Mine is a weird one: I started taking every other day off. Even as deadlines loom, I am committed to doing no work today. I can cook and read and surf the Internet and hang out on Less Wrong and chat with friends and take a nap and do art (but not art for my webcomic), but at all costs I will do no work. Tomorrow, I will do work (in my case, papers for school and art for my webcomic and editing some fiction), and unless something breaks the trend that's been working nicely for a week and a half now, I will do more work than I could have expected to do in three or four days before I started this. (I make exceptions for time-dependent things like class meetings.)

I have a few hypotheses for why this works for me:

  • It prevents the low-level burnout that used to plague me. I can decompress from whatever heavy mental lifting I do regularly and for a large chunk of time.
  • I actually enjoy most of my work when I actually do it, so obliging myself not to do it lets me get through the akratic aversion during my downtime. By the time I wake up on my work day, I've worked up a fair amount of antsiness about wanting to do something productive. Also, my creative ideas accumulate over time, not over effort; I have more interesting work-related ideas by the time I fire up Word when I've set the project aside for a day.
  • I can goof off more efficiently. Instead of spending all day on Stumbleupon because I can keep telling myself "one more site and then really, I'll do something", I can read an entire novel or bake a cheesecake or watch half a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These things require significant time commitments, so if I feel like I ought to be working I don't do them, but when I do them, they are more relaxing than the same amount of time in two-minute bursts spent obsessively refreshing Google Reader or checking my website stats or bothering people on IM.
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When you first tried it, did you start with an on day or an off day?

5orthonormal10yBy the way, are you still practicing this? What was the long-term dynamic of it?
0patrissimo11yFascinating, I so want to try this. I do alternate-day calorie restriction, so this is basically what I do with my diet, except w/ willpower.

Share Your Anti-Akrasia Tricks

by Vladimir_Golovin 1 min read15th May 2009121 comments


People have been encouraging me to share my anti-akrasia tricks, but it feels inappropriate to dedicate a top-level post solely to unproven techniques that work for some person and may not work for others, so:

Go ahead and share your anti-akrasia tricks!

Let's make it an open thread where we just share what works and what doesn't, without worrying (yet) about having to explain tricks with deep theories, or designing proper experiments to verify them. However, if you happen to have a theory or a proposed experiment in mind, please share.

Bragging is fine, but please share the failures of your techniques as well – they are just as valuable, if not more.

Note to readers – before you read the comments and try the tricks, keep in mind that the techniques below are not yet proven supported or explained by proper experiments, and are not yet backed by theory. They may work for their authors, but are not guaranteed to work for you, so try them at your own risk. It would be even better to read the following posts before rushing to try the tricks: