Training Regime Day 13: Resolve Cycles

by Mark Xu2 min read27th Feb 2020No comments

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DebuggingTechniquesRationalityPractical
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Introduction

Resolve cycles are a technique that channels and sharpens your innate ability to actually do things.

We're just going to jump right into doing it, then I'll explain why I think it works afterwards. This technique doesn't take very long and is potentially absurdly powerful, so I really encourage you to follow along.

Resolve Cycles

The zeroth step is to pick a bug from your bugs list. This should be your most medium sized bug.

The first step is to set a five minute timer. You should do this with a device that will make a noise at the end of five minutes.

The second step is to start the timer and fix your bug before the timer goes off. Are you ready?

GO!


Did you solve your bug? If yes, congratulations! If no, fear not, for there is more.

The third step is to set another five minute timer and use those five minutes to create a plan that will solve your bug in five minutes. For instance, if my bug was "I don't have a job", I could think of applications to fill out, people to email, etc.

Are you ready?

GO!


The obvious fourth step is obvious. Set another 5 minute timer and execute your plan.

Are you ready?

GO!


Tips

C. Terry Warner writes:

Except in a very few [tennis] matches, usually with world-class performers, there is a point in every match (and in some cases it's right at the beginning) when the loser decides he's going to lose. And after that, everything he does will be aimed at providing an explanation of why he will have lost. He may throw himself at the ball (so he will be able to say he's done his best against a superior opponent). He may dispute calls (so he will be able to say he's been robbed). He may swear at himself and throw his racket (so he can say it was apparent all along he wasn't in top form). His energies go not into winning but into producing an explanation, an excuse, a justification for losing.

The reason that resolves cycles work is that there's a difference between the appearance of the thing and the thing itself. When you're trying to solve a bug, there's a difference between looking like you're trying to solve the bug and solving the bug. Most of the time, when you "trying to solve your bug", you're probably optimizing for some combination of appearance and actuality; you're probably spending some energy trying to explain why you failed to solve the bug, before you've even failed.

The point of the resolve cycle is to strip away appearance, refuse to accept excuses for why you can't possibly solve your bug in five minutes, and just do it. And a lot of the time, it works.

Here are some modifications that might make it work better:

  1. If you have lots of small bugs, solve all of them in five minutes!
  2. Pretend there's an evil genie behind you that will prevent you from ever thinking about this bug again after five minutes. What can you do to make sure your solution persists?
  3. Elon Musk says he'll give you a billion dollars if you solve your bug in five minutes? (why? who knows.)
  4. If you always are one minute away from solving your bug, set a six minute timer instead.
  5. If the action involves consequences, you can spend five minutes thinking of the plan, then check with a friend.
    • e.g. if you are sending an important email, it might not be great to send it after five minutes, but you can send it to a friend and have them check it.

As caveat, sometimes you can solve almost any bug by spending large amounts of money. Often times, it is inadvisable to do this. If you're bug is "I don't have a car", you probably shouldn't buy a car in five minutes (unless you had already decided which car to buy and are just procrastinating actually buying it).

Resolve cycles also can't be used that frequently. One of the reasons why humans don't fully optimize for the thing itself all the time is because its hard and takes a lot of effort. I would suggest not doing more than one resolve cycle per hour, but the actual number will vary with person.

Exercise

If you've been following along, you've already done the exercise. If you haven't, the exercise is to go back to the beginning and follow along.

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