The old thread (found here: ) was becoming very unwieldy and hard to check, so many people suggested we made a second one. I just realized that the only reason it didn't exist yet was bystander effect-like, so I desiced to just do this one.

From the original thread:

An exercise:

Name something that you do not do but should/wish you did/are told you ought, or that you do less than is normally recommended.  (For instance, "exercise" or "eat vegetables".)

Make an exhaustive list of your sufficient conditions for avoiding this thing.  (If you suspect that your list may be non-exhaustive, mention that in your comment.)

Precommit that: If someone comes up with a way to do the thing which doesn't have any of your listed problems, you will at least try it.  It counts if you come up with this response yourself upon making your list.

(Based on: Is That Your True Rejection?)

Edit to add: Kindly stick to the spirit of the exercise; if you have no advice in line with the exercise, this is not the place to offer it.  Do not drift into confrontational or abusive demands that people adjust their restrictions to suit your cached suggestion, and do not offer unsolicited other-optimizing.

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14 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 7:10 PM

This is slightly outside the rules of the challenge, since the phrasing is logically negative, but I need help, so here goes:

I wish I spent little or no time playing computer games. Typically, I play for about 15-20 hours a week, at inconvenient times (e.g. the middle of the night), and for longer continuous time periods than are actually enjoyable (elbows/bladder/eyes get sore; game gets boring). I would like to bring this down to less than 2 hours per week.

Here are my known sufficient conditions for not quitting:

1) I like having a source of interactive entertainment. TV, books, mp3s, etc. are not interactive. Choose-your-own-adventure style books are interactive, but I believe I've already read all the commercially available good ones about 15 times each. As far as I can tell, the reason why I want interactive entertainment is that many of my real-life interactions give me a feeling of contempt, anger, and boredom. I act as if I have a much higher tolerance for others' quirks and foibles than I really do. Interactive entertainment provides a release and an escape that lets me imagine that I do not have to control myself in this way...if I am angry at the imaginary character on the screen, that is OK. Suggestions on how to find other sources of entertainment or on how to fix the underlying issue are both welcome.

2) I like having a low-energy source of entertainment. Physical exercise, getting to know new people, and learning new skills are all high-energy. Walking is usually low-energy for me, but not in San Francisco, where the hills are very steep. Spending time with old friends in person is usually low-energy, but having moved to San Francisco only a year ago, I have no old friends nearby. And no, I'm not leaving San Francisco. I have good and weighty reasons for being here. Playing guitar usually works for me as a low-energy source of entertainment, but I find that my fingers hurt too much for it to be enjoyable after about 20-30 minutes a day.

3) I like feeling like I have accomplished exciting things on a daily basis. Pretending to conquer the world, build a large business empire, or fly to the moon feels exciting. Cleaning my room or reviewing an Anki deck doesn't; I'll just have to do it again next week. I am trying to self-modify to better appreciate mundane tasks, but, meanwhile, wanting to feel excited is still a sufficient condition.

4) I need sustained access to the Internet for my work (legal research), and yet I work with very little supervision. This makes it difficult to put barriers between me and Flash-based browser games. Solutions based on increasing supervision should keep in mind that: (a) I use both a Mac and a PC at the same time, (b) I work in an office full of older people who are unlikely to see computer addiction as a normal or acceptable problem to be struggling with, (c) I work unpredictable hours based on the fluctuating demands of a variety of clients.

5) In the past, quitting computer games has led to me substituting other vaguely addictive behaviors, like reading 30+ hours a week of science fiction, or spending similar amounts of time 'designing' dozens of board games, less than 10% of which are ever constructed or playtested. Most recently, my alcohol intake shot up when I tried to quit computer games, which deeply worries me. (It has since gone back down from 12 drinks / week to 3 drinks / week). Thus, it is a sufficient condition for not quitting that I am seriously concerned that I will simply replace it with an equally damaging behavior.

Thanks for your advice! Feel free to other-optimize as much as you like; please err on the side of giving advice. If it's not useful, I'll just ignore it.

Create something! This can be either writing somehting more traditional, or a more interactive web 2.0ish thing (I know a lot abaut these, and there are many different ways, so if you're at all interested please ask), or if you're less into writing serial art/comics and animation storyboarding also offers the storylike elements you want.

Don't fuzz about quality or dignity. Start writing crap quality self insert fanfictions that are just an instant reward guilty pleasure at first.

Try to put yourself in the mindset that you ARE playing a computergame and that it just happens to run on the wetware of your brain instead of the computer. Set up rules for yourself and act within them and stuff like that.

It may help to clarify what your meta-goal is. Are you trying to spend less time on leisure? Not doing things which are vaguely addictive sounding? Less time in front of the computer? More variety in your leisure? Moderately productive leisure?

A couple of ideas come to mind:

  • At minicamp Josh mentioned that he reduced his video game habit by getting a "game" that plays itself and relays the results to you.
  • Try alternative methods of talking to old friends: phone or video chat. I've noticed that video chat is remarkably like hanging out in person. Maybe you could convince and old friend to move to SF!
  • Perhaps there are ways to get guitar playing without hurting your fingers. The standard advice appears to be develop callouses faster by dabbing your fingers in alcohol after playing and playing without hitting the strings.
  • There are ways to block just categories of websites for lengths of time. RescueTime is a productivity monitoring application; it monitors which applications and websites you use when and it also lets you block just certain categories of websites for periods of time. I'm sure there are also competitor products.

Yes? Those all sound like some of my meta-goals. Perhaps the most important meta-goals for me in this context are that I want to (a) greatly enjoy my leisure time, and (b) consciously choose how much leisure time to engage in. Neither is happening right now.

I will definitely try the rubbing alcohol thing; I had never heard of that. My finger muscles also cramp up, but faster calluses sound like they'd help.

Unfortunately, I have tried all of your other suggestions, and they have not worked. Idle games don't satisfy my urge for interaction, video chat doesn't feel like hanging out to me, people keep promising to move to SF "soon" (much like the people who pledge to attend SF LW meetups), and four different website-blockers have failed for me. The main problem with the website blockers is that most popular flash-games are mirrored on arbitrarily many websites, and i need access to the Internet to get my work done.

Thanks for trying!

I found that what reduced my low-value leisure time most was doing something incredibly fun, by explicitly optimizing for it. Then when I went back to i.e. reading webcomics, it seemed mildly repulsive in that it wasn't actually that fun. I suspect, but am not sure that, having a large amount of fun when you have fun 1) Reduces the amount of time you'll spend having fun, in that it satiates your quota earlier. 2) Causes you to consciously choose how much leisure time to have, because it's hard to default into really fun behaviors as procrastination.

I also tried 1) allowing myself to do anything I wanted, as long as I planned it at least half an hour in advance (if you have a pre-set quitting time this could help?) 2) Setting a timer to interrupt every 15 minutes and ask me what I was doing. One of my main problems was cost-insensitivity to time; playing a computer game for 5 hours did not feel almost any more a waste of time than doing it for 1 hour.

Please let me know if any of these work, so I know whether to recommend them to others in the future.

I have a variety of random suggestions:

  • Would a group of close (but new) friends work? You could try systematically developing a new friends.
  • Has the problem with website blockers been that you need to need to manually block specific websites?
  • What about puzzles? Drawing/painting/sculpting? You may enjoy these even if you're not skilled at these things.
  • People watching? Summer is good for that.
  • Does learning new stuff (not necessarily challenging stuff) count as 'low energy' for you? You might try learning a variety of interesting parlor tricks/neat skills.
  • have you thought about getting a dog or a cat?
  • have you thought about meditation?

It may help to optimize your subgoals goals separately

For example, to not be addicted to any one thing, you might try spreading your time between several different activities that you don't find hard to do, reading, computer games etc. Needing leisure is different than being addicted to this one kind of activity. For moderately productive leisure, you might try playing

Yes, new close friends would help. I'm working on that.

Needing to manually block specific websites is part of the problem; it would be useful if I could enable only a list of say, 12 websites and block all other access to the internet by default.

Jigsaw puzzles might be a good leisure activity, at least at home. At some point I will likely enjoy drawing/painting/sculpting in the context of a class, but I have tried doing all 3 'just for fun', and I am only very rarely in the mood to indulge my creative artist when the end result resembles something done by a talented six-year-old.

People watching is what I do on the bus, while walking, while eating alone, etc. I enjoy it, but I get enough of it already.

Learning new parlor tricks is pretty much the epitome of high-energy for me. I hate the pressure of thinking that I'm supposed to impress people, and I hate the tedium of repeating the same task over and over until I get it not just right but robustly right, so that I know it'll work fine in a performance.

I have not fairly re-evaluated my decision to not have a pet in several years. I live in a pet-free apartment right now, but I'll think about it for real next time I move. Thank you!

I would very much like to practice mediation more, and usually experience it as low-energy, but I find that I cannot meditate while sleep-deprived, and that I have a hard time keeping a regular enough sleep schedule to catch up on sleep because I am playing games half the night several nights a month.

The protein-folder looks neat. The problem with diversifying my leisure portfolio is that it makes it more attractive...I experience some diminishing returns on just computer games and eventually wander off, but if I allow myself to read and watch TV and play games, then I can go 72 hrs without leaving my apartment, no sweat. I will think about how else I might be able to separately optimize.

I suffer from a similar problem of getting distracted at work. Thinking and learning more about luke's procrastination post, specifically the hyperbolic discounting part made me understand why switching to mildly rewarding tasks was so attractive. Hyperbolic discounting means that a task who's rewards are low overall but is slightly more pleasant right now can be intensely motivating.

RescueTime does do blocking of 'everything with exceptions'. It categorizes websites (not sure how) and you say whether each category is distracting or not distracting. You could simply say everything is distracting but unblock the specific websites you do need to use. This is what I use at work. When I use it, it works. The trouble is making myself use it, I think maybe random reminders to use it might help here. Even when I don't use the blocking part the productivity tracking is interesting and useful.

Another option is an XKCD-style 30 second delay before loading a page. This lowers the attractiveness of switching tasks by taking advantage of hyperbolic discounting and increasing the delay till reward which can drastically reduce your motivation to do those other things. The comments section links to a couple different extensions, and I you can find more by searching for "xkcd delay extension" or some such.

Does reading academic or semi-academic papers count as 'low energy entertainment'? If it's not quite interesting enough, you could try the gamification strategy of tasking yourself with highlighting the important parts. You could try to hooking up with someone researching some field in order to do a LW post and help them doing research.

I game as a social tool, and try not to game solo for more than 1 hour a day. Currently my entire crowd of friends all plays the same style of games socially and its keeps us entertained while encouraging us to make plans to randomly go out and do stuff.

Just last week we transitioned from gaming to beach capture the flag and movie night randomly which made my 4th weekend much more awesome. However, we mostly play either Heroes of Newerth or League of Legends which are both quite cooperative games at the high ELO's so we see it as a way to increase our teamwork inside the game as well as keep the girls from getting bored. What type of games do you usually play / Are you playing currently?

If its all flash games, are you more inclined to the Portal flash game or the RPG type flash games? Usually the type of gaming you partake in offers some insight into the way to fill the gap... Considering there's flash gaming of every nearly type though it may be rather hard to pin down your focus.

Capture the flag and movie night sounds like fun. I was playing capture the flag on Baker Beach (SF, CA) pretty regularly until I twisted my ankle going down the mulchy hills.

I tend to like strategy games and/or shooters, with adventure-style plots as a nice optional bonus. I'm not sure that I want to get involved with a group of friends who all play video games together -- while that's clearly better than just playing alone, historically playing with friends has just been an add-on to the solo habit. E.g. if I play 3 hours a week of Halo or Alpha Centauri with a friend in person, I'll play another 15 hours on the same game against the computer trying to playtest new strategies.

Uninstall Flash from your computers?

And Shockwave, and Java, and then I'd start playing HTML-based interactive fiction. It's a good idea, but 'flash' is just shorthand for the genre of casual games in general ... it's not as if I'm a huge fan of Flash's technical architecture.

I think you're rejecting this too quickly. Uninstalling flash should make these games less attractive (since flash games are bound to be more rewarding than text games) which should make it easier to use other strategies to reduce your motivation to switch tasks. Consider doing this in conjunction with other strategies.


EDIT: I didn't realize at first that the focus of his gaming was flash, :(

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