This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for September 16-30.

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.

Previous diary: September 1-15

Next diary: October 1-15

Rationality diaries archive

New Comment
18 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:13 PM

As I was finishing my run today, I noticed that I felt a lot less grumpy and worn out and "whew I'll be glad when this is over" than I often do, which I attribute to finishing my mileage on a gentle decline, rather than at the top of a hill. Then I remembered Kahnemann's colonoscopy study and realized I might be able to harness the peak-end rule to lessen my aversion to running!

This is the first time (that I remember) that I feel like I've gotten my hands on a cheat code and known how to use it. Still trying to decide whether to start by trying to optimize every aversive task or cackling maniacally!

Could you also make those last easy steps more memorable so that availability bias prevails whenever you think of running?

For whatever reason I like to finish my workouts rough. Now you made me wonder if this is psychologically counterproductive.

Hm, perhaps!

Unless you feel like starting a workout is more effortful than it should be/you'd like, I wouldn't worry too much about optimizing for de-aversion. But if it is, maybe give it a try (and let us know how it goes!)

I like switching things up a lot in the gym. Sometimes I'll start with cardio and then move to strength training and other times I'll make it different. Other times I'll just swim. By keeping it different I keep wanting to go.

This is an awesome trick, and I'm going to incorporate it. Thanks!

Sometimes at my job when I get angry or anxious about something, I start reading the web to calm down. Of course, that often leads to a lot of reading, and then not much work gets done.

So this week I decided, when I will feel the need to read the web, to listen to one of my favorite songs (using headphones) instead. It worked like a miracle! I still did some browsing the first day, although less than usual, but then almost nothing.

Yeah, I listened to a lot of songs. However, each song ends after cca 3 minutes, and I have set my software to automatically stop when the song is over; unlike the internet which is unlimited.

Physical activity is also a good switch to mental work.

Productivity tricks that still seem to work for me after several months of use:

  • Autofocous TODO lists on a paper notebook. There's a single notebook page with 20-30 TODO items, and that'll be the only TODO list I pick tasks from until all the items are done, abandoned or migrated to a new page.
  • Pomodoro-style timeboxed work sessions listening to a noise track. Trying out this one linked on Cal Newport's blog now.

I also recently found out about Bullet Journal notation for notebooks and started using that alongside the autofocus. Basically you collect everything chronologically in a single notebook and build a table of contents and add special topic pages as needed. I'm using the monthly calendar pages idea from Bullet Journal to have a page where I have a single-line description of what I did on the day for each day of the month.

EDIT: The notes the noise track plays every 10 minutes started to grate after many repeats. Switched to this one

I've not much enjoyed Autofocus, but agree that Bullet Journal is the JAM. Thanks!

I've heard of Autofocus, it didn't stick for me.

Bullet journal is a really useful resource, thanks for linking it!


Cryonics and I Can't Do Math:

I've noticed something in my thinking of late regarding cryonics. I only discovered cryonics through LW. I only grew enthusiastic about cryonics through LW. I have a belief that, had I never read any LW articles or Yudkowsky or Hansom discussions on the subject, cryonics would not matter to me.

In other words, the bulk of evidence for my estimation of cryonics has been the enthusiasms of other people, people whose opinions I've come to take seriously and use as tools to calculate my own predictions. My doubts about cryonics stem from the opinions of doubting people, so that even my uncertainties are not original from my own estimates. This bothers me because cryonics is something I have come to take seriously. I have expended resources considering the implications of it and weighing the costs and payouts of it in my own life without building a foundation for why I should even be thinking about it. This is not the fault of anyone but me, and my failure in this department is aggravating.

When I decided to sit down earlier this week and figure out an actual estimate using my own resources for the probability of cryonics, I found I could not do it. Let me rephrase that: I did not do it. I did not know how to do the math, I did not know what numbers to use, and I finally classified the problem as too costly in time for the payout because the payout would likely be mismeasured given my obvious lack of knowledge and ability. I could probably come up with a probability, but it would rely entirely on the work of others and give me no greater satisfaction on this topic than I already have.

I'm not writing this to ask for someone else's numbers. That's the very problem I've found in my way of thinking. I realize that I support my belief that cryonics is worthwhile with emotional responses and rely on the numbers of other people to validate that response. When I meet people like lukeprog with other numbers, then my enthusiasms wanes, even though my own personal calculations haven't changed. I update entirely on whether someone whose opinion I take seriously is supporting the belief or not. I do not like this.

I have personally found myself being confused when people bring up many-worlds in discussions on whether cryonics works or not. I will admit that I have not internalized any idea of many-worlds as impacting on my decisions, and, much like cryonics, my acceptance of it as an idea is much too dependent on others' work. When I think of cryonics, I do not think of multitudes of futures. I think "is it worth the $200/month it would cost me?" The idea of good futures and bad futures and waking up in a green room versus a red room do not figure into my personal calculations. Which is probably another reliance on other peoples' work. The furthest my math goes is "cost of cryonics versus likelihood of it working." It's the second number that I've let trouble me.

Because I am confused and because I am inadequately attempting to fix that confusion, I've decided I will not accept my current thoughts and beliefs on cryonics. I'll learn from this that, if I'm to become entangled in an emotionally stimulating topic, I need to establish a foundation from the start on that topic, one that I can build and update upon.

I'm a member of Alcor and believe that because of the possibility of a singularity there is a chance (although < 50%) that if I live long enough to reach the singularity I will get to live an extremely long time in utopia. Cryonics, by giving me an extra chance at making it to a good singularity, is worth a lot to me.

Low-hanging fruit: I increased my average intake of vegetables with minimal effort by acquiring microwaveable frozen vegetable bags, which have become my default "I want to eat something but don't want to spend effort preparing it" food. Each bag can be transferred directly from freezer to microwave and takes an average of five minutes therein, and then you cut open the bag and transfer to a serving dish (or, like me, just plop the open bag into a plastic tray and eat directly from it).

It's not perfect (for example, I cannot find green leafy vegetables in this packaging - then again, given the texture of frozen chopped spinach I probably wouldn't want to), but it's an improvement over most other foods that take similar amounts of preparation.

Ditto on these being a fast and easy way to eat your veg. I never thought of eating directly from the bag, I'll try that!

This suggestion is DEFINITELY worth spending two minutes digging in the freezer to see if I already have some.


From my experience, frozen broccoli and frozen edamame are both quite good snacks or dish compliments. I use frozen broccoli on almost every plate of pasta I eat, and edamame is great at parties.

I use a steamer too, which is another way to quickly and easily prepare frozen veggies. I don't know how taste compares between it and a microwave. I'll have to experiment with that a little.

I am tracking happiness, using Beeminder + TagTime + a program I made to average numerical tagtime inputs over a day. I started trying to use actual tags, then got annoyed doing that and just did the happiness score. However, I notice that while I am using the tracker I am NOT so good at using my journal. My TIL evernotes and tagtime may soon obviate the need for a carry-around journal.

Am using tags again, am NOT using my journal for anything except weekly reviews. Not sure how I feel about this, so I have the question lined up for a goal factoring session.

I got sick enough of predictable downward spirals to add url redirects to my browser extensions:

  •, which I often visit to escape feeling awful about my own life, redirects to audio affirmations
  • redirects to the more informative Crash Course World History playlist.
  • redirects to the less iPhone-obsessed SciShow channel

New to LessWrong?