Why don't we have Life Hack thread like we do have Media Threads and Rationality Quote Threads?

Well, now we do.

I'm copying in the comments some hacks previously written about by others for your convenience, also check out the Munchkin post if you haven't, there are many interesting hacks there. Timewise, I've made it quarterly because it is harder to face a life hack than it is to face o quote, so less frequency may improve average quality. Below is a suggested description for them with structure taken from media threads. Any further ideas on how to improve the thread are welcome and should be made at the Metathread tree.



This is the quarterly thread for posting Life Hacks of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Four main thread-trees will be in the comment section.  

1) There is substantial evidence for it  (please post pointers to it)

2) I tried/ Friends tried/ There is some small evidence for it

3) Seems like a cool idea

4) Metathread


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please use the comment trees for level of certainty regarding effectiveness.  There is a Metathread for comments about future threads.
  • Please post all Hacks separately, so that they can be voted up/down separately.  (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments.  If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)




42 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:25 PM
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1) There is substantial evidence for it (please post pointers to it)

Writing down a letter of gratitude can substantially improve happiness for months

This is only one out of many studies showing this. Writing elaborate (at least 300 words) gratitude letters is perhaps the easiest and nicest thing you can do to improve happiness. Extra points of happiness for someone else if you actually go there and read it out loud to them :)

That first article gives the results of a pilot study for the second linked paper so probably shouldn't be considered additional evidence.

EDIT: Also, the results of the second study show that for the post writing period both the letter-writers and the control had the same response (within a half unit of standard deviation).

From post on Dark side hacks:

Clenching your fists and thinking evil thoughts can increase strength and willpower. (Hung & Labroo 2011, Schubert 2004, Gray 2010)

Particular “power poses” raise testosterone and lower cortisol levels (in both men and women) and increase feelings of power and tolerance for risk. (Carney et al. 2010)

Boosts in pride can allow you to work longer and harder on “effortful and hedonically negative” tasks. (Williams & DeSteno 2008)

Negative moods can decrease gullibility, increase persuasiveness and social influence, and improve the accuracy of eyewitness recollections. (Forgas 2007, Forgas 2008, Forgas et al. 2005)

2) I tried/ Friends tried/ There is some small evidence for it

I wanted to be able to quickly switch from a sitting to a sanding desk when using a computer. First, I bought cheap benches I could use to convert my sitting desk to a standing one, but I found that the conversion hassle prevented me from wanting to go from the sitting to the standing position. Next, I intended to buy a desk that you could quickly and easily raise or lower, but I found this cost more than an additional computer. So, I bought an extra computer for my office and have one on a normal desk and the other in a permanent standing desk position. Dropbox makes it easy for me to quickly switch when working on a file.

Why not get a tall chair that can be used at a standing desk? (I've never used such a setup, I don't know if it would work or if I'm missing something that people who have tried this would know, so this is a serious question not a rhetorical one.)

Interesting. But I would want my feet to rest on a solid surface.

[-][anonymous]9y 3

Use a tall chair and an (improvised?) footrest of appropriate height? Some standing desks have multiple shelves that can conceivably be used for this.

This agrees with your experience with "hassle": from an article linked to by bcoburn in the munchkin thread:

In our field studies of sit-stand workstations we have found little evidence of widespread benefits and users only stand for very short-periods (15 minutes or less total per day). Other studies have found that the use of sit-stand stations rapidly declines so that after 1 month a majority of people are sitting all the time, so compliance can be problematic.

Do you have strong reasons to not just stand all the time while using your computer?

Do you have strong reasons to not just stand all the time while using your computer?

It often feels better to sit down, especially when I'm tired.

I have been for about 20 days standing unless I'm doing the most important thing I could be doing. Standing is an antiprocrastination device.

I just gave a talk to about 60 people at Smith College's Executive Education for Women program on rationality and I mentioned this idea. Thanks.

I use a standing desk all the time at home (which, until recently, was also my primary office). I think that shifting away from the computer when too tired to stand may be worth considering as a deliberate strategy.

Embodied Cognition Hack: Posture Improvement

  1. Take a powerful pose to feel powerful

  2. Tense muscles for willpower

  3. Cross arms for persistence

  4. Lie down for insight

  5. Nap for cognitive performance, vigour and wakefulness

  6. Hand gestures for persuasion

  7. Gesture to self for comprehension and memory

  8. Smile for happiness

  9. Mimic to empathize

  10. Imitate for comprehension and prediction

chaosmage said:

This is a simple idea that I came up with by myself. I was looking for a means to enter high functioning lots-of-beta-waves modes without the use of chemical stimulants. What I found was that very bright light works really, really well. I got the brightest light bulbs I could get cheaply. 105 watts of incandescents with halogen gas, billed as the equivalent of 130 watts of incandescent light. And I got an adaptor like this that lets me screw four of those into the same socket in the ceiling. The result is about as painful to look at as the sun. It makes my (small) room brighter than a clear summer's day at my latitude and slightly brighter than a supermarket.

While some people benefit from extra beta waves, it might promote anxiety in others.

4) Metathread

What do you see as the primary reason to prefer this thread organization over the rationality diaries?

Not sure, I didn't know about these before. I'd say that memetically we can let history be the judge. The only thing that seems to be better about this one is the format with the comment trees according to evidence, etc...

I also thought of creating a 4th tree

4)Isn't terribly and obviously inconsistent with the laws of nature

so people could post things they don't actually think work. Is that a good idea?

I think "seems like a cool idea" covers that; it doesn't say anything about expected results (people could specify).

3) Seems like a cool idea

Using present pain to reason more mathematically about intertemporal options.

For a while I've been thinking that when facing a trolley problem, I should pinch my left arm once while reasoning about letting the one person be killed. And my right arm five times, for the five people that should be saved. More interestingly it seems that when reasoning about a problem in the far future mental slot versus a near future one, bringing them both to the present in the form of pleasure could aid thinking/motivation accuracy. I see no reason why the same would not work for pain.

Seems dangerous. If you inflict pain on yourself when thinking about the future, you might train yourself to not think about the future.

I suspect that the above is a large portion of what causes Akrasia.

Might work well for masochists, for whom the pain will give the same immediacy without the conditioning you're concerned about. Maybe I should try it when I next encounter a real-life trolley problem.

Have you ever encountered a real-life trolley problem? I would like to see an example of one. I've never encountered any myself (that I can remember).

Does laying off people to save the company count? Or does killing have to be involved?

Hm... in the trolley problem at least one person gets saved, but if you don't lay off a person and the company goes bankrupt, everyone is out of a job, so that makes the choice much easier. And even if you could formulate the problem so it really was a choice between 1 person getting fired or 5 other people getting fired, that would be easy; it's obviously better to fire just one (at least, as long as you don't know anything else about the people - for some people getting fired would be a bigger problem than for others).

I wished for an example without killing, but maybe it is essential to the problem, after all. I guess the choice would at least have to make you do something you'd normally consider immoral, like stealing or lying, else you'd just say 'oh, harm only one vs. harming several, easy choice'.

By "trolley problem," do you mean a case where I can kill one person to prevent the deaths of N people? A case where I can harm one person to prevent equivalent harm to N people? Or something more specialized?

I meant a case where you can harm one person to prevent equivalent harm to N people.

(nods) So, would you categorize, for example, a situation where curtailing the speech of one person on a forum increases the likelihood that a community on that forum will speak freely, as a trolley problem?

Yes, I think so. I can see myself as a forum administrator, wondering if I should ban this guy that really hasn't done anything against the rules, but he's slowly driving away other users all the same. That would be a difficult decision.

Then, yes, I've encountered real-life trolley problems.

I like this form of the problem much better, and it makes me more willing to actually think about it.

The trolley problem is a) distressing, because it's about life and death, and b) very contrived, and some years ago I decided, IIRC because of something I read on LW, that I wouldn't bother thinking about that sort of thing anymore. "Who would you save, if you had to choose between your mother and your father?" Get lost! I don't want to think about that, and I don't need to, because I'm never going to be in that situation anyway.

But this is a real situation, that real people have been in. It must have been very difficult. What did you do?

To a first approximation, I do in the real-life forum problem precisely what I expect I would do in the canonical trolley problem... I dither, fail to take any effective action at all, allow the larger group to suffer, and feel bad about it later.

Along the lines of the post on Dark side hacks:

Watching darkly motivational videos. For example villainous scenes from a movie on youtube.