This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for November 16-30 (that I've now fished out of my drafts folder, *cough*.)

It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit
  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves.  Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

The poll earlier this month seems to be sufficiently in favor of maintaining the current schedule that extra votes are unlikely to change things much, but if you'd really like to register your opinion, you are welcome to do so here.

Thanks to cata for starting the Group Rationality Diary posts, and to commenters for participating.

Immediate past diary:  November 1-15

Rationality diaries archive

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30 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:52 PM

I've been trying to install a five-second-level habit of naming three examples, at least internally, whenever I catch myself making a general statement of any significance. This is intended as a check against accidentally spewing bullshit. It's been semi-successful. That is, I've mostly-successfully installed the habit. But I've found, to my great aggravation, that a lot of the time I can't name three specific examples promptly. Even for statements I'm quite confident of, such as generalizations of my own personal experiences, memory searches will return a hazy sensation of "I've run into phenomena X a lot" without returning any actual specific occurrences of X.

I find this frustrating.

In an unrelated effort, I've started getting up well before it's time to go to the office. Work leaves me mentally useless by the time I get home, and so I'm inevitably resentful that so many of my days are pre-shot for any purpose I care for. (e.g. personal projects) I'm hoping I can get more use out of more days this way.

Have you tried turning the general statement around to a negative statement? That way it becomes a search for counterexamples. Of course, if this fails it could just be because you're forgetting, but it seems to me that attempting to construct a counterexample would help jog the memory.

Work leaves me mentally useless by the time I get home, and so I'm inevitably resentful that so many of my days are pre-shot for any purpose I care for. (e.g. personal projects) I'm hoping I can get more use out of more days this way.

You could also try taking a 25 minute power nap when you get home from work. I found that just the lying down to sleep helps me recharge a bit, even if I don't actually fall asleep. If I do, it often feels like a much longer nap, but without the sleep inertia grogginess afterward.

Data point: I used to have a 20-min nap after the work, and it helped me to "reset" the brain. The rest of the day felt like a mini-weekend. I need to start this habit again.

The failure mode is when I start going to work late and leaving late, and then I feel like it's too late in the day to take a nap when I get home. I haven't made any effort to determine whether a short nap at, say, 18:30 would make it hard to get to sleep at 22:00.

I don't think that would prevent you from falling asleep, but you would get more benefit from the nap if it is earlier, so your waking periods are more even. You should also be able to sleep less at night, typical biphasic schedules have a 6.5 hour core.

That's exactly the same reason I stopped taking the naps.

So, how can a rationalist solve this problem? :D

Melatonin might fix the problem where you have trouble getting to sleep early enough to wake up early enough to go to work early enough to get home to take the nap at a sensible time.

There is probably some low-hanging fruit I was ignoring till now.

For example, at my job I have flexible working hours... when I read the rules carefully, they say that each day I have to work between 5 1/2 and 10 1/2 hours, together 40 hours every week. Now that I think about it, perhaps I could split the week in two long days, 10 1/2 hours each, and three short days, 6 1/3 hours each. During the long days I would simply come home from the work, watch some movie and go to sleep. During the short days, I would be home soon enough to take the nap and then have a long free afternoon.

Not sure until I try (I guess the next week is as good as any other), but it feels like it would be an improvement to the regular schedule of 8 hours, where it's kinda late to take a nap when I get home, and I feel tired and out of time to do anything meaningful. -- I just need to prepare a specific schedule and commit to following it.

Have you tried taking the nap at work?

It worked in the past, but it's not possible now. (Office politics and general irrationality at the workplace.)

I already need melatonin for that purpose even without an evening nap. :-( It's an interesting idea, though.

For me the failure mode is the naps becoming too long. Taking naps too late makes it impossible to sleep in time for me, too.

You need to have an alarm clock or sleep tracks that will mechanically wake you up after 20 minutes. You go to deep sleep if you sleep over 30 minutes, and then you start getting sleep inertia and messing up your night's sleep.

This is true, but since I can't reliably predict how fast I fall asleep, I can't set the time properly.

Most of the times would just end up lying awake, and not feeling refreshed afterwards.

I just set the clock to something like 25 minutes and lie down. It seems to be more refreshing than staying up even if I don't end up falling asleep. If I do fall asleep, even five or ten minutes of sleep seem to help quite a bit.

I've woken up early for months now for the same reason, and it works great. The problem is, it somewhat screws up my social life.

I wonder if there's things you could pre-emptively do at work to not feel tired afterwards. Maybe cut down caffeine intake and only use it just before leaving work? Or take a nap at work.

I bought red glasses to limit staying awake too long in the night. These were recommended by the polyphasicsleep blog here:

I can confirm that I do get sleepy with them on. It doesn't impede my work (though I wonder what graphics people can do).

It helps avoiding doing accidental excessive over hours (I can get into the flow and not notice time until hours later) which led to sleep deprivation (I still do have to get up in the moring) a few times which then ruined overall productivity.

I also installed red lights in one childrens room and switch them on in the evening. Whether that helps is less clear.

EDIT: I followed Dorikkas advice and installed f.lux. Very simple and just works. The effect is not very pronounced esp. so because I have very bright (daylight like) illumination on my desk. Nonetheless the effect alone brings some awareness and also sometimes I don't sit on my desk.

A note about desktop illumination. It was recommended to me much earlier that good ambient daylight-like lighting improves productivity and reduces stress on the eyes. The latter is because bright screens only in an otherwise comparatively dark room stresses the eyes when switching or adjusting between screen and background.

In case you didn't know, you can use f.lux to redshift your monitor.

If you're using Debian or Ubuntu, redshift is even more convenient.

If you want it to get really dark, try NegativeScreen. It inverts screen colors, and has several modes to change hue and saturation a bit too.

Thanks, I have been using orange glasses but just ordered some red ones.

It was recommended to me much earlier that good ambient daylight-like lighting improves productivity and reduces stress on the eyes. The latter is because bright screens only in an otherwise comparatively dark room stresses the eyes when switching or adjusting between screen and background.

What was the argument for the former? The latter makes no sense to me. If you only have bright light, then you're only stressing the sphincter of the iris. If you switch between brightnesses, also the dilator gets work and the sphincter gets to relax for a while.

These of course depend on how bright or dark we're talking about.

I've decided not to have more than 3 tabs open on my internet browser at any given point, as a way of increasing my attention span.

I don't understand how that increases attention span.

The trade-off that I see is

  • having multiple sites open which you use often saves open/close times
  • tabs can be ordered by window and tab thus structuring your work
  • having distracting (procrastination sensitive) pages open may cause redirecting attention to these

Maybe you mean the latter?

I think what they're getting at is not letting themselves make the "I'll get back to it later" choice. Either it's important enough to read and take action on now, or it's not important enough. There really aren't many things that are important to do later - and leaving open browser tabs is a pretty bad way to get those things done later.

I take that to mean that if you found something on the net but it requires in-depth study or concentration than don't leave the tab open but instead put it on your TODO list (whatever mechanism) and not add another mechanism in the form of random tabs. Just closing and thus forgetting a page discards knowledge (because in all likelihood you will not find the pager later again) and I doubt that discarding knowledge is a good idea.

Yeah, that's pretty much exactly what I mean. Leaving tabs open is an unorganized and unprioritized way to remind you to do things later (read the tabs and figure out when you want to read the tabs). There's better ways, so you're better off using those instead. Even a notepad file with tasks (URLs to read) is better than leaving tons of tabs open - when you have time and want to read things, you have everything you need right there.


I take it you've rarely fallen victim to wiki walks and random googling?

Victim? No. I track the time taken and by it and it is seldom 'random googling'.

From an old post of mine on c2 ( ):

I don't use DepthFirstLearning, but rather AstarLearning, meaning, that I have a learning goal in mind all the time (since I can remember) and try to learn everything, that contributes to this goal (minimizes the distance to the goal). The goal is motivated by a curiosity how things work or could be made to work (at an abstract scale, including social problems). The distance to this goal is measured by the usefulness of the knowledge to achieve this. Interestingly I have found, that learning this way all the pieces of information quickly form a coherent picture and fit together. Though I have to admit, that this might be my subjective impression and I hope that this beautiful picture is not an artifact of my mind. As to the personal usefulness of this approach, I think, that it provides me with a clear profile as well as an in-depth expertise in my field.

There are times where I really just read stuff sometimes for the fun of it and sometimes when I am exhausted. But even then I track it and all suring takes about 10% of my online time.

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