This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for December 1-15. 

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.

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

Immediate past diary:  November 16-30

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I have been rereading HPMOR and come up with an elegant hypothesis that I found to be ever more fitting as I continued to read. However, I just realized that I have been looking only for tests that confirm my hypothesis, and not looking for things that would cause my hypothesis to be wrong. This is not the sort of realization that I often have.

Are you aware of anything you've done lately that would make you more likely to have this sort of realization?

Yes. Reading HPMoR. Chapter 8 in particular.

During longer personal discussions with my aunt I spontaneously started to come to and end of the phone call by summarizing what I learned from the talk, key points raised and the next steps to do. This has become quite a habit and my aunt has picked it up herself.

Previously, I'd decided that anything that came easily to me, must be easy for others as well. I figured that I should find something that was challenging for me, as it'd be challenging for everyone else, and I'd be able to succeed by virtue of sheer work ethic and determination.

In hindsight, people are talented at different things, and "Computer science isn't challenging, so let's do biochemistry instead!" is a terrible thought process.

A few different things:

I have had a fairly solid Anki habit for the past three months or so.

I have ankified a few self-improvement concepts (Lukeprog's posts on procrastination, some of Kaj Sotala's stuff on habits, random other tidbits), and I believe the constant exposure to those ideas has started having an effect, in that I seem to have started doing a lot of the advice in there (not all though). I may report on it later on.

But more dramatically effective, I recently started using HabitRPG, and have used it to get a few new daily habits:

  • Always get up before the alarm (previously I'd loaf around in bed for up to half an hour)
  • Always go to bed before midnight
  • Update my Gratitude Journal every day (I had been doing that semi-regularly for a few weeks before though)
  • Do some exercise every morning

It's also a good motivator for just getting things done in general. My choice of habits have been somewhat influenced by KajSotala's article on The Power of Habit, and by talking to some LWers who read that book and talked about Keystone Habits around exercise and sleeping. Also, I was influenced by Lukeprog's talking about success spirals to start by focusing on somewhat easier-to-achieve things (and also, Swimmer's discussion of goals versus systems.

Always get up before the alarm

How do you manage a habit of this? How do you manage to do it intentionally at all? It seems to me that the entire purpose of a morning alarm clock is to counteract the fact that we pretty much can't control when we wake up.

I loathe alarms, but I still need one for working days, or I would be two hours late every day.

I used to need an alarm every day to wake up; I no longer bother to set one at all unless I need to wake up at an unusual hour to catch a plane or something.

I managed it by spending about six months going to sleep whenever I was tired and sleeping until I woke up. (This was triggered by major physiological trauma I was recovering from.)

At first that meant I was sleeping 14+ hours a day. (Typically in two shifts, so that I had a few hours of wakefulness in the morning and a few hours in the evening.)

By the time I recovered enough that my body only wanted 8 hours or so, my habit was to go to sleep around 10pm and wake up around 6am. I managed this because my recovery was my #1 priority... more important than socializing or staying up late doing other things.

When I started living a more balanced life, I started staying up later, and found my balance-point was going to sleep around midnight and waking up around 8am.

That's still where I am. When I indulge myself and stay up late, I still wake up around 8, though I sometimes choose to nap for another hour or two and come to work late. (Admittedly, when I've gotten enough sleep I sometimes choose to not-nap for an hour or two and come to work late anyway.)

Unless I'm really tired, I'm usually vaguely semi-awake between 7 and 7:30 (where my Alarm rings), at which point instead of going back to sleep I now decide to get up and do stuff.

The going to bed before midnight helps make sure I don't get too tired.

If you can't wake up in time without an alarm, you're probably sleeping too little. I need the alarm about 1/10 of the time, so it's still useful to have it set.

If you want to hate alarms less, use one that starts gradually. You'll learn to wake up even to the slightest of sounds.

If you want to hate alarms less, use one that starts gradually. You'll learn to wake up even to the slightest of sounds.

(The problem with that is that sometimes you might wake up to sounds other than the alarm.)

Could be a real problem, but this didn't happen to me. My brain recognizes only the specific alarm sound as important. Just make sure you don't use a sound that resembles anything else in the environment.

Yes, when that happened to me I was using a record of birds singing or something like that as the alarm.

Always go to bed before midnight

How exactly do you put this in HabitRPG? Do you use HabitRPG from your bed, or can you somehow enter your daily task the next day?

I imagine you could make a daily goal of "I went to bed before midnight yesterday", but that feels a bit inellegant.

I have Habit RPG for Android, so yep I can use it from bed (it's also convenient for entering todos that I forgot without having to get up).

(I also set the "end of day" to 2 AM so that I can still enter dailies like that after midnight)

I imagine you could make a daily goal of "I went to bed before midnight yesterday", but that feels a bit inellegant.

This is what I do.

Me also. It's gratifying to start the day by getting to remind myself that I was successful at stuff yesterday.

I also have an (admittedly ill-defined and therefore poorly adhered-to) goal of minimizing screen use after I get home for the night. But at least HRPG is one tab I don't feel compelled to open.

During a discussion of dinner plans, I noticed I was reacting negatively to a suggestion of a restaurant I know I actually like. I guessed that the negative reaction is the result of having primed myself for a totally different type of food, and subsequently thought of "what I'm primed for" as a separate category than "what I would actually find enjoyable" for I think the first time.

I feel like my expression of Agreeability has been unpleasantly low lately, so until I come up with something more scientific I'm going to try noticing when I'm feeling disagreeable and reflecting on whether it could be an effect of priming, and compartmentalizing accordingly.

For a few weeks I've somewhat fumblingly kept up a beeminder goal to throw away one thing every day. The discarded item has to be something I wouldn't have thrown away in the typical course of the day, so a food wrapper generally wouldn't count for example. Items which would and have qualified include a bunch of old crappy hangers from my closet, large piles of junk mail which needed to be sorted and discarded, old toothbrushes, and a terrible painting that I made and kept because it's hard to throw away your own art even if you know it's terrible. There were many more items and some of them were piddlingly small. The hardest part of this goal is actually determining whether I'm going to give myself credit for throwing away, say, a wad a receipts from my bedside table. It just doesn't feel very significant. But the fact is that it probably would have continue to sit there (and probably grow) without this goal, so I tend to let minor things count.

That said, I have derailed twice and ponied up the $5 penalty. Finding something to throw away can be surprisingly cognitively draining at the end of a long day. I do feel that I'm getting better at throwing things away without excessive rumination. I originally set this goal after moving several times in a short span and growing sick of how many possessions I have, so an underlying goal is to simply reduce my attachment to my stuff.

If it's your ultimate goal to be better at throwing things out, and not just to have less stuff short-term, you're actually punishing yourself for engaging in the desired behavior when you withhold credit for doing so (or spend any time on negative feelings as a result of doing the task), which seems counterproductive.

You might find an auxiliary habit of patting yourself on the back (or similar small reward-feeling behavior) when you do your task to be more helpful!

One thing I've had partial success with this month is changing the vocabulary/tone of my inner dialog. My original plan was to replace "Austin, you **ing retard!", which was getting sub-vocalized far too often, with "well, that was wrong.." or something of the like. It worked at first, but now I find myself saying "really??!?!?" instead, and basically meaning the same thing I was originally saying. I'm not sure what effect it's had on my self-confidence, if any, but it was worth a try and I did consciously change a behavior.

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