Some things I've tried:

  1. Private Resolutions: -4 Going off by myself, talking through the seriousness of the situation, and promising myself to do better / work harder. Usually has brief positive impact, but eventually I backslide. The next time around, the resolution has to be even more emphatic, because I know the previous level of seriousness wasn't enough. This is a ratchet of self-blame that I really can't take anymore.

  2. LeechBlock: short term +2, long term +0 I tried this for about six months. It helped for most of that time. Toward the end, I just ended up using another browser.

  3. Getting Things Done: +4 This one has been a big and lasting help, especially in areas of my life outside of schoolwork. Where I don't have complicated psychology of fear and habit driving procrastination, I'm limited mainly by keeping track of things. The GTD system has worked very well for me on that. Biggest benefit comes from forcing me to decide what I actually intend to do.

  4. Mild accountability: +2 My thesis work is very individual, but I can give high-level reports on how things are going to friends and family, folks I'm not willing to lie to. The desire to give positive reports keeps things moving, but hasn't been a big drive.

  5. Expose myself to hard-working friends: +5 When I see my friends working hard for any reason (against their will or out of internal motivation), it puts my procrastination in perspective and makes it seem silly to me. This helps me just get over it and get work done.

  6. Getting enough sleep: +2 I learned years ago that sleep is necessary for willpower. It's not sufficient for productivity, but if I'm tired, it's very easy to give in to distraction.

Thanks for the work on this. I look forward to reviewing both the list of techniques and people's aggregated experiences.

LeechBlock: short term +2, long term +0 I tried this for about six months. It helped for most of that time. Toward the end, I just ended up using another browser.

I hacked up my apt-get to ignore requests for browsers and apt-related packages/sources, and I deleted both aptitude and synaptic, and I blocked ways to search for browsers and apt-related packages in my browser. I use ProCon protected by password (a random number which I've pasted without seeing it). It lets me block urls and keywords. It helps.

Getting enough sleep: +2 I learned years ago th

... (read more)
8GreenRoot10yOne more I didn't include but have seen others mention: 1. collaboration: +8 Whenever I'm working on a project with other people, especially when we're in the same place, accountability and shared excitement totally short-circuit procrastination. I've only ever procrastinated on solo projects.

Akrasia Tactics Review

by orthonormal 2 min read21st Feb 2010150 comments

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I recently had occasion to review some of the akrasia tricks I've found on Less Wrong, and it occurred to me that there's probably quite a lot of others who've tried them as well.  Perhaps it's a good idea to organize the experiences of a couple dozen procrastinating rationalists?

Therefore, I'll aggregate any such data you provide in the comments, according to the following scheme:

  1. Note which trick you've tried.  If it's something that's not yet on the list below, please provide a link and I'll add it; if there's not a link for it anywhere, you can describe it in your comment and I'll link that.
  2. Give your experience with it a score from -10 to +10 (0 if it didn't change the status quo, 10 if it ended your akrasia problems forever with no side effects, negative scores if it actually made your life worse, -10 if it nearly killed you); if you don't do so, I'll suggest a score for you based on what else you say.
  3. Describe your experience with it, including any significant side effects.

Every so often, I'll combine all the data back into the main post, listing average scores, sample size and common effects for each technique.  Ready?

Here's the list of specific akrasia tactics I've found around LW (and also in outside links from here); again, if I'm missing one, let me know and I'll add it.  Special thanks to Vladimir Golovin for the Share Your Anti-Akrasia Tricks post.

Without further ado, here are the results so far as I've recorded them, with average score, number of reviews, standard deviation and recurring comments.

 

3 or More Reviews:

Collaboration with Others: Average +7.7 (3 reviews) (SD 0.6)

No Multitasking: Average +6.0 (3 reviews) (SD 2.0); note variants

P.J. Eby's Motivation Trilogy: Average +5.8 (6 reviews) (SD 3.3)

Monoidealism: Average +8.0 (3 reviews) (SD 2.0)

"Just Do It": Average +4 (2 reviews) (SD 4.2)

Irresistible Instant Motivation: +3 (1 review)

Getting Things Done: Average +4.9 (7 reviews) (SD 2.6)

Regular Exercise: Average +4.4 (5 reviews) (SD 2.3)

Cripple your Internet: Average +4.2 (11 reviews) (SD 3.0)

LeechBlock: Average +5.4 (5 reviews) (SD 2.9); basically everyone who's tried has found it helpful.

PageAddict: +3 (1 review)

Freedom (Mac)

Melatonin: Average +4.0 (5 reviews) (SD 5.4); works well for some, others feel groggy the next day; might help to vary the dosage

Execute by Default: Average +3.7 (7 reviews) (SD 2.4); all sorts of variants; universally helpful, not typically a life-changer.

Pomodoro Technique: Average +3.3 (3 reviews) (SD 4.2); mathemajician suggests a 45-minute variant

Being Watched: Average +3.2 (6 reviews) (SD 4.1); variations like co-working seem more effective; see "collaboration" below

Utility Function Experiment: Average +2.8 (4 reviews) (SD 2.8)

Meditation: Average +2.8 (5 reviews) (SD 2.8)

Modafinil and Equivalents: Average -0.8 (5 reviews) (SD 8.5); fantastic for some, terrible for others.  Seriously, look at that standard deviation!

Structured Procrastination: Average -1.0 (3 reviews) (SD 4.4); polarized opinion

Resolutions (Applied Picoeconomics): Average -3.2 (5 reviews) (SD 3.3); easy to fail & get even more demotivated

 

1 or 2 Reviews:

Dual n-back: Average +6.5 (2 reviews) (SD 2.1)

Think It, Do It: Average +6 (2 reviews) (SD 1.4)

Self-Affirmation: Average +4 (2 reviews) (SD 2.8)

Create Trivial Inconveniences to Procrastination

Close the Dang Browser: Average +3.5 (2 reviews) (SD 3.5)

Get More Sleep: Average +3 (2 reviews) (SD 1.4)

Every Other Day Off: Average +0.5 (2 reviews) (SD 0.7)

Strict Scheduling: Average -9 (2 reviews) (SD 1.4)

 

Elimination (80/20 Rule): +8 (1 review)

Methylphenidate: +8 (1 review)

Begin Now: +8 (1 review)

Learning to Say No: +8 (1 review)

Caffeine Nap: +8 (1 review)

Write While Doing: +8 (1 review)

Leave Some Tasty Bits: +7 (1 review)

Preserve the Mental State: +6 (1 review)

Acedia and Me: +5 (1 review)

Third Person Perspective: +5 (1 review)

Watching Others: +5 (1 review)

Multiple Selves Theory: +5 (1 review)

Getting Back to the Music: +5 (1 review)

Remove Trivial Inconveniences: +4 (1 review)

Accountability: +2 (1 review)

Scheduling Aggressively...: +2 (1 review)

Autofocus: 0 (1 review)

Take Every Other 20 to 40 Minutes Off: -4 (1 review)

 

Not Yet Reviewed:

Fire and Motion

Stare at the Wall

Kibotzer

 

Thanks for your data!

EDIT: People seem to enjoy throwing really low scores out there for things that just didn't work, had some negative side effects and annoyed them.  I added "-10 if it nearly killed you" to give a sense of perspective on this bounded scale... although, looking at the comments, it looks like the -10 and -8 were pretty much justified after all.  Anyway, here's your anchor for the negative side!

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