TSR #9: Hard Rules

post by Hazard · 2018-01-09T14:57:15.708Z · score: 32 (10 votes) · LW · GW · 2 comments

This is part of a series of posts where I call out some ideas from the latest edition of The Strategic Review (written by Sebastian Marshall), and give some prompts and questions that I think people might find useful to answer. I include a summary of the most recent edition, but it's not a replacement for reading the actual article. Sebastian is an excellent writer, and your life will be full of sadness if you don't read his piece. The link is below.

Background Ops #9: Hard Rules


Clear separation is a super useful idea. The work computer vs play computer example seems to draw out the key parts. First there is an acknowledgement that a given activity is trying to accomplish multiple things at once, and you'd be better served by doing them seperately. Second, there is a mechanism of seperation (two seperate computers) that makes it slightly effortful to switch gears, forcing you to consciously acknowledge when you are making the switch (as opposed to how you can reflexively get to reddit without ever having consciously chosen to do so).

One clear separation that I’ve been using for a while has been to make my breaks boring. It’s the same idea as lying on the ground. I allow myself to take breaks on a whim, but the breaks are only allowed to be stretching, walking, getting water, or going to the bathroom. Boring stuff that isn’t good a sucking me into an attention spiral. This has probably been one of the more useful simple things I’ve done to increase productivity and reduce stress.

Another clear separation I’ve made in the past year has been regarding spending time with people and working. When I first started university, I would do my homework with friends. Sometimes I’d even just work in the public lounge where people would be moving in and out. That was me going, “Well I want to get my work done, but I also want to be around people and I don’t want to miss anything.” Eventually, it become clear how much more time it was taking for me to do work when other people were around. I have since moved to basically doing all of my work alone in my room. I find that I can focus much more intensely, and get work done much more quickly. I also find it easier to hang out with friends, since I don’t also feel obligated to do work. Having a clear separation between work and hanging out has made both of those activities more fruitful for me.

Quitting easy things also strikes me as a useful habit. If you have a low value behaviour that you don’t really do that much, and it’s only sort of enjoyable, try making a hard rule to get rid of it all together. This gave me the kick in the butt to:

Here some questions that might be useful for you:


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by waveman · 2018-01-10T03:47:51.007Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This blog is amazing - thank you.

comment by nBrown · 2018-01-10T05:37:54.919Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Reading endless fiction webcomics.