Try more things.

post by whales · 2014-01-12T01:25:56.497Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 20 comments



(Cross-posted from my personal site.)

Several months ago I began a list of "things to try," which I share at the bottom of this post. It suggests many mundane, trivial-to-medium-cost changes to lifestyle and routine. Now that I've spent some time with most of them and pursued at least as many more personal items in the same spirit, I'll suggest you do something similar. Why?

I removed the terribly personal items from my list, but what remains is still somewhat tailored to my own situation and habits. These are not recommendations; they are just things that struck me as having enough potential value to try for a week or two. The list isn't not remotely comprehensive, even as far as mundane self-experiments are concerned, but it's left as an exercise to the reader to find and fill the gaps. Take this list as an example or as a starting point, and brainstorm ideas of your own in the comments. The usual recommendation applies against going overboard in domains where you're currently impulsive or unreflective.

Related posts: Boring Advice RepositoryBreak your habits: Be more empiricalOn saying the obviousValue of Information: Four ExamplesSpend money on ergonomicsGo try thingsDon't fear failureJust try it: Quantity trumps qualityNo, seriously, just try it, etc.












Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-12T02:31:03.634Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Learn to juggle

I learned to juggle from a gift from a friend - a book and a bag of juggling cubes. I was amazed at how easy it was to learn, and the experience is a touchstone of my life. There was something I couldn't do at all, then with a little effort, I could. In keeping with your theme of trying new things, learning to juggle is a great object lesson in the ability to make changes in one's life.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2014-01-14T13:55:50.038Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd like to second this exact book. A substantial number of circus skill hobbyists I've met over the years owe their entry to the hobby to a chance encounter with this book, as did I.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-12T13:28:20.258Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

a book

Curious - how useful is a book in learning to juggle? I had been assuming that juggling was 99% a motor skill that you just had to practice and where a book wouldn't be of much benefit, but maybe I'm wrong about that?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T17:43:49.663Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mostly agree, but there is a big exception: For beginners, it's very important to start with the right pattern.

The basic pattern is the cascade, but beginners often try to start with the shower pattern. The cascade pattern looks more complicated and less intuitive, but it's actually much easier to learn than the shower pattern.

It'd be interesting to document other physical acts where the intuitive motion is much harder than a less intuitive motion.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-12T19:47:26.878Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it helped because it walks you through learning the juggling process by breaking the process down one tiny motor skill at a time. You practice each skill separately, making them consistent and repeatable, then you build them up in series.

That's part of the object lesson: complex skills that seem hard can be broken down into component skills that are easy.

comment by 9eB1 · 2014-01-12T16:32:31.681Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A book is probably not necessary. I learned to juggle just be trying to do it over the course of a few months at work when I had free moments chatting with co-workers. You fail every time in the beginning, but progress is rapid. You probably just need to watch a YouTube video if you've never thought about the actual mechanics of juggling before. I didn't even do that much, I literally just tried over an over again.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-12T04:37:09.065Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thirdin this recommendation. Juggling is a fun self-practice activity that is a good party trick and can also turn into good social times.

comment by Metus · 2014-01-12T14:18:03.115Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvote out of appreciation for practical rationality.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T16:02:50.848Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Around the New Year I write down not what I will do in the new year but what ended in the old year. Bad habits overcome, crummy jobs ended, sickness mended, people not spoken to any more. Some goodbyes are sad, most a relief. Clarifies progress is being made more than resolutions guide future choices.

comment by Emile · 2014-01-12T21:36:49.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great list! Reading through it, I was surprised at the number of those things that I had actually tried (deleting inpulse browsing items from the suggestion list has been pretty useful; combined with adding those to my RSS subscription, it greatly reduced my impulsive browsing habit).

I'm off to try a cold shower! :)

comment by ephion · 2014-01-12T16:50:20.816Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a really great list. I've done most of this, and it's been extremely helpful.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-12T11:56:42.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might do better picking the low hanging fruit to gain momentum before you invest in a Zeo and a statistics textbook.

Given that the company behind Zeo went bankrupt and that you need a regular supply of replacement headbands I would advice against going the Zeo route.

If you want something that tracks sleep MyBasis would probably be a better choice. It also gives you other stats.

NeuroOn is a kickstarter product more tailored on sleep.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-12T13:18:20.057Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cheap home made replacement zeo headbands from Instructables.

comment by JacekLach · 2014-01-14T18:34:17.264Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Find a service where you can listen to music for free with minimal inconvenience (YouTube and Spotify are usable for me, but just barely)

Grooveshark (! Unless you cannot stomach songs playing out of order, or sometimes being repeated (and even that is getting more rare as they work on improving their indexing).

Open page, type artist name (or select genre), press 'play all'. It stops playing every couple hours (which I enjoy - means I can just put music on in the evening and it'll turn itself off eventually - no need to get up) so you'll have to press a single button to resume.

comment by whales · 2014-01-16T01:28:17.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting -- looks like it's come a long way on indexing and general usability since I last played with it (I think it was all Flash back then). I'll give it a second chance, thanks.

comment by KatieHartman · 2014-01-14T16:21:22.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm much less (emotionally) motivated to try new things/deviate from my routine than I'd like to be, especially when an intervention's purpose is to improve something I'm currently not doing very well at. For example, I feel a lot more motivated to try something that might further improve a project that's already going very well than I am to try something that might turn around a project that's failing. I suspect that this is related to ugh fields. Any suggestions?

comment by whales · 2014-01-16T01:19:40.200Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have one project that came to mind immediately when I read your comment, so I feel like I know what you mean. A fix turned out to be "tell a friend I want to do X, and ask her to remind + encourage me when the appropriate chance comes up." But social-commitment-type things don't always apply.

I have more experience with projects that started becoming aversive, and that pushed me harder (both emotionally and otherwise) to tweak my approach, which in the end led to renewed focus and progress. Having those examples available helps motivate me in situations where I don't otherwise want to attend to operations long enough to change them from their default. Could the same be true for you? That's the only general suggestion I have.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-12T12:02:44.151Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Earplugs, or a change in style or brand if you already use them

Do you know anything about long term effects of nightly earplug use on your ears?

I heard once one a unreliable source that it might be unhealthy to rely on them for long periods of time. I wouldn't trust the source but hearing it is enough for me to want to know whether someone else looked into the long term issues of using them. would be a website I found with quick googling that explains some of the concerns.

I do wear Earplugs when I'm at loud Salsa clubs where I expect the soudn would damage my ears if I would expose them to it. I brought expensive ones for 200€ that just downregulated the loudness overall but that keep relative difference the same which means that you can still hear all the details in the music.

comment by whales · 2014-01-12T19:33:38.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, when I first looked into this, I found all these popular sites talking about tinnitus and infection, but couldn't track down any sources. Wikipedia just cites those websites. One actually does give a source: Journal of Hearing Sciences, 2006: 9-10. This seems to be made up by its "SEO professional" author. ("Journal of Hearing Science" at least exists, but started in 2011. Bizarre.)

I don't remember finding anything especially scientific and reliable on risks when I first looked into it. The best I could do was Ear Infection and the Use of Hearing Protection (1985), a review of epidemiological studies by a researcher employed by an earplug manufacturer, mostly concerning workplace use.

Anecdotal comments abound, but controlled studies are "conspicuous by their absence." By implication the problem is neither significant nor widespread; otherwise it would have drawn greater attention and research interest.


Although hearing protection devices should not be worn in the presence of some preexisting ear canal pathologies, and care must be exercised regarding selection and use under certain environmental conditions, regular wearing of HPDs does not normally increase the likelihood of contracting otitis externa.

I don't know how much you want to rely on that. I just follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and reuse, and plan to stop if I notice irritation.

comment by btrettel · 2014-01-12T22:11:05.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be interested in seeing some reliable evidence about this.

I sleep fairly poorly, and consequently I've used earplugs nearly every night for 5+ years now. I do have bad tinnitus (it is congenital), but it has not become worse from this. I have not had any ear infections in this period. I've had my hearing checked twice over the past 5 years, and it is stable at all frequencies.

It's worth noting that most earplugs will fall out after an hour or so, or at least the ones I've been using will. I buy a ton of cheap foam ones and rotate them periodically.

The only thing that has made my tinnitus worse best I can tell was a bursting rubber tube, which was basically as loud as a shotgun. This added a specific and identifiable frequency to one of my ears, oddly enough, but had no other long-term effect.