three months.

Wow! How did you locate the hypothesis? Or did you just stumble onto it?

3GuySrinivasan1yStumbled, then confirmed. Circumstances were (a) my partner notified me that having all that back pain was not in fact normal, and (b) often sleeping under a sane blanket because my favored blanket was obviously inadequate for the both of us. Eventually connected the dots enough to form the hypothesis, then did a trial to confirm because I didn't want to give up my beloved blanket.

As an addition: I solved my back-problems by getting rid of my pillow (I think switching to a really thin one also helps). The first days are a little bit uncomfortable, but then it's actually quite nice and I sleep more often on the back or stomach, instead on the side. Definitely worth giving it a ~10 days try!

6mingyuan10moData point: After reading this comment I tried this for like two months - initially intentionally, but also the pillows I had at the time were not right for me and so I kept doing it because getting the right pillow can take a fair amount of time and money. It actually significantly increased back and neck pain for me, I think because my tendency to sleep on my side is just very very strong.

How large was the blanket that was too small and how large is your blanket now?

2GuySrinivasan1yNot sure. It was a handmade afghan which, when both it and my body were fully flat and at a normal angle (not diagonal), did not quite reach from above my head to below my feet. I am 5'10" and had a habit of covering my head with the blanket at night. (I retained that habit until half a year ago when I got a blindfold eye covering thinger that was actually comfortable.) Now I use the enormous Costco blanket that's super soft and I highly recommend for yourself and for giving as gifts, except when it's too hot and I use a blanket which covers the entirety of a queen-sized bed.

Getting up at the exact same time every day, unless I happen to wake up before my alarm goes off. It seems to have improved my sleep quality.

Likewise, including weekends. Going to bed at roughly the same time also helps, but it's waking up time that's crucial.

I replaced everything except the ceiling lights with no-blue lights and use F.lux on my devices. Now I get sleepy when I'm supposed to and never stay up late.

I started prioritizing my to do list each day by urgency+impact+ease, and I accepted the fact that time spent prioritizing is time very well spent.

I'm aware that it's important but I consistently fail to do implement as habit. I tried different approaches (notebook, journal on computer, one of those thousands of productivity apps on phone/tablet/watch etc) but nothing sticks.

What frame of mind do you use to remind yourself that is worth it every morning?

(Also I'm very drowsy in the early phases of my mornings)

2Zachary Robertson1yDo this at the end of the day as a way to review progress?

Buying a pack of 5 phone chargers on Amazon. I didn't realize how nice it was to have two in my apartment, two in my car, and a dedicated travel charger until I spent $10 on it.

My glasses didn't fit properly, causing them to slide down my nose frequently. I used hot water to bend the frames around my ears better, solving the problem.

I wrapped a small rubber band to the ends of the stems & the glasses do not slide anymore.

Problem: Binge-watching youtube videos.

Solution: A browser extension that removes the recommended videos sidebar.

This has easily saved me tens of hours of wasted time.

Problem:
Spending too much time using your phone each day (surfing, messaging, watching videos, ..etc.).

Solution:
Change your phone's display settings to only display in grey scale.

Notes:
I saw this tip online a long time ago, and have tried it on several occasions to break an addiction to my phone (where I was glued to my phone for hours daily).

It's shocking how well this trick works. You realize after using your phone in this mode for a few days how effective colours are in getting and keeping your attention, all in the name of getting you more "engaged" with apps / your phone.

One the one hand, this one-time solution gets rid of all these temptations wholesale, on the other hand, it's almost nauseating to use the phone for a long period of time in grey scale. I don't know why, but I will literally end up tossing my phone away in disgust after a few minutes of using it in this mode, thereby very effectively solving the original problem.

I spent a lot of time sitting, because computers are both my work and my hobby. I was thinking about solutions, and I had a few ideas, but I procrastinated for years.

Recently, a health problem made me look for a solution immediately. So I put a huge plastic box on my table, and put the monitor and keyboard on the top of the box, and now I use the computer while standing. At first it felt weird, and I quickly got tired. But after a few weeks, my body adapted and now it feels natural. And the health problem that inspired this change is mostly gone.

Another positive side effect is that the "activation energy" needed to leave the computer is much smaller when I am no longer sitting. Yet another is that my 2 years old daughter no longer tries to climb in my lap whenever I try using the computer.

From the rationality perspective, it is quite humiliating to notice how long it took me to finaly address a problem that could have serious health consequences, and how little time and effort the actual solution required, once the gun was metaphorically pointed at my head.

(To be honest, I am not completely satisfied with this solution, and would like to replace the plastic box with something better... not sure what exactly. But the difference is that now I procrastinate on minor improvements, having already solved the critical part.)

There are standing desks available. They do happen to be quite pricey, which is why I don’t have one. Would be good if a cheaper alternative, that was still aesthetically pleasing, came along.

4mingyuan10moAdjustable-height desk toppers exist!

Glide floss. My teeth absolutely shred every other brand, but Glide is coated with Teflon. Made regular flossing possible.

I stopped watching news years ago. Improved my mental state massively.

Stretching every day, right after work, has been a win as well. It’s a good end to the day, I’m way more flexible, and overall feel happier.

Whenever I feel angry or frustrated, I ask myself what outcome I want from the situation, and focus on how to make that happen. Helps me avoid acting counterproductively on emotion.

If it will take < 5 mins do it immediately.

It works for responding to e-mails, buying stuff for home, paying bills etc. Benefits which I noticed:

  • It allowed me to have smaller backlog of quick task
  • I feel I have less cluttered mind
  • I feel I forget less stuff which I need to do

Buying my girlfriend a vape. She smokes weed a lot and it's been said that getting a smoker to switch to vaping is one of the best things that you can do in terms of longevity. She also says that it is much more enjoyable.

(She likes the Pax 3 a lot; Vape Critic seems like a good resource for reviews.)

Any gym equipment in your house, even just a couple 15-pound dumbbells.

Exercising used to be the #1 reason I leave my house, and I don’t leave my house much overall, so pre-COVID I thought I might as well keep using outside-the-home gyms. But I'm also somebody who finds doing 10+ minutes of "task-switching", like driving to the gym, to be a pretty big psychological barrier.

So finally I bought some weights and a treadmill, and now almost every day I'm like sure, at some point of this day I'll take 30 seconds to switch tasks from sitting in a chair to moving my body, it's a nice change of pace.

A pull-up bar: cost $10, installation in door frame 5 minutes, allows me to do pull-ups spontaneously at any moment. Which sometimes leads to other forms of exercise.

Then a small problem appeared, because I installed the pull-up bar in the bedroom door (reasoning: this door is used least frequently, so people would be least bothered by having the bar there), but it turned out that no one minds the bar, however I cannot exercise when other people sleep. Solved by installing another pull-up bar in a different door frame.

A stepper: now I can exercise while watching movies.

Recurring Freedom session across all my devices (laptop, phone, tablet) set to disable all apps and most websites (including messaging, news, and discussion sites) 30 minutes before bedtime every night.

Reading https://www.amazon.com/Allen-Carrs-Easy-Control-Alcohol-ebook/dp/B07B7QRWTH enabled me to quit drinking alcohol very easily. It was almost like it just turned off my desire to drink for good. ~3.5 years alcohol-free now.

What does he do specifically? It's very unclear just from reading the Amazon description. Or is it like an entire program. I'm skeptical: I have never heard of this anywhere else, so it seems like one of those $100-bill-on-the-subway-floor type things.

5bbleeker4moI'm actually not quite sure. It's not a whole program; you just read the book, and (if you're anything like me) you're sober, just like that. I'm not a 'recovering alcoholic' the way I see some people writing who have been sober for even longer than I have; I'm done with alcohol, for good, and I knew it right away. He basically talks about the negatives of drinking and the positives of sobriety, with stories and examples, in a way that just 'clicked' for me.
1BeanSprugget4moI see. Thanks.

Reading https://www.amazon.com/Allen-Carrs-Easy-Stop-Smoking-ebook/dp/B0051XSN50/ enabled me to stop smoking very easily, and I've not wanted a smoke in 25+ years now.

Did you already want to stop smoking at the time you read it?

2bbleeker1yYes, and I had tried several times before, without success. The difference is that earlier I just wanted to stop smoking for health reasons, but I still loved smoking. After reading the book, I don't want to smoke because I just don't like it anymore.
1oast4moWas there anything in particular in the book that triggered you to not enjoy smoking anymore?
2bbleeker4moYes, I think it was where he explained that you don't really feel better when you smoke. What happens is that a smoker feels worse in the times they don't smoke, and then a cigarette brings them up to normal again for a short while; so while you're smoking you feel as good as a non-smoker feels all the time. But I don't know if just reading that would have done the trick without the rest of the book.

Installing the Hide YouTube Comments chrome extension stopped my habit of reading and participating in the toxic comment section of YouTube. Absolutely essential for mental hygiene if you suffer from the same habit but at same time don't want to miss out on the great video content there.

As a more powerful version of this, you can install uBlock Origin and configure these custom filters to remove everything on youtube except for the video and the search box. As a user, I don't miss the comments, social stuff, 'recommendations', or any other stuff at all.

Taking Alexander technique classes improved my posture a lot, and cured the tendinitis I used to get in my shoulders.

How much time did the classes take, in terms of upfront investment and any ongoing investment required?

3bbleeker1yI took 10 lessons, and I think I could probably have done it with 8. I still feel myself sagging now and again, and then I have to correct myself (and then I wonder why I sagged to begin with, because the correct posture is actually more comfortable). I have also bought a new chair ( https://www.ikea.com/nl/nl/p/kullaberg-bureaustoel-zwart-90325518/, [https://www.ikea.com/nl/nl/p/kullaberg-bureaustoel-zwart-90325518/,] only mine has a different color) and removed the backrest. I have found that chairs with a backrest and armrests tempt you to lean on them, and then you can end up sitting in a wrong posture for a long time without noticing. Without them, I soon notice and can correct myself.

When partner is really upset, look at him or her in the eyes & say, "Darling, I'm here for you." (Buddhist)

Flossing in the shower.

I went from seldom flossing to flossing every single day, improving my gum health significantly.

I brush my teeth in the shower and find that I clean more thoroughly than standing at the sink

When I revise my writing I find it hard to delete large chunks because it feels like a waste and I'm also worried that I might change my mind and need parts later.

I have a folder in Notes called "Writing Stubs," where I dump the would-have-been-deleted chunks (and also other temporary relevant bits of information, kind of like working memory). It makes me feel better that I have the original still and so, feeling more assured, I can ruthlessly delete large chunks from my writing which might be unnecessary or badly written. Speeds up the revision process.

I'm fascinated by this phenomenon, where expunging even obviously poor chunks can feel like an amputation. If you don't mind, I have a couple of questions. Have you looked at using version control for your writing? What tools do you use (Apple Notes?) and why?

1practically1yMy guess would be that the feeling is probably due to some combination of sunk cost fallacy and maybe that the writer would tend to feel some type of emotional connection to whatever they've already written since it's a reflection of their opinions / at some point when they were writing it they thought it was good stuff. I looked this up and found other people who do the same; in this post [https://thewritepractice.com/delete/] there's a lot of discussion in the comments about this, if you wanted to take a look. I personally don't write that often, and the system of keeping the deleted chunks in Apple Notes was just out of convenience. Other people in the post linked above have used a Word Document to keep the deleted chunks, but I personally feel that it takes more time to open up a Word Document than to drop something in Notes, which is also particularly nice since you can always start a new note without having to scroll past old writing. I never really thought of using version control before but I do feel like it's not quite the same as just keeping the deleted chunks. Usually I might delete a large portion, make some significant changes to another portion, and then go back and decide I want to use stuff from the deleted portion, so version control might be inconvenient since I've already changed other things too. I might be wrong since I haven't really used version control before, though.

Earmuffs have helped me a lot for productive time. The silence lets me focus more on what I'm trying to work on. Compared to my noice cancelling headphones (qc 35 II) I can't play music even if I want to to so less likelihood of distraction. On occasion though, if they aren't enough by themselves I'll put earbuds inside the earmuffs with low wind noise. I can hear pretty much nothing external after that.


They also help me sleep on planes since they block out a fair portion of the noise.


This is the one I use: https://www.amazon.in/3M-Peltor-X5A-Over-Earmuffs/dp/B00CPCHBCQ

It looks ridiculous when you wear it. Really ridiculous, I won't lie.

Two related life hacks:

1. Poundland earplugs are surprisingly good.

2. Slot glasses in over the top of earmuffs. I don't wear contact lenses due to dust allergies, and, even if I buy the thinnest frames, glasses under earmuffs still reduce sound attenuation. (Disclaimer: wearing glasses over earmuffs causes some visual distortion.)

My solution for keyboard RSI:

For software engineers, a normal QWERTY keyboard requires the pinky on the right hand to press a ton of different keys, and my pinky joint was getting sore.

I bought this Ergodox EZ keyboard and remapped the "P" and various brackets to extra keys that are easily-pressable with my forefinger or thumb. It took a couple weeks to stop being annoyed by the new layout, and a couple months to return to my old typing speed, but this is a lifelong ROI.

There's another major bonus: I can now separate my arms far apart when I type, instead of squishing them together to accommodate a one-piece keyboard.

I solved the same problem by using Dvorak.

I really love my Ultimate Hacking Keyboard which looks pretty similar to the Ergodox EZ one.

3Liron1yAh ya I didn't realize Dvorak helps significantly with layout of punctuation. The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard looks great, only thing for me is I prefer the two sides extra far apart and I think Ergodox's cable span is an extra foot or so.
2Dagon1y+1 on UHK - also, get more than one if you like it and spend significant time in multiple locations (I have one for my home workstation and one for my office, though both are at home just now...). Definitely try the ergodox as well, but I couldn't get used to the ortho layout, when I have to switch back to a standard keyboard occasionally (using a laptop away from my station). UHK is standard size/layout of keys, so running AutoHotKey (for Windows; there's an equivalent for OSX) lets me use the same layers on the standard keyboard as on my UHK. Built-in KB is still inferior in feel, and in lack of distance/angle between hands, but the muscle memory of mod-HJKL for arrows and nearby keys for other nav is retained.

Can you link your ergodox config? I'm currently trying to build mine and suffering from feature creep.

2Liron1yThis layout [https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/ergodox-ez/layouts/Eejdn/latest/0] has worked decently well for me and I haven't tweaked it in months, but it makes major tradeoffs, most notably: 1. No arrow keys in the main layer 2. The same key can be either enter or right shift so occasionally I accidentally hit enter in a chatroom when I don't want to. But at least my thumbs can do a lot of heavy lifting.

On a similar note, I use a kinesis advantage; I had to choose between that and an ergodox and expected to like it slightly more, but I can't actually compare.

I've set it up so that if I hold caps lock, I can control the mouse with my right hand. Not as fluidly as I'd like, at least partly due to (what I believe to be) bugs in the xkb code implementing such things. I can only move 100px at a time. But I also have focus-follows-mouse, and that makes it really easy to jump between two windows, which by itself is a decently big win.

caps lock also mirrors the r

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Skincare - not using product.

Giving up facial soap and making sure shampoo didn't get on my face did what no cleaning regiment did.

I tried this as a teen with moderate - severe acne, and to this day my skin is even better than most people's

Sound machine at night eliminates sound from other rooms when you sleep.

My alternative to a sound machine is to have my desk fan turned on on during the night

I feel very drowsy in the morning, if I get woken up by an alarmsound or vibration. Buying a light alarm clock has largely solved this problem for me. I wake up before the alarm rings about 80% of the time. It does not work that well if I am sleep deprived.

The main advantages for me are: I wake up more often before my alarm rings and the light is an immediate cue that it is time to wake up.

They are relatively expensive, but from browsing Amazon for 2 minutes I get the impression that you can get pretty good ones for 30-50$ (I personally bought one for ~60$).

I get waylaid down rabbit holes as I work on the computer. Everybody is probably familiar with this - you start a Chrome tab to read about space exploration and two hours later you have 50 tabs open, the current one being about the nesting habits of robins :-)

A couple of years ago I started using the Evernote web clipper to save all these articles to my Evernote library. So now I don't go off track and I don't spend endless hours reading articles that are interesting but unrelated to my current projects.

My brain's FOMO related to not reading these articles appears to be satiated as long as it knows the article is safely saved in case I need it later!

+1 to this, although I just use bookmarks or OneTab. And it turns out I only go through my bookmarks once every like five years, so by the time I get to the articles 90% of the time they are completely irrelevant to the present day or my interests have changed enough that I just don't care anymore :P

Reading 'Say Goodnight to Insomnia'. I struggled with horrible insomnia, now I have a ridiculous control over my sleep.

I fixed my sleep in a few weeks using the (paid) online service Sleepio, which has been clinically proven (to the extent I think it's available via NHS prescription in the UK):

It took me from getting 1 night's full sleep per year, to sleeping a full night maybe 6 nights a week.

This was after I'd done my own research study for months trying out lots of different standard sleep improvement techniques - none of which made a significant difference.

Sleepio got me to try various things, and hit on one I hadn't considered, which was that I was allowing too much time to sleep in - i.e. setting my alarm clock too late. So I was sleeping too shallowly. It gradually made me compress my sleep into a shorter and shorter time until I was sleeping deeply enough to stay asleep throughout the night. Problem solved!

Problem: I struggle with sleep. Both getting to sleep and staying asleep.

Solution: Custom gel earplugs, and soft fleece eyemask.

Improvement: %%.

Comment: I'm sensitive to light and sound, so the slightest noises and early morning light will wake me up. I didn't realise this may be the cause of the problem until three years ago; people told me it was because I was depressed, but it was the other way around. I tried a bunch of solutions but they were all irritating, and the plugs icky or wasteful. So I went to my local opticians for my earplugs (best £100 life spend.) And for the mask I found a material that didn't itch on my skin with soft pressure, and made it into a headband. I used to be a sleepless mess until my twenties. This was a big change.

>sleep

Buy new blanket that isn't falling apart. Semi-permanently reduced the ugh field.

>health

If I take "Doctor diagnosed X" as strong evidence that I have X, then I should find the latest treatment guidelines/summary articles for X once a year. Led to a possibly permanent treatment algorithm (full or nearly-full symptom management) for 2 chronic problems with little to no side effects. Also caught a medication error with the acquired knowledge. Also a found a treatment that greatly helps (but not eliminates/prevents) another chronic condition.

May also have turned up a life-altering diagnoses but that is to-be-confirmed by real medical experts.

>general knowledge acquisition

Using Sci-Hub. Reduces the "Relevant article in PubMed based on the abstract->paste the PMID->oh, this is useful" loop to <1 min.

If necessary, I can try to quantify the benefits of the above items but it's a little like the RENT song about measuring a year.

Transition medication. The actual act is incredibly simple (just take pills a couple times a day) but has a disproportionately huge impact on the rest of my life.

I suspect this probably generalizes pretty well to things like antidepressants.

Eyemasks and earplugs have helped a lot for sleep. I'm not sure how to quantify the benefit but I haven't slept without them (for nightsleep) in at least a year from what I can recall.

I can't fall asleep with earplugs in. I wear earplugs and earmuffs at work, but my job involves fast-paced assembly work which provides a lot of tactile feedback to distract me from the itchy earplugs.

Also be aware any earplugs marketed as being 'for sleep' or 'for nuisance noise' block out so little noise that you are better off sleeping on your side with a pillow over your ear. Look for earplugs with an SNR of at least 30dB (preferably at least 35dB).

I've found that earplugs exacerbate the effects of tinnitus and make it difficult to sleep. Having my desk fan turned on throughout the night helped me sleep a lot better

Haven't quite reached the 100% resolved/full-payoff state yet but I once had a doctor firmly tell a family member to (paraphrased) not settle for a partial improvement and https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/fhEPnveFhb9tmd7Pe/use-the-try-harder-luke. I notice that when I apply that seriously to my health problems, entire swaths of the problem space vanish. I can't say that I'm 100% fixed though because my doctors and I are still digging around in the much-reduced problem space.

If you require something that's fully resolved or has definite results, then I'd say:

  • Aforementioned "1 thing" resulted in long-term pain relief in part of my body
  • Checking UpToDate (<$50 for 1 week) before (and during) doctor visits dropped my stress greatly and showed me that certain problems might have a real solution. I am also able to have a much more intelligent and meaningful conversation with doctors

The Zettelkasten has resolved my problem, i.e. searching for a place where to keep and retrieve easily all the stuff I collect to study

Are you putting yours on paper or storing it digitally?

1[anonymous]1yDigitally

In order to win Championships, some tennis players take ballet to make them more graceful and light on the courts. They create habits of working on themselves while each 0.1% amounts to the whole. It may also be a word of advice to create habits around the solutions to your problems i.e. the tennis player stretching every morning before the start of the day.


PROBLEM: flexibility, mobility

SOLUTION: ballet and dance classes

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]

This answer says nothing about what you tried. "Create a habit" also mostly isn't a one-shot solution in the way the OP uses the term.

1TruetoThis1yMy relation to the article was in reference to implementation (of a habit) and to address the 0.1% in changes that advocate for a better outcome for a solution to change. I play tennis and I must also sharpen this skill with complementary solutions (ballet) to ensure I win my matches. Again, it's about the small solution changes that add to a whole.
12 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 1:17 AM

My read is that over half the non-OP answers are not one-shot enough to match the question, and have downvoted them (weakly). I'm curious for feedback on this use of downvoting

I agree that many answers aren't the sort of one-shot things that I was looking for.

Downvoting in general confuses me, but I think that downvoting to 0 is appropriate if the answer isn't quite answering the question, but downvoting past zero doesn't make sense. Downvoting to 0 feels like saying "this isn't that helpful" whereas downvoting past 0 feels like "this is actively harmful".

This comment makes a lot of sense, and is consistent with consensus on Stack Exchange. For this reason, I've changed my voting method from my previous policy of voting independently of the current score.

I bought ~$5 medicine dispensers with weekday labels, which improved my life by ~15%.

Due to a psychiatric illness, I have to take a single pill every morning. It wasn't very complicated, so I just took them from the blister pack she was carrying. If I forget to take a pill, I feel uncomfortable in the evening. Not too much, but what was much more stressful was that I often didn't *know* it: Did I forget to take the pill in the morning? Or is my condition worsening? This uncertainty was really scary.

With the Medi-Dispenser I forget the pill less often, and more importantly: if I feel uncomfortable in the evening, I can check the dispenser, and in 95% I recognize it again: No, my condition does not get worse, I only forgot to take my pill in the morning. Then I go to sleep and make sure that I take the next pill the day after.

PS: I am a little embarrassed that it took me about 5 years to come to this simple solution. I'll share it anyway, if it helps anyone else.

From one chronic health person to another...

Consider filling up a second dispenser ahead of time. That way, if you're completely exhausted but it's time to take your medication, you can yank the second box off the shelf and refill things when you're more awake. It also gives you a 1 week buffer to refill your prescription.

Pill counting trays are also helpful if you have to take medications that come in a bottle. Buy one that has Amazon reviews from real pharmacists and put the cap under the spout on the right side to catch any runaway pills. This will dramatically reduce the # of pills that fall to the floor.

Getting into bed by 6pm and waking up at 3am (small win), going through my moring routine: 20 pushup 10 knee ups to warm/ wake up (small win), make bed (small win), at least 30 min walk outside (small win) all these thing set my day up to be productive I the last 5 months I've accomplished many Sunrise hikes, over 21 friends made, read many books i'd been meaning to get to, started carrying around a journal and writing everything down. Some of the moments of the last 5 months have been the best of my life, I have been feeling great. I have accomplish more towards my life goals in 5 months than I have in 3 years.


Sources:

The Miracle Morning

The Power of Habit

Why is it better to wake up at 3 am compared to 6 or 7 am?

I suspect the best sleep schedule is highly individual.

I like to watch the sunrise, it also feels pretty inspiring when you complete tasks early and while everyone else is waking up your work for the day is done and you can enjoy your self. Its also a hard thing to do, a small win (the power of habit) something that when I have the discipline to do gives me greater freedom "start your day with a task complete" (make your bed) and chains into getting more and more done that day.


Sources:
Make your Bed
The Power of Habit
Extreme Ownership

Can you offer intangible solutions, like something you do with your perspective?

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How sure of a thing are yoy looking for? I usually try a bunch of things for any issue I have, not usual that sure what exactly fixed the issue

I'm fine with uncertain answers if the response is qualified, e.g. "I did one-shot-things A, B along with non-one-shot-thing C and observed that Y problem was solved after. Subjectively, it feels like A solved most of the problem."