Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Swimmer963 comments on Thoughts on designing policies for oneself - Less Wrong

73 Post author: John_Maxwell_IV 28 November 2012 01:27AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (62)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Swimmer963 27 November 2012 02:38:41AM 9 points [-]

This is a brilliant post–thank you so much for writing it!

The idea here is to have a constant reinforcer instead of a variable one, and it seems to work as far as avoiding addiction is concerned.

This is so obviously true from a behavioural-psychology point of view, yet I had never thought of applying it to my own addiction behaviours. Clever!

For me, there seems to be a very strong effect where if I make a policy when I'm not feeling very high-willpower, I won't take it seriously and will ignore it later on. So I recommend just noting down policy ideas if you're feeling tired. Then you can refine them and commit to actually following them later on.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but my tired/low willpower self doesn't actually agree with my energetic self as to what I want to change.

A trivial example: when I'm feeling tired, grumpy, or physically sluggish, I usually dislike my body and think I'm too fat. I think it's almost an automatic thing for girls from Western cultures. When I'm well rested and cheerful, I like my body perfectly well. Objectively speaking, I definitely don't need to lose weight for health reasons–my BMI is well within normal range even though I have higher-than-average muscle mass for a female. My tired self thinks that's stupid and wants to look like a magazine model, but lacks the energy to do anything about it.

A more significant example: my biggest prioritization issue is that I try to fit too many activities into my life, and end up tired. I like all of these activities–in fact, they're all the things that make me happiest. School takes up about 35 hours a week just of classroom time, not including homework, but I wouldn't give up school. Taekwondo takes up severals hours per class, on average three days a week, not including transportation time. I would never give up taekwondo. I go swimming one to three times a week–I wouldn't give that up either. Lack of exercise makes me cranky. I work 12 hours as a lifeguard and swim instructor on Sundays–it's a job I love. I also work part time as an orderly at the hospital, most nights shifts at the ER, which is fun (and pays well). And I volunteer. And I try to have a social life and hang out with friends at least once a week. And see family maybe once a week...

All these things are awesome. On the whole I don't like relaxed days at home–they make me feel sluggish. I like all the things I do–but I do too many things, and then I'm tired, and that reduces the amount of pleasure I get from doing them. However, choosing to do less means I have to give up Activity X, and that sucks! Not only that, in exchange I get to spend more time sitting around at home not getting stuff done.

My energetic self thinks my life is perfect–I get to do so many things I love doing! My tired self wants to murder my energetic self for betraying me and making me pre-commit to doing something when I'm so exhausted I can't focus or experience pleasure. (Fortunately or unfortunately, the context tends to determine my mood, and I'm fairly good at hacking my moods, too–I arrived at clinical this morning wanting to murder someone, after having been up for 30 hours straight the day(s) before and sleeping 7 hours that night. By 10 am I was Supernurse and having a blast.)

I also want to be and stay as healthy as possible–exercise is good, but lack of sleep is bad, and I would be able to eat healthier if I had more time to cook and didn't have to cram enough food for 16 hour days into a lunch bag. However, the only time I succeeded in having a less packed schedule was when I was in a long-term relationship, and that was a deliberate sacrifice towards the relationship itself. I probably slept less during that time period, and may have done more things that I endorsed myself doing but didn't actually have an urge to do ever (i.e. sex).

Has anyone successfully hacked this type of problem?

Comment author: Alexei 28 November 2012 09:58:35AM 5 points [-]

You can always get more time by spending money. For example, consider hiring a personal chef (not as expensive as you might think) or look at other options for having packaged & cooked food shipped to you (even cheaper).

When it comes to exercising, doing the right kind of exercise is the most important part. You actually don't need to do that much. Read "4-hour body" and look into high intensity interval training (e.g. tabata sprints).

Comment author: Swimmer963 01 December 2012 11:59:31PM 2 points [-]

For example, consider hiring a personal chef (not as expensive as you might think)

Probably quite expensive compared to the monthly budget of a student–I can only work on weekends–but something to think about when I graduate. I have this weird aversion to doing things like that, which I think is based on the association with 'stuff that snobby rich people do."

I already have a very efficient cooking routine–I probably spend an hour on cooking once every four days, to make a large pot of something I can put in waterproof glass Tupperwares and take to work or school, and then I spend another 10 minutes a day heating up food to eat it, etc, and packing my lunchbag for that day. I know how to shop cheaply and I spend well under $200 a month on all food-related expenses. I'm guessing a personal chef is more expensive than that. Plus I like cooking–it's therapeutic when I'm stressed.

I will very likely hire someone to clean my house for me once I have a house, though–I hate cleaning. Right now my apartment just isn't very clean. And it was someone on LW who gave me the idea of hiring a cleaning lady to trade money for time. I had the same snobb-rich-people aversion, but convinced myself to overcome it.

You actually don't need to do that much. Read "4-hour body" and look into high intensity interval training (e.g. tabata sprints).

Sounds efficient. Also doesn't sound like much fun. I'm not a fan of sprints, mostly because I've always done exercise with a group (swim team a long time ago, now taekwondo), and I likely have a genetic tendency towards having lots of slow-twitch muscle fibres, and great endurance, but fewer fast-twitch muscles, therefore awful sprinting ability. Sprints and high-intensity stuff in general is now associated, in my mind, with me being the slowest one, whereas I used to overtake even much faster swimmers in long endurance sets.

That's not an excuse not to look into it, though... I'll read the book and see if there's anything I would find bearable to do regularly. I need to re-motivate myself in this area, anyway; if I don't exercise I get cranky and emotional, so I have to exercise, but most of the time I don't like it and it saps my motivation.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 25 December 2012 12:23:33AM *  0 points [-]

When it comes to exercising, doing the right kind of exercise is the most important part. You actually don't need to do that much. Read "4-hour body" and look into high intensity interval training (e.g. tabata sprints).

Here's an earlier post on weight training. Some of the top comments are really good. By eneasz:

my biggest piece of advice would be to not worry at all about optimizing anything until you've first gotten into the habit of regular work outs, and actually enjoy it. Only then should you start optimizing in other ways. The biggest obstacle is always sticking with it.

and by jswan:

Book recommendations:

another vote for "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe "5/3/1" by Jim Wendler. Available here: http://www.flexcart.com/members/elitefts/default.asp?pid=2976 Answering your questions:

1) It doesn't matter that much what you do, as long as you stick with the basic, multi-joint movements (see below); what's more important is that you do it consistently for a long period of time (i.e., years), and you train progressively harder as you make progress. That said, you need to avoid injury. Training with weights near your one-rep max is riskier as a beginner, especially without a coach. I like the set/rep progression laid out in the 5/3/1 book listed above. I've made good progress on it after doing regular weight training for 15 years; it's difficult to make progress at that "training age", so it should work even better for a beginner.

2) In general, you should strength train at least twice a week but not more than four times a week. This does not include conditioning or mobility training, which you should also do.

3) Don't bother with supplements. Spend your money on a clean diet with lots of protein and you'll be fine. Since you probably won't take this advice: creatine monohydrate seems to have the most evidence in favor of its efficacy, but the effect is still relatively small and seems to vary between users. I haven't noticed a difference when using it.

Remember that there are only a handful of great movements: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, pull-up, push-up, dips, rows, power cleans. Consider the barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight variations of these and you will have plenty to do without doing a bunch of exotic isolation work.