Daily Schedules in Combating Akrasia

post by sentientplatypus · 2013-07-22T19:41:29.931Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 9 comments

For the last several months I've had increasing troubles with motivation to work. Reading dense technical papers, writing, and exercise were all much more difficult to prompt myself into starting and completing. I decided to try making a plan for my day the night before about two weeks back to see if it would help me get the things I wanted to do done. So every night before I go to bed I've been writing up a schedule for the next day, detailing what exactly I want to accomplish for the day and when I intend to go do it. 

This has actually worked incredibly well for me in helping with my motivation problems, in fact in a couple days I felt more motivated to work than I can ever remember being before. I'm trying to change up my schedule and leave time for spontaneity to avoid having the plan become monotonous and it doesn't feel that way so far. And the results I'm getting are great: I find I get about 95% of what I plan done when I have a specific time written down for when I'm supposed to do it as opposed to what I'd roughly estimate at 60% completion when I just have some general idea in my head of what to work on over the course of the day. 

My theory for why this is working is that when I have a specific time to do something I feel as though I have to do it now or I've failed some test of willpower. If I just have general work to be done, it's far too easy for me to defer to later, so that a lot of what was planned for doesn't get done. I also feel like if I expect to brace my mind for dense technical learning I have a much easier time finishing the material instead of giving up and procrastinating on it halfway through. 

I feel like this solution will work mainly for people who have more flexible schedules (as I do at the moment) but could still serve a purpose for anyone with a more rigid schedule who wants to be more productive in their free time. 

Has anyone else has tried this type of thing and if so, how did it work out for you over a longer period of time? Also what are people's thoughts on the general idea?


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comment by gjm · 2013-07-23T00:51:43.693Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please report back in, say, 3 months and let us know whether it's still working for you.

Replies from: peter_hurford
comment by Peter Wildeford (peter_hurford) · 2013-07-25T17:09:58.143Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not OP, but I can confirm that I've had the same effect for a little over two months now.

comment by TrE · 2013-07-22T20:04:21.580Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This post, as helpful as it may be, would still be more helpful in the recent akrasia tactics review 2.

At least ctrl-f couldn't find your nickname there, so you don't apear to have posted it there yet, and you definitely should.

Replies from: sentientplatypus
comment by sentientplatypus · 2013-07-22T21:12:44.409Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hadn't seen that thread, I'll post there as well.

comment by JayDee · 2013-07-23T03:15:27.750Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I noticed significant improvement at work in specifically listing how long I expected task to take, over creating a list of everything that needed doing. That said, the improvement was in how I felt about how much I got done: "today I did more than I thought I'd be able to in eight hours, awesome!" versus "gah, only got half the things on my list done today." which could both be reactions to getting the exact same work done.

Having realistic expectations of how much I will get done boosted my motivation.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-23T05:14:57.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I use a regular review of my goal factoring chart for this purpose and have had positive results to stress levels, motivation, and organization.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-07-22T22:52:24.313Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading dense technical papers, writing, and exercise were all much more difficult to prompt myself into starting and completing.

Maybe that kind of akrasia is less something to be overcome and more of a "take a hint, enough for today" pointer.

Complete them, so you'll have more to complete in the future? There's gotta be other sources to provide societal acclaim, or what have you.

comment by firstorderpredicate · 2013-07-22T23:22:01.286Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I schedule my tasks on a week basis (using an app I developed) instead of every day, but the process is similar. It seems to be working quite well for at least six months now. I got better results after I increased my estimates of how long my tasks take. (Occasionally my app will schedule ughhy tasks first thing on a Monday morning. If people are interested, I'll report back whether I manage to successfully avoid postponing them :)

What I still need to work on is returning to planning after an upheaval like sickness or holidays. I'd be interested to hear how your process copes with that. At the very least, you have five/seven more opportunities to return to planning as opposed to losing a whole week. One thing I didn't read was how you determine what tasks you'll do in a particular day?

Replies from: sentientplatypus
comment by sentientplatypus · 2013-07-23T03:52:09.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I haven't had a holiday or illness yet so I can't say in regards to that. I plan the tasks for a particular day from lists of longer term goals, such as goals for the summer currently, of course adding in other tasks as they come up. I try to decide how much to do by comparing how much I accomplish on a really good day and planning on doing about that much work, which has been effective so far.