Followup toAkrasia hack survey

p(hack akrasia|heard of hack and thought it was worth trying)

What are the odds of you succumbing to "hack akrasia", never trying or not consistently applying a hack, given that you'd heard of it and thought it was worth trying?

lukeprog's algorithm for beating procrastination: 83%

The Pomodoro Technique: 68%

Exercise for increased energy: 60%

LeechBlock or similar: 38%

Comments: Hack akrasia seems pretty darn high overall.  LeechBlock is least susceptible.


p(using hack profitably|heard of hack and thought it was worth trying)

The "real success rate".  What percentage of the time does thinking a hack is worth trying translate in to adopting it and using it consistently?

lukeprog's algorithm for beating procrastination: 02%

The Pomodoro Technique: 04%

Exercise for increased energy: 25%

LeechBlock or similar: 15%

Comments: Exercise is the clear winner.  If you didn't think exercise was worth trying (5% of survey respondents), you might want to reconsider.


p(hack seems to work|tried hack)

In a world without hack akrasia, what success rates would be be seeing?

lukeprog's algorithm for beating procrastination: 42%

The Pomodoro Technique: 58%

Exercise for increased energy: 84%

LeechBlock or similar: 37%

Comments: Again, exercise is the clear winner.  If you don't exercise, next time you're in an akrasia-killing mood, it seems you'd be well advised to try and set up some sort of regular exercise regimen for yourself.  Setting up a Pomodoro regime for yourself seems like a solid 2nd choice.


p(hack seemed worth trying|heard of hack)

lukeprog's algorithm for beating procrastination: 75%

The Pomodoro Technique: 79%

Exercise for increased energy: 94%

LeechBlock or similar: 60%

Comments: This was for comparison with actual success rates.  Multiple people wrote in that they didn't have the problem LeechBlock tries to solve, so this may account for its low rate.  If you do have the problem LeechBlock tries to solve but you did't think it's worth trying, you may wish to revise your opinion, as its "real success rate" is in 2nd place at 15%.

Yes, LeechBlock may be relatively easy to subvert.  I was turned off by this initially as well.  But now I think that it's not all that important--the main thing is to disrupt your distraction-seeking behavior, not present an impenetrable barrier.  I'd guess that if you could set up LeechBlock as a reminder to engage in some non-variable-reinforcement break activity, that'd be ideal.

By the way, does anyone have an opinion on the best LeechBlock equivalent for Google Chrome?


Graphs from Villiam Bur



More commentary

Initially I'd been thinking of "hack akrasia" as a different type of akrasia than the regular akrasia it tried to defeat.  But recently it occurred to me to question this.

There are probably a variety of akrasia subtypes, some of which have disproportionate impact on executing hacks vs doing other stuff.  Akrasia subtypes I can think of offhand:

  • Ugh field akrasia.
  • Near/far akrasia: Something seems like a good idea, but you never think "oh, I should actually do this now" or make a plan to do it at a specific time or in a specific situation.
  • Forgetting akrasia: You do make a plan/resolution but you forget about it.
  • Slippery slope akrasia: "Just this once" and other ways to gradually rationalize your way around good intentions.  (My recent policy design post offers some suggestions for this.)
  • Low morale, low energy, low motivation, depression.

Anyway, given the high rate of hack akrasia, it may make sense to concentrate on developing hacks that are themselves substantially less susceptible to akrasia.  For example, if I told you to watch funny videos on the internet when your morale is low (psychologists have speculated that laughter helps with ego depletion--works OK for me), it seems unlikely you'd fall prey to any akrasia subtype except forgetting akrasia.  (Optimal Breaks in general seems like it might fall in this category, especially if the breaks involve 0 setup cost.)

To fight inconsistent application of hacks that you know work when you use them, BeeMinder might be useful.

Regarding write-ins: They were under 5% for every category and I threw them out when computing conditional probabilities.

Conditional probability calculator here:  Hopefully there aren't any bugs.

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an opinion on the best LeechBlock equivalent for Google Chrome?

I did a quick review of options for this recently, and chose StayFocusd. It works for me - in the technical sense, at least.

I don't have the rationale for selecting that one compared to others captured in any detail, deliberately. It seemed to me more important to get something installed than to spend any significant time at all on determining what the 'best' plugin was. I'd been using 'but this one doesn't do X, and that one doesn't do Y, and this other one does Z that I don't like' as an excuse for procrastinating about installing anything. Detailed comparison shopping was turning in to a time sink in itself.

So long as it's better than nothing, an anti-akrasia tool that you actually deploy is infinitely better than one you don't, even if the latter has ostensibly 'better' features.

StayFocused has a nice (optional) feature where you're required to type a long, complicated paragraph before being allowed to change settings. Additionally, it prevents you from making changes after you've run out of time for the day. Finally, it also blocks sites that are linked to from restricted sites, which works wonders for Reddit/HN browsing. However, you can have only one list of restricted sites, unlike the sets of sites that you get with LeechBlock. Additionally, you are forced to have at least one minute available for browsing per day, with an additional minute available from 23:59-00:00 (if you want to block sites for the whole day). It's a bit to easy to disable on a whim, but in general I've found it works well - I haven't yet attempted to circumvent it since I started using it ~2 weeks ago.

After making this, I realized that maybe it was a bit silly to offer such strongly worded recommendations given that only 4 techniques were analyzed. Oh well.

p(hack akrasia|heard of hack and thought it was worth trying) What are the odds of you succumbing to "hack akrasia", never trying or not consistently applying a hack, given that you'd heard of it and thought it was worth trying?

I suggest we think twice about making the term "hack akrasia" a thing. Once it's in comments without definition, does a newcomer read it as having akrasia about hacking, or trying to hack akrasia?

It's fine to have terms people won't understand if they'll realize that and look it up, but this one invites oblivious misinterpretation.

Do you have an alternative term in mind? I was thinking "meta-akrasia" at first, but that didn't seem quite right when I thought about it.

BTW, I'm not in favor of making it a thing or anything like that, I was just writing a couple discussion posts about it... It's not like I'm writing a book here.

It's been used successfully before, if you're not making a separate thing that you need a separate term for.

I missed the earlier posts, which had links to

Luke's anti-procrastination algorithm



In case anyone else wanted them, there you go