- Established a useful new habit
- Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
- Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
- Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
- Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
- Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
- Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
- Tried doing any of the above and failed
Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves. Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.
Thanks to everyone who contributes!
Previous diary; archive of prior diaries.
Comments sorted by top scores.
comment by maia ·
2012-12-12T17:26:13.089Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
My semester in review
I posted almost four months ago that I'd stopped biting my nails. I haven't bitten my nails since then. (Except two times in an emergency situation, where the nail was ripped and could have ripped off painfully unless I took care of it in a more controlled way.) This is probably the longest my nails have ever been. I am still working on getting myself to stop scraping them on my teeth (yes, it's a weird habit), but I'm not biting them anymore.
One big victory is that I did go rockclimbing once a week, every week, until the climbing wall closed. We even got some of the meetup group to come once or twice, which was also fun.
More ambiguous events:
I've been reflecting on my original plan for this semester and how it worked out overall. I did very well for the first half or so; I used Beeminder to track my study time and rock climbing habits, and how often I did a 'weekly review' of planning my tasks for the week and taking care of bureaucratic annoyances. This worked well; I got 9 hours of sleep per night, I did my work in advance, I took care of bureaucratic annoyances, and I stayed on a reasonable schedule. But after I broke my streak once, I basically gave up and didn't get enough sleep or go to bed at a reasonable hour or do my homework in advance for several weeks in a row. So next time, I clearly need to plan how I will deal with such setbacks whille I make the plan.
The thing about Beeminder was that I'm a poor college student, and having broken my streak on Beeminder, more than anything else, motivated me to stop using it. It seemed like a waste of money to do, when I could just be tracking things on my own. This might not actually be true. I'm unsure about it, which makes me very hesitant to spend money on it; I don't actually have that much to spare.
I stopped using Fitocracy partway through the semester, which didn't seem to affect me much.
After my several weeks of not-enough-sleep streak, I decided I'd had enough and started making myself get 9 hours, strictly, every night. To this end, I tried stopping all work / computer usage at 11pm; that didn't work out so well because I still had a bit of a homework backlog that required me to stay up late, but I still got enough sleep because I have very late classes. That was a nice thing that I won't be able to take advantage of next semester.
I also noticed that I've been telling myself things like "I shouldn't do too many things, I'll get burned out" a lot. Then I thought about the last time I was doing a whole lot of things, like last fall, and realized I was quite possibly happier then. So, I'm making an effort to ramp up the number of social commitments and projects I take on, because I think I may not have enough right now.
Replies from: None
↑ comment by [deleted] ·
2012-12-12T18:06:17.118Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
My experience with Beeminder matches yours in that after breaking the streak, I basically gave up. Nonetheless it seems to have added value compared to alternatives solely based on the streak effect. I have an opposite but equally annoying problem with Beeminder. Being financially supported by my parents, the prospect of losing money isn't as daunting as I'd like it to be.
Have you considered making an enormous pledge (if Beeminder allows it) in hopes of never relapsing again?
Regarding sleep, have you given melatonin a try?
Replies from: maia
↑ comment by maia ·
2012-12-12T21:48:28.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Hmm, Don't Break the Chain might actually be worth giving a try.
I don't think my goal is to never relapse, and I think it's likely enough that I don't want to screw myself over completely if I do. I would be very sad in the event that that happened, and it would probably result in all sorts of self-hating feelings that in my experience are very anti-productive.
I tried melatonin once and had extremely disturbing dreams. I don't think it would help me much, because my chief problem isn't getting to sleep or even precommitting to go to sleep half an hour in advance; rather, it's that I have work I need to get done for the next day. The half-hour precommitment might be useful in a few cases, but not that many.
Replies from: None
↑ comment by [deleted] ·
2012-12-12T22:38:25.665Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I found myself forgetting (or avoiding) the DBTC website so a paper calendar may work best, provided you can prevent an ugh field from developing around it. I think there is more satisfaction in physically drawing a cross in permanent ink.
I see how the pressure of a massive pledge can be self-defeating. Perhaps it could work for short-term goals, but testing it is risky.
I've been having very odd dreams which may in fact be linked to my recent melatonin use. I'm surprised that I hadn't noticed the possible connection until you pointed it out. This sounds like a good candidate for a self-blind experiment.
Replies from: maia
↑ comment by maia ·
2012-12-12T22:46:57.699Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
If you do an experiment, please do report back. I'm interested in the results, though not enough to do it myself.
Mostly I regard very high-pressure pledges as a kind of personal "nuclear option". I occasionally will do this for a short period - like last semester, when I had to catch up on schoolwork after a very long illness, and needed very strict rules to keep myself on track - but it seems like a bad idea to do if you think the probability of breaking it is at all high. If you do break it, you lose a big part of your ability to trust important precommitments; I don't use such promises all the time because I want to be able to use them if I have to.
Also, I don't really want to lose that much money.
Replies from: EvelynM
↑ comment by EvelynM ·
2012-12-14T07:59:04.734Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I've found it helpful to have a plan for what to do when I get off track, and a small allowance for random interference in my tracking.. Perfection is an unreasonable standard for the majority of my activities.
Learning how to start again is more valuable than keeping to perfection. And, it's a skill I use more often.
comment by Viliam_Bur ·
2012-12-16T19:10:16.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I tried to spend five days, 10. - 14. Dec 2012, without web browsing, even without reading LW. As a reward I gave myself a small piece of chocolate at the evening (inspired by Story 1 in this article). It worked. This week, 17. - 21. Dec 2012, I will try it again. (Why not? I still have 2/3 of the original chocolate.)
I am rather surprised by this, because my model of myself predicted that it wouldn't work; that a small piece of chocolate could not make that big difference in a behavior I've been having problems with for years. But I had nothing to lose, so I tried it. It seems like trivial rewards work really well.
If the experiment replicates successfully the next week, I will consider using the same reinforcement for other things I want myself to do or to avoid doing (probably replacing chocolate with something smaller, like M&Ms). And then I can measure whether the new motivating system works better than the old one. Yay, sweet utilons!
Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV
↑ comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) ·
2012-12-27T06:46:26.568Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
You might want to experiment with flipping a coin and giving yourself chocolate only if it's heads, or similar--variable reinforcers are supposedly more compelling than constant ones.
Replies from: Viliam_Bur
↑ comment by Viliam_Bur ·
2013-01-06T11:13:22.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
First thought: "No way! Abstaining from internet for the whole day and then losing the chocolate because of the wrong coin flip, that would make me really angry!"
Second thought: "Oh, maybe that's what makes the random reinforcement stronger..."
Third thought: A part of the first objection is still valid, because I am the person who makes and protects the rules. So making myself angry or frustrated could engage my emotions and make the reinforcement stronger... but also on meta level, it could make me change or quit the game. (On the other hand, what is the worst possible outcome? If this fails, I can stil return to the original rules.)
Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV
comment by Vaniver ·
2012-12-12T16:42:38.461Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm giving workflowy a try, after paulfchristiano's suggestion.
Earlier this morning, I looked at my project list, and tried to figure out which were acorns that could lead to oaks and which were just small projects. I've significantly shifted my priorities for projects as a result. (I still want to do most of the small projects, but it's the sort of thing where I should be spending twice as much time per week on the big projects than the small projects, rather than the reverse.)
A few weeks ago I tried to close out small projects, to reduce the total number of things that I could be thinking about. I don't think that worked particularly well, but I don't know how much of that is an artifact of the current project list I have (where several projects require waiting until some future point to do the next task), or what an optimal number of projects for me to have is.
Replies from: DaFranker
↑ comment by DaFranker ·
2012-12-12T17:09:49.514Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Workflowy sounded cool, but I've tried so many similar apps and mind-mappers and other things supposed to boost my effectiveness (and wasting way more time using them than I was actually saving, if I was even saving any) that I've become very wary of trying any new ones.
For some reason, your comment prompted me to try it, even though the suggestion that led you to post this in the first place didn't really register enough to make me go try it.
So, all this leading up to: I'll also be giving it a try. It seems like it could be a very good midpoint between the mind-bending, waste-time-trying-to-figure-out-a-correct-structure TheBrain (though I haven't tried the latest version of it, which looks like it could have fixed some of my complaints), and overly-rigid, expand-madly-into-a-humongous-confusing-blob-of-text traditional mind-maps.
comment by Error ·
2012-12-12T13:59:36.131Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Decided-behavior: I've deliberately started posting in current threads here rather than occasionally commenting on whatever sequence I'm going through. This is part of an ongoing effort to break my social isolation.
Surprising-beliefs: I'm genuinely sorrowful at funerals or the misfortune of friends, yet I'm a raging misanthrope and I cheer for Death when, say, I see a car on fire on the side of the road. On reflection I came to the conclusion that I set a radical boundary between people in my personal circle, and everyone else, and pretty much only care about the former. I think this also explains why I don't give much of a damn about the existential risks that seem to worry many people here; unless they occur within the next fifty years or so, they will only affect people I don't care about.