This is the first post of the 2015 repository rerun, which appears to be a good idea. The motivation for this rerun is that while the 12 repositories (go look them up, they're awesome!) exist and people might look them up, few new comments are posted there. In effect, there might be useful stuff that should go in those repositories, but is never posted due to low expected value and no feedback. With the rerun, attention is shifted to one topic per month. This might allow us to have a lively discussion on the topic at hand and gather new content for the repository.



The first repository to be rerun is the Boring Advice Repository, because of... on a whim.

Enter original motivation (by Qiaochu_Yuan):

This is an extension of a comment I made that I can't find and also a request for examples. It seems plausible that, when giving advice, many people optimize for deepness or punchiness of the advice rather than for actual practical value. There may be good reasons to do this - e.g. advice that sounds deep or punchy might be more likely to be listened to - but as a corollary, there could be valuable advice that people generally don't give because it doesn't sound deep or punchy. Let's call this boring advice

An example that's been discussed on LW several times is "make checklists." Checklists are great. We should totally make checklists. But "make checklists" is not a deep or punchy thing to say. Other examples include "google things" and "exercise."


The Boring Advice Repository is filled with lots of diverse advice, I've summarized some of it in a comment below.



So what should go here? To go with Qiaochu_Yuan again (adding emphasis):

[...] Post other examples of boring advice. If you can, provide evidence and/or a plausible argument that your boring advice actually is useful, but [...] err on the side of boring but not necessarily useful [...]

Upvotes on advice posted in this thread should be based on your estimate of the usefulness of the advice; [...] do not vote up advice just because it sounds deep or punchy.

I don't know if you should post new advice here or in the original repository. Perhaps search the old repository with ctrl+f (when on windows) and if you don't get results, post it here.

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Use delayed responses to wean needy people when you think they are abusing your time and helpfulness. For instance, the new guy comes by asking for help getting started but keeps coming by for things he should do himself. You don't want to be rude but want to stop it. Progression like immediate response->5m->1h->1day has worked for me with email.

Delayed response is also great to cool off heated discussions.

Boomerang for Gmail is a great way to send delayed messages. I've used it to schedule replies for "tomorrow" while still being able to write the reply immediately, and thus keep up my good "Do it now" Inbox Zero habits.

Don't use it for people you care about. I've wrecked a potential date because he found out I've used Boomerang to fake indifference. It’s quite easy to figure out the email was sent through Boomerang and even how much delay youset. It's better to be "honest" or let it cool in Drafts.

Is it just me or is the fact that indifference faking in dating is so widespread and necessary kind of ridiculous and suboptimal? Sometimes it feels like "dating skill" consists largely of knowing how to play it just the right amount of cool.
Sleeping over an important mail (or letter) is a good idea in general.
For Mozilla there is Send Later.
6Richard Korzekwa
I've had this experience as well. Usually a five to ten minute wait is long enough for me to chill out and say something less inflammatory when things start getting bad.
I usually Notepad the reply and set an iPhone timer to remember sending. It's enough to chill out.

Summary of best comments on the original repository

The best advice posted (best comments) in the original repository included (I blatantly pirate-copied it over from their various authors):

  • Avoid commuting, or failing that, commute effectively (i.e. by train or bicycle and not by car, so you can do some useful work or exercise).

  • Start your posts with a summary if it's more than 3-5 paragraphs. Use paragraphs.

  • Treat craigslist as a free storage. You don't need to physically own all the tools if you can pick them up for <(0.1 paychecks). Treat those things as if you'd already own them. Pick 'em up when you actually need them.

  • Spend more effort (money, time) on optimizing things you regularly use, such as clothing, matresses, hygiene products, kitchen accessories, and ergonomic computer hardware.

  • If you are trying to do X, surround yourself with people who do X. E.g. if you want to read, go visit a (university) library.

  • If you are looking for a job, tell everyone you know. Many jobs are gained through personal connections. Post on facebook.

  • If a complete stranger or an acquaintance can do something useful for you, ask. (Politely. At a convenient time. With an appropriate amo

... (read more)
Ha. Depends on your goals. If you are Buzzfeed or otherwise a click-farmer it's "Make each web link seem like it leads to life-revolutionizing information, with only tangential regard as actual content". Or tab-exploders like TvTropes or even Lesswrong at times- "Give links obscure and cool words which just barely hint at something novel and unusual without revealing it, and include as many of them as possible per paragraph"
The other side of that coin is "Never click on a link unless you already know that you will be glad to have clicked on it." Recognising clickbait is as valuable a skill as recognising spam. "7 secret signs of clickbait you won't believe! Discovered by a mom! Spammers hate her!"
Didn't click on it.
I did, to check my conjecture about exactly what it linked to. (I was correct.)

Get enough sleep. It will give you better intelligence, happiness and health.

There is existing lots of research on how very bad sleep deprivation is for cognitive performance. Many smart people are keen to get smarter by taking nootropic drugs, which have not so good evidence of effectiveness, and not much evidence for long term safety.

Not to be sleep deprived is a massive, free cognitive enhancement. Not only is it good for your cognition. The long term health effects have been studied, and it is not only not bad for you, it is indeed very good for your health. You will almost certainly live longer as well as smarter!

Many smart people also stay up late at night and get up too early to get enough sleep. This is a bad bargain. It is hard to change this habit. However, the gains are potentially very big for people.

I have changed my behaviour before big days at work when I have to appear smart. In the past I am staying up late the night before to practice and prepare. I would not prepare for such meetings by drinking alcohol, because I know it would impair my cognitive function, including how well I am able to assess my own cognitive function, so I would not perceive how impaired I w... (read more)

Check your having-enough-time privilege! ;-) (But for > 50% of people, I agree with your comment.)

If you're reading a document on a computer where you have to scroll to find the footnotes and then scroll back up to find where you were again, you can instead open another copy of the document in a new tab/window, and leave it at the footnotes.

Likewise (this has just now occurred to me), if you're participating in a discussion on Slate Star Codex you might want to open the page twice, and use the copy with the green borders intact to locate the new comments and the other copy to reply to them.
If you're reading a pdf with multiple pages, zooming out to show the entire page (or even displaying two pages at once if your display is wide enough) enables super-fast scrolling through the document. I have seen people not do this and it was painful to watch. Also, some pdf readers (including adobe reader) have a "magnifying glass" feature, which achieves what you described without having to open the document a second time.
Oh god, the scrolling, the cumative man-hours I've wasted. How did I never see this before.
smacks forehead thank you so much
Holy mother of god how did I not think of this.

You very probably have not all recommended insurances in your country of residence or your mandatory insurance doesn't cover everything you'd want it to cover. Same goes for savings, you don't save enough for old age and emergencies. Basically if at some point you would have had to do something to prepare for the future, you didn't do it.

The short version about insurance is this: Never insure anything where you can go "damn it" and pay in cash, the same rule goes for deductibles. On the reverse, insure anything that you absolutely have to pay for and would financially ruin you. Some possible areas are your house, liability insurance and health care cost. Google "necessary insurance" or similar.

The short version about savings retirement plans is this: Use google to find out if your government provides sufficient provisions for retirement, if you plan on retiring at all. If not, look for ways to provide for old age and/or invest money, the sooner you start, the better. Hold about three months worth of living expenses in the most liquid form possible to cover emergencies. To ensure saving, order your bank to transfer a set amount of cash every month to a seperate bank account which you can not access on the go.

A couple addendums:

1) If you have a family, your death goes on the "would financially ruin you" list. If anyone needs you, you need life insurance - and term is extremely cheap(I just sold a couple half a million each for $50/mo), so don't use money as an excuse unless you're destitute or extremely ill. To a lesser extent, disability insurance(though it tends to be pricier).

2) You may not want to ever retire, but the human body in old age is a very insistent creature. Plan on retiring. Better to have and not need than need and not have.

Further adding on that: Depending on the legal structure of the retirement fund, it can serve as a replacement for smaller insurances or you can have your children inherit it. Or have donated to charity upon your death.

Don't keep significant savings in accounts that don't bear interest for an extended amount of time.

That's a complicated issue. As a first-order approximation, there is a strong correlation between what you get paid and the risk you get to assume. At the moment the risk-free rate in the West is, essentially, zero.
Not sure I understand what you mean. Could you please explain this last sentence? EDIT: Okay, I think I found the answer, but is that really that bad for an average person?
The risk-free rate is the market interest rate demanded for loans to an entity with the lowest possible credit risk. Usually that means a rich and stable government (e.g. the US federal government). So what rate does the market demand for loans to Western governments? Let's take a look at, say, 1-year bond rates. In the US that's about 0.25% per year, in Germany that's negative 0.08% per year, in the UK about 0.34% per year, etc. All in all, that's pretty much zero.
Oh, thanks. My mind was at a completely different place when I was reading your comment. Recently I was thinking about how one could use this situation to borrow money on mortgage, then try a startup. Worst case, the startup fails, you return to a job and pay the money back to bank, but the interests are small, so it's not a big problem. A part of what you wrote even seemed to fit into this context (by taking greater risk you could make more money, sure), but the last sentence interpreted in this context meant that as an employee you are unable to save money. Which felt... unlikely, so I asked. Glad I did.
Mortgage offset accounts are an excellent substitute, if you want the full liquidity of a bank-account with a very good "return"
I believe they are only a UK and an AU/NZ thing.
Having a home equity line of credit is the standard US equivalent.
Nope, a very different thing. In the mortgage offset accounts you effectively get paid your mortgage interest rate on your balance.
Suppose you have a $100k mortgage and you find yourself with $50k of extra cash that you would like to have available if needed. Scenario 1: you repay $50k of mortgage but have a $50k HELOC. You are paying for $50k less of mortgage, but if you need the money back you can take it (and, until you pay it off again, pay more on the mortgage). Scenario 2: you put $50k into your mortgage-offset account. You are paying for $50k less of mortgage, but if you need to use the money you can spend it (and, until the money's back in the account, pay more on the mortgage). These do seem pretty close to equivalent, though I guess the HELOC involves more paperwork. I am in the UK and all I know about HELOCs is the term itself; am I misunderstanding how they work?
Ah, I see. Well, you get somewhat similar financial outcomes but you end up in very different positions. As far as I understand mortgage offset accounts, the money in that account is yours. You are, effectively, a lender, and the mortgagor -- a creditor. In the HELOC situation when you pay down part of your mortgage, that money is gone. Instead you get a second loan (and a second lien on your house) and now you're the creditor while the bank is the lender. It is not your money. Thinking about the situation in which your credit rating deteriorates and the bank pulls the line of credit should make the difference between the two scenarios clear.
I take it 'significant' here means more than half a year of regular income total. Half of that appears to be the recommended scratch money.
Significant depends on your personal circumstances, but anything more than half a year's income almost certainly qualifies. I've seen good arguments for keeping much than half a years income on hand, but they're controversial and aimed at people following the early retirement community's overall suite of advice, which allows them to make assumptions that don't hold for large chunks of the population.

Keep track of your spending. This is easy to do with an app such as Mint.

Related: save a fraction of your income and set up your bank account to do this automatically so there is never the temptation to skip a saving.

It just astounds me in my business how many people tell me not to charge their debit cards until after their payday so that they can deposit their checks first. Apparently these people have no savings, and a $100 debit card transaction on the wrong day would throw them into a financial crisis. And I've had people actually say this to me.
Some people don't earn enough to have savings in the first place.
That's not savings, that's just an operational cash buffer which makes life much easier. And I don't believe that people with debit cards don't earn enough to have savings. They spend too much to have savings.

This is a rant; probably skip it if you're not in the mood.

I have debit cards and credit cards but high debt and no savings. I am depressed and (because of that) have poor executive function (i.e., getting-shit-done ability).

I have a job where I can work flexible hours. An obvious solution to my problem would be to work more hours. And yet here I am not doing that!

I could also move to a place with lower rent, but that would require me to do some combination of throwing stuff out (which is work) and getting people to help me move my stuff to the new place (I have mobility issues that prevent me from doing a lot of lifting things). Also, I'm hoping my current low point won't last forever and I kind of like my current place and would hate to move out of it because of a hopefully temporary problem.

I could also see a therapist, but they cost money. I could also try drugs, but they cost money and most of the ones I've tried so far either do nothing (bupropion) or make things worse (paroxetine). (Except modafinil. Yay modafinil!)

I sure feel like a dummy for being incompetent at life, but feeling that way doesn't actually help me not be incompetent at life.

Please, have this positive reinforcement. It was given to me when I needed it but I don't need it anymore so I'll pass it on.

This has happened to many of us. We've been in these ruts, I've paid for fuel with nickels and dimes because I used all my quarters on food. Shit happens, problems pile up, but if you can stabilize, that means you can crawl out of the pit. We get overloaded, we can't fix everything at once, it feels like all the problems are too interconnected to fix.

But you are capable and have worth, so treat where you are as the temporary situation it is and start dealing with it as such. Pick a problem and address it, the first one takes time but if you have food and shelter you have time. Once that is done pick the next problem, fix it, this one will go faster. Rinse and repeat. And four years later (YMMV) your will be counting your assets for a new credit card and have the pleasant shock that they are a gross positive.

TL:DR Some people make this a way of life, some people treat it as a temporary place to be.

In fact, it's making you more incompetent. Knock it off. You're engaging in the classic "How do I hate me? Let me count the ways." What's wrong with me? Why can't I do this? I recall taking something of a sadistic glee in my own misfortunes and failings. I used to call it "self sadism". And those were the good days. On the worst days, I felt powerless and hopeless. "Incompetent at life". This is a maladaptive use of attention. It's neither helpful nor a good time. It generates depression. You're using your mind and attention in ways that hurt you. Do something else. Wouldn't it be more fun to work and take your mind off things, and then have a little more coin in your pocket? You can always come back to making yourself miserable tomorrow. Or the next day. Why don't you just see if you like that kind of day better? The following may or may not appeal to you, but when I was in a similar state, I found it very appropriate and moving. See "Sucker Punch".
That's a pretty common situation. An American way of living, one might say if feeling ranty :-) My point was simpler, though. People who "don't earn enough to have savings" are those who will literally be thrown out into the street or will start getting malnourished if they miss a paycheck. There are enough of those people in the Third World, but they don't have debit cards.
I've been using Mint for a while and, honestly, I'm very unimpressed. You click on the "Trends" tab and what does it show you? A pie chart! Because that's obviously how you analyze your trends... Actually I just went back there for the first time in a while and it's not as bad as I remembered if you're willing to muck around a bit. It does seem to hide the useful things under a few clicks and force you to do comparisons manually through filtering out certain categories instead of showing you them all at once, things like that. But it's still a lot better than going through a number of accounts. Also, you can type for suggestions when classifying things which is something I had missed before and was a major complaint, having to wander through their list looking for something. Still, though, I'd be open to suggestions for alternatives.

Relevant in winter, when air is dry and noses are frequently blown: Placing petroleum jelly in one's nostrils for moisture, despite being icky, is a superior experience to a nosebleed.


Keep your work desk productive.

De-clutter your work desk regularly, getting rid of things you don't actually use. This includes equipment, paper, plants and even furniture that's doing nothing. Put misplaced items back to their designated space. Designate spaces for supplies and references if you haven't already. Free nearby spaces which are cluttered with things you don't actually use. Put those things out of reach, fill the space with other things.

A good idea is to remove every single item on your desk and think about what you actually need. Repeat this monthly. Put everything back to its place at the end of the day. Repeat this daily. If you find that you need to fetch something daily, put it closer.

Agree. Disagree this follows. Works different for me. I'm with apocryphal Einstein, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?" If my desk is clear, it's a sure sign I am being real unproductive and procrastinating hard on something. When I am on a roll, the papers pile up. One place I worked had a clear desk policy. Desk had to be totally empty every night. I hated it. Got nothing done. Quit that gig to go work somewhere they cared more what I got done than how my desk looked. Other people vary!
TrE still has a good point if you define "clutter" in terms of how hard it is for you to find an item, regardless of what the desk looks like to an outside observer.
Fair point. Works differently for everyone, but at least one should reflect on the state of their desk once in a while. I do not understand your need to post this comment anonymously.
IIRC there's someone who has admitted to regularly using the Username accont just because they can't be bothered to make their own.
One approach is to split material on your table (and your inbox...) in three categories: * to be done (inbox) * waiting for input/response/time * for reference

Install a smoke detector (and reduce mortality by 0.3% if I'm reading the statistics right - not to talk of the property damages prevented).


Make a will. It's worth it, and too easy to put off. Here's a will-writing guide I wrote, including free ways in which you can do so (which also covers how to leave money to charity in it, but is a complete guide.)

Where would be a good place to discuss an old Boring Advice?

E.g. I have gave in and bought myself a smart phone last year, but the utility I derive from it is yet to turn positive. I should have been better off if I either allocated a significant portion of resources to learn using it properly, or not buy at all.

A smart phone is easily the highest roi purchase I've ever made. For people who don't have them, seriously it's worth it.
As a counter opinion, I barely use my smart phone for anything I didn't use my old Razr phone for. The only reason I got it was because it was actually cheaper to get a new smart phone than to continue on the old plan. The cost I pay is that I have to charge it every day.
To flesh out my opinion: * I have basically all notifications off (really only for calls, texts, and alarms), which minimizes the downsides * having maps / search available all the time is really convenient. I used to spend a lot of effort either looking up directions or being lost, now I don't * I've found that using my phone to triage emails / rss / whatever is faster than on a full computer, because of the touchscreen * it functions as a mobile hot spot (not sure if older phones do this) so when it's nice out I can sit in the park and work, which is pretty pleasant * it converts small amounts of downtime into interesting reading opportunities (not really roi, but enjoyable) Generally speaking, the smartphone keeps my tools close to me instead of at home. I use anki, beeminder, my calendar and other electronic assistance heavily, so I think that might be why I get more value out of it.
My first thought: "Oh, you leave your house." I'm either at my computer or class with little time between, so there isn't much downtime for me to even use my phone. It is just an alarm clock people can talk to me from. Admittedly I do have a tablet, but for the most part it is used for taking notes and so it may as well be replaced by a paper notebook, but I'm a sucker for OneNote. Because I spend every non-class minute walking or at home I've yet to give my tablet another role beyond that since my desktop is so much superior.
Your claim is worthless without context. Please provide some evidence: why is smartphone the highest ROI purchase for you and why do you think it will be worth it for others. With smartphones as ubiquitous as they are today, computer-literate people who don't have them should have their reasons. You don' t provide any. My reasons for not having a smartphone are: I predict that benefits of smartphone ownership will not justify the cost of ownership for me. The cost of ownership consists of: One-time: * Researching and choosing a smartphone * Learning to use it and its many applications * Cost (smartphone must be bought) Recurring: * One more thing to manage and obsess over * One more thing to charge and not lose * A distraction that's always with me. I cannot do any productive work on the phone, but I can use the internet, very slowly. Any time and energy spent on it would be better spent elsewhere. * Data plans cost money. Of course, smartphone usage has its well-documented benefits, but for me they didn't yet outweigh the costs. The reason I ultimately surrendered and bought a smartphone was that I hoped to implement Allen's GTD with it. Only later I came across his interview where he advices not to use brand new technologies for GTD, but tried and true ones, that you are already comfortable with. So true.
Most of the utility of mine is related to GPS/map search, note taking, setting alarms for reminders throughout the day, and packing dead time with reading my RSS feed so I don't waste productive time reading my RSS feed.

On dealing with a cold:

  • In addition to frequently blowing your nose, use a sinus rinse to keep your sinuses clear.
  • Instead of using a nasal decongestant pill such as Sudafed, try using a decongestant nasal spray like Afrin or Anefrin.
  • Instead of using cough drops to deal with a sore throat, try gargling warm water with added salt at least once every four hours.
  • Instead of using a liquid cough suppressant, try Mucinex DM if you need a dual expectorant/cough suppressant. (I'm less certain on this point than I am on the above three points).
It is worth noting that nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline (the active ingredient in Afrin and Anefrin) should not be used for extended period as they cause rebound congestion ie if you use it for more than 3-5 days, when you cease using it you may become congested for a number of days. I agree that sinus rinses are good. I tend to mix salt with lukewarm water, as it is the least irritating. I have read you are not meant to use tap water as it is not sterile and can put you at risk of infections of the central nervous system, but afaik data related to this is pretty limited. Due to the insufficient amount of evidence and the potentially severe consequences, it is likely safer to buy over the counter saline preparations or boil your water first.

If you feel a bit warm/cold/sticky/itchy, check your room's climate with the CBE Thermal Comfort Tool. Adjust your surroundings until you enter the blue zone. Click the "SI/IP" button to switch between metric (SI) and U.S. customary (IP) units.

If you're in the blue zone and you still don't feel good, then start looking for trickier explanations (e.g. air quality or illness).

You can read posts on a Blogspot blog sequentially by adding ?m=1 at the end of the URL of a post (so that you get the mobile version -- but actually I like what it looks like on desktop computers too) and using the navigation arrows near the bottom of the page, below the comment box. (They work backwards, i.e. the left arrow links to the next more recent post and the right arrow links to the next earlier post.)

Before stepping in front of a car make eye contact with the driver.

Do not assume they saw you just because they slowed down.

Use rechargeable batteries.

After two years of constant use in my headphones (8+ hours a day), I still get a full week's worth of power from each battery. I don't recall how long traditional batteries lasted, but I don't think it was all too much longer. I don't have any to compare it with as a major benefit is not needing to worry about buying batteries ever. I do need to make sure I keep charged and discharged batteries separate.

If you take a Sharpie and write the date onto the battery when you buy it, then if the battery starts giving you grief (e.g. it's frequently not charged when you fetch it from the storage container) after its normal lifespan, you can toss it without worrying that it's a defective battery or that you did something wrong.

Estimate how valuable your time is so you can more easily determine if a cost that saves time is worth it, e.g. getting faster internet access. Also, consider using neutral hours.

Here is a little psychological trick that can be useful for those of us who have troubles with decision-making. I have found it rather helpful and time-saving on quite a few occasions.

So, suppose you are totally stuck trying to make a Buridan's ass choice between case A and case B, and you need to make a quick decision. Your quick utilitarian estimate have not been able to solve your problem, if you continue the deliberation, you are running the risk of missing both opportunities, and you are wasting your time and brainpower on this decision. There is also... (read more)

-- Piet Hein

If you give to charity, use the recommendations at (Familiar and boring to most people here I know, but new people might see this thread!)

80/20 tax law for your country. Unless your a tax lawyer you aren't going to have the need or ability to learn it in detail, but simple changes can often save several thousand dollars a year. In particular tax deductible savings accounts and charitable giving deductions are your friends.

80/20 tax law.. what? Do you use '80/20' as a verb here?
It's referring to the Pareto principle, "80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes". To 80/20 tax law would be to learn the 20% of tax law that gives you 80% of the benefits of knowing tax law.
I know of Pareto principle, just haven't figured out that 'to 80/20' means 'to learn tax law 20%'. Makes sense in general; the only obvious problem I see here is: how do I know how much of the tax law is 20%? (seriously, at least a rough approximation?)
s/for your country/if you live in the US/. American tax law has a lot of complexity that makes this good advice; other countries largely don't have the things you mention.
"80/20" are defined in relative terms, so it still makes sense if the overall complexity of your tax system is smaller.
Only if the money saved / effort expended ratio is similar, and I don't think it is. The original post was "simple changes can often save several thousand dollars a year"; that's distinctly not true in (many) non-US countries.