Seize the Maximal Probability Moment

by diegocaleiro1 min read28th Feb 201314 comments


ProcrastinationLife Improvements
Personal Blog

Try and remember 3 or 4 things that you think would be effective hacks for your life but you have not so far implemented. Really, find three. 


Probably that was not so hard.


Now think of at which moment in time did you have a maximal probability of having implemented such hacks. Sometimes you had no idea that was the moment. But sometimes you did, like when a friend tells you "I just read this great paper on how people report cartoons being funnier when their face is shaped in a more smiling fashion." and you thought "Great! I may one day implement the algorithm: if studying, force a smile".

You knew you didn't plan to read the article, you knew you trust that friend, and you knew you'd either forget it later, or in any case that from that moment on, the likelihood of you implementing the algorithm would lower.

So my hack of the day is: If you feel you are likely at the maximal probability moment to start a new policy, start immediately.


My friend was telling me about how he went abroad to research: " at this place and people there used very strong lights as cognitive enhancement and yadda yadda yadda... (stopped listening for 40s) yadda yadda yadda.... and I wrote a paper on ..."  By that time my room had an extra 110W light working.   


Just now0 I thought: It was good I installed that light. Why didn't I do the same when I felt like finding a personalized shirt website where the front would be "I Don't want to talk about: [list]" and the back "Pick your topic: [list]" to once and for all stop the gossip and sports ice-breakers? 

I didn't seize the maximal probability moment. That's what happened.


Then I noticed that that1 was the maximal probability moment to install in my mind the maximal probability moment algorithm, I did,  and that2 was the maximal probability moment of writing this post.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have3 a shirt to buy.


14 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:19 AM
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Huh, I wonder why this post currently has negative karma. I've been conditioned as much as anyone to be critical of anything diegocaleiro writes, because it tends to be long-winded, unclear and poorly formatted, but this post is a welcome departure from this pattern, being clear, concise and to the point:

  • it starts with a short exercise,

  • uses it to identify a cognitive bias (seems like a new one to me, something along the lines of "missing the hump"),

  • suggests a course of action to mitigate it,

  • gives an example of applying the action,

  • analyzes other relevant examples,

  • has an inspirational conclusion.

That's the type of articles I would like to see in Main.

Thanks for using manual mode (Joshua Greene) or slow mode (Kahneman) to interpret this writing instead of sticking with your initial emotional reaction. It must have required a lot of attention.

I noticed a pattern in my posts (then I tested my hypothesis and confirmed it). I start being downvoted, mostly the hardcore crowd I presume, or people who agree with your assessment of some of my previous posts. If I go under threshold, I ask people to read it (in Brazil or in facebook), they upvote me back. Then in the long run I get upvoted, frequently with a low percentage.

To test if all upvotes were from brazilians I specifically told people to keep below a number for a post, so any ups beyond that point would surely been from elsewhere. In the beggining it was more of the same, downvoted, then upvoted to that limit. And as I predicted, quite a few upvotes after the stabilizing point (when no one else was upvoting because I asked them to read)

I don't know what to make of that.

I do, however, know what to make of this shminux comment (as opposed to my other response to it). When optimizing for upvotes, follow the six suggestions above.

Maybe test a fake profile every now and then.

I read this and thought that the best time to comment would be right now so I st

Upvoted. I'm torn between how much I enjoy the joke, and how much it gives the wrong idea about what I'm trying to convey.

Very strongly seconding this.

as a less long-term changing corollary or adjunct to this: If you're worried about someone's end of any joint endeavor, get in contact as soon as possible. This is true for projects, for trips, but even just for going out for a night. The amount of time it costs you and them for you to give them a phone call to figure out whether they'll be at the restaurant at 8 is very minor, on the order of 30 seconds to a minute. The amount time you can save yourself waiting around can easily be half an hour or an hour. In general, if the answer to a question can drastically change your plans, make sure to ask that question as soon as possible.


The conversation I have with myself every time I implement this strategy. Yes, I yell at my brain. Otherwise the insolent bastard won't listen.

Maybe your brain's true objection is that it doesn't like making phone calls. It's come up before!

Great post!

One potential problem is having too many maximal probability moments at once, depending one the nature of the hacks you're trying to implement. It's an embarassment of riches, honestly.

For example, I had a maximal probability moment for about 7 or 8 life-hacks after I came back from minicamp and there was no way I could implement all of them at once because each one would require some amount of concerted effort, so I was better off focusing on a couple at first. When this comes up, often there is a best hack or two to focus on, but the trivial inconvenience of figuring out which ones to focus on may just prevent you from implementing any. I know it's happened to me. When in this situation, just pick something. Anything. It doesn't matter, really. Implementing something is much better than wanting to implement the best something but actually implementing nothing at all and the marginal gain from implementing the best thing probably isn't worth the risk of implementing nothing.

For the record, I tried the "use very bright light to help concentrate" trick for a couple of months at one point, and after some time I successfully conditioned myself to be able to fall asleep even in very bright light. It was probably helpful for a little while, though.

More on topic, ~"if you don't require further information to decide on something, decide on it now and act on the decision immediately" is good advice.

You could also call this “sieze the Schelling point”. You’re setting a Schelling fence for making the change between “the maximal probability moment” and “right after that” – if you slide past the Schelling fence, you can expect you will fail to make the change, and that encourages you to make the change now.

I won't implement big changes in my life just because someone told me about a potential life hack while I was half-listening. it sounds like if you adopt the change immediately when you hear about it might be beneficial for the adoption rate of the change but by implementing new hacks into your life immediately without having researched them will lead you to also adopt non-beneficial changes.