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Boring Advice Repository

56 Post author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 04:33AM

This is an extension of a comment I made that I can't find and also a request for examples. It seems plausible that, when giving advice, many people optimize for deepness or punchiness of the advice rather than for actual practical value. There may be good reasons to do this - e.g. advice that sounds deep or punchy might be more likely to be listened to - but as a corollary, there could be valuable advice that people generally don't give because it doesn't sound deep or punchy. Let's call this boring advice

An example that's been discussed on LW several times is "make checklists." Checklists are great. We should totally make checklists. But "make checklists" is not a deep or punchy thing to say. Other examples include "google things" and "exercise." 

I would like people to use this thread to post other examples of boring advice. If you can, provide evidence and/or a plausible argument that your boring advice actually is useful, but I would prefer that you err on the side of boring but not necessarily useful in the name of more thoroughly searching a plausibly under-searched part of advicespace. 

Upvotes on advice posted in this thread should be based on your estimate of the usefulness of the advice; in particular, please do not vote up advice just because it sounds deep or punchy. 

Comments (560)

Sort By: Controversial
Comment author: roland 11 March 2013 07:15:27PM 0 points [-]

As a man, don't get married unless she is very rich.

As a woman, get married if the law is on your side(which it generally is in most western countries) and if the man has enough financial resources.

Comment author: MileyCyrus 11 March 2013 07:25:38PM 0 points [-]

Please delete this comment and don't bring up the subject again. Or if you must, bring up the subject only in the Politics Open Thread.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 12 March 2013 05:24:24AM 9 points [-]

While the way it is phrased here is politically inflammatory, the general piece of advice "be cautious about entering contracts even if your peer group seems blase about them" is probably good.

Comment author: Estarlio 13 May 2013 06:59:57PM 1 point [-]

Buying a good microphone and some decent voice recognition software and learning to speak so that the computer can understand you can potentially save you a lot of time if you do a fair amount of prose-style text input.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 March 2013 10:55:26AM 5 points [-]

Don't get involved with crazy people.

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 March 2013 11:01:49PM 2 points [-]

If you're crazy, prefer getting involved with crazy people and sane people who know how to deal with your kind of crazy to getting involved with well-meaning but naive sane people. And don't get involved with people who don't want to get involved with crazy people, even if you can fake long enough to fool them.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 12 March 2013 01:26:30AM 15 points [-]

Don't get in a committed relationship with someone who is cheating on their current partner(s) to be with you.

(I learned this one from Tom Sawyer.)

Comment author: glennonymous 11 August 2015 10:36:37PM 0 points [-]

Read the Boring Advice Less Wrong thread periodically and do what it says.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 02:59:07PM *  2 points [-]

Better than treating others as you would like to be treated is to treat them as they would like to be treated (insofar as doing so is within your means).

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 March 2013 04:06:32PM *  9 points [-]

Avoid weird people.

(Negation of #1 geek social fallacy.)

Of course this advice works only with some definitions of "weird", and I don't want to make it too long, but I feel it is very useful. The point is not to avoid anyone who is off-center in any Gauss curve, but to avoid specifically people who impose a huge cost on you and on people who associate with you, usually because of their serious lack of some social skill. Certainly, nobody is perfect, but don't commit the fallacy of grey.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 11 March 2013 12:22:39AM *  12 points [-]

"Weird" is too general here.

The advice on "Five Geek Social Fallacies" has to do with dealing with people who are not weird but rather unpleasant. The examples used are of people who are obnoxious, offensive, smell bad due to poor hygiene, or hassle newcomers. These have to do with behaviors (or lack of care) that are not distinguished by their eccentricity but by causing harm and aversion to others.

So, for the boring advice:

Distinguish harmless eccentricity from harmful eccentricity. You may travel in weird social circles, wherein you recognize that being weird doesn't make someone bad ... but just because someone is weird does not mean that they are nice, either.

(Weird social circles may also choose to exclude some behavior that is harmful but not weird. For instance, there is nothing weird about making jokes that hinge on gender stereotypes (e.g. "women are bad drivers" or "men are buffoons"); these are quite common and ordinary, found in mainstream sitcoms, stand-up comedy, and so on. But a weird social circle that cares about being welcoming to gender-nonconformists may want to say that gender stereotyping is not acceptable.)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 12 March 2013 01:22:36PM 6 points [-]

Everyone head for the exits.

This site is full of weirdos by prevailing societal conventions.

I'd say instead to advertise what kind of person you are, so that you attract and repel the right kind of people.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 March 2013 05:41:23PM 2 points [-]

I think I would only endorse this if it sorted under "Don't avoid otherwise-valuable people just because they are weird."

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 10 March 2013 12:52:46PM 0 points [-]

OK, second attempt:

Always remember that a company of weird people costs you your social capital. Make an estimate of costs and benefits. Multiply the costs by 10 to compensate for bias. Check again whether the benefits are real or imaginary, or could be obtained cheaper otherwise.

Note: The number 10 probably feels to big. For most weird people, the correct multiplier would be 2 or 3. But a few of them are black swans.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 March 2013 01:20:27PM 1 point [-]

Always remember that a company of weird people costs you your social capital.

Not if the people in my social circle are themselves weird.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 March 2013 10:37:18PM 4 points [-]

I agree with "Don't neglect the costs of weirdness."

Comment author: Elithrion 07 March 2013 05:34:03AM *  6 points [-]

In certain classes of cases*, the best way to find out answers to your questions is to ask them (rather than doing your own investigation).

Not sure if that's borderline punchy.

*For example, when trying to locate something while driving/walking around, when inquiring about poorly documented local activities, when your solution of some problem/research question may have one of many possible flaws (and thus you would need to look up each possible flaw to investigate it, while an expert may be able to spot the flaw immediately), when your quick google search fails to yield clear results, etcetera. Also see this comment.

[The starred things were edited in to improve specificity in response to comments.]

Comment author: Larks 09 March 2013 04:08:09PM 7 points [-]

Don't get arrested.

Comment author: Bugmaster 23 March 2013 12:31:28AM 1 point [-]

IMO this sentence is too general to constitute useful advice. It's like saying, "don't get killed". Well, yeah, that's a good idea, but how do you actually implement it into practice ?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 01 May 2013 09:38:06AM 9 points [-]

Try very hard to avoid doing two illegal things at the same time (and if you go to 3 you're just asking for it). This is one of the biggest ways people get caught.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 March 2013 05:40:15AM 41 points [-]

If, realistically, you aren't going to do a thing, proceed immediately to figuring out the best way to not do it.

Comment author: Stabilizer 11 March 2013 07:04:41PM *  9 points [-]

Don't get worked up about jumping through administrative hoops such as filling forms, filing tax returns, sending applications. Especially don't go on a moral plane and say things like, 'I shouldn't have to do these things' or 'This is degrading'. It is much more easier to just do the work which cannot be reasonably argued with. Further, if you don't, you can stand to lose a lot. And not for interesting reasons. Think of it as one-boxing on Newcomb (though without the million dollars).

Comment author: wedrifid 23 March 2013 08:33:55AM 0 points [-]

Think of it as one-boxing on Newcomb (though without the million dollars).

That sounds a lot like losing.

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 March 2013 11:06:38PM 2 points [-]

Sounds a lot like "paperwork is a mild annoyance to me, therefore people who claim to find it painful are just being drama queens".

Comment author: Stabilizer 22 March 2013 11:10:06PM 2 points [-]

No. Paperwork has definitely been more than a mild annoyance to me and has cost me a lot in missed opportunities and money.

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 March 2013 11:13:28PM 2 points [-]

Then shouldn't you be including advice on how not to get worked up about it?

Comment author: simplicio 11 March 2013 10:13:49PM 10 points [-]

Don't get worked up about jumping through administrative hoops such as filling forms, filing tax returns, sending applications.

Also, if you make a half-decent salary, ask yourself whether you ought to be doing it at all as opposed to delegating it to e.g., a tax professional.

Probably one of the most important rationality skills I have learned is to really internalize the principle "my time is worth something" and spend money on delegating tasks I find annoying or time-consuming.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 12 March 2013 05:04:45AM 1 point [-]

Also, laundry, dishes, and cleaning. If you have potentially lucrative side projects going it can be stupid NOT to free up your time.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 12 March 2013 01:30:54AM 3 points [-]

I tried delegating my taxes to a tax professional last year. It took -more- time, not less.

This year it could potentially save my time, because I already know my deductions are going to be pretty significant. (1/5th of my pretax income last year went towards a new roof. And I bought a new computer for work. And a bunch of other homeowner investments that AFAIK are deductible.) As opposed to last year when the "professional" ignored me when I told her my deductions wouldn't exceed the standard deduction, and insisted on going through mounds and mounds of paperwork and receipts, trying to get me $1 over the standard deduction. (I think we ended up about $50 short, and that was after some very... creative deductions.)

Be cautious with professionals who think they know more than you about your business, I guess.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 07 March 2013 04:16:34PM 9 points [-]

Upvote comments that you think are useful on LW in general, not just comments you found personally useful. (A note to myself as I read this thread).

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 05:11:13PM 1 point [-]

I think that depends on the current number of upvotes the comment has. I'll upvote comments with no upvotes that I personally found useful by way of thanks.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 March 2014 10:27:15PM 5 points [-]

I used to have a lot of trouble getting up in the morning, and would frequently arrive to work or lecture at the last possible minute. The one change I made that had the largest impact, beyond strength of coffee or wake-up time, was to switch from showering after breakfast, near the end of my morning routine, to showering first thing when I get out of bed.

I now get out of bed, throw on my flip-flops, grab my stuff to shower, throw a pita in the toaster oven for 10 minutes to make a start on breakfast, fix coffee using the electric kettle, and shower. After showering, I put my contact lenses in. Then I fix up my breakfast sandwich (tomato, cucumber, slice of cheese in pita), toast it some more, and dress myself. Then I eat the food and drink the coffee while enjoying some morning web-browsing. Lastly, I brush my teeth, floss, rinse, pack my stuff, and get the hell out the door to work.

Showering is a blocking activity; when it came last, any slightest procrastination or oversleep got penalized in the last part of the morning routine: walking to work. Sometimes I wouldn't even get breakfast in; the whole thing became a self-destructive death-spiral of failing at basic responsibility and self-organization. By moving the blocking activities to be first in the routine, I now penalize the frivolous web-browsing when I need to penalize, and feel more refreshed earlier.

As a result, despite having no explicit requirement or incentive to be at work at any particular time (graduate student), and not even having a morning class this semester (afternoon lecture and tutorial only), I now regularly arrive to work around 9AM. This has made "racking up the hours" a lot easier, and raised my total productivity by a small but substantial amount that compounds each day.

TL;DR: Shower first in your morning routine.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 06:00:14PM 5 points [-]

Buy the most forgiving toilet paper you can afford.


Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 06:48:43AM 5 points [-]

If you are feeling just a little sick, do not go to work. Apply for sick leave and stay home. Not only will you recover more quickly by getting more rest, you also protect your colleagues from getting infected.

Comment author: BrienneYudkowsky 13 May 2013 12:09:24AM 6 points [-]

Don't wait until things are horrible before making them awesome.

Comment author: metatroll 24 June 2013 08:38:19AM 0 points [-]

Too late!

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 07 March 2013 07:44:58AM 8 points [-]

If there's a goal you're working on that looks like it's going to take a lot of time and effort to achieve, spend a good chunk of time thinking about much faster ways to accomplish the goal before taking the slow route. Quick fixes and shortcuts aren't always bad.

Try to think critically about everything, not just the things you and the people you know of habitually think critically about.

Don't ignore obvious, commonsense explanations in an effort to be interesting. Keep in mind that the world is a complicated place and there's lots you don't know. Apparently hedgehogs (people who make confident, frequently wrong predictions based on simple models) are more likely to get media attention (and, based on my observations, internet attention as well). So, as a corollary, if you're thinking something outrageous, that idea likely found its way to you because it's outrageous, not because it's accurate.

Comment author: Eneasz 07 March 2013 07:09:42PM 11 points [-]

Get a credit card with no annual fee (preferably one with 1% cash back). Pay absolutely everything with card (only rent/mortgage, loan payments, and utilities should be paid in a different way, and that's only because they don't accept credit card). Pay it off in full once every month (the same date every month, and only once a month) before the due date so you never give the credit card company anything more than the actual cost of what you bought.

This makes it incredibly easy to track your finances. Rent/mortgage and loan payments are fixed. If you make a steady monthly wage you know exactly how much money you are getting every month and exactly how much you have left for all non-loan expenditures. That number should be at least $100 more than you pay to the credit card to pay off your past month of living every month.

When you bank more than usual in a month you feel awesome. When you have to pay more than you made in a month you realize immediately and can take quick steps to curtail it.

This also gives you real-world data as to what living costs, helping you to avoid the planning fallacy.

Comment author: VAuroch 04 December 2013 02:43:55AM 0 points [-]

Points against this: Money spent via card has much less immediate mental impact than spending cash. When you pay more thanyou make in a month, you realize it only at the end of the month. When you spend cash, you feel the impact on your finances directly.

The pattern I use, which I stumbled upon mainly by accident: For necessities, use a card (I use debit, but this is interchangeable with credit from this perspective). For luxuries, use cash. This insulates you from impulse purchases and has a short feedback loop discouraging you from spending too much.

Drawbacks: This doesn't work for online purchases and may hurt somewhat in that regard.

Comment author: Eneasz 04 December 2013 04:49:10PM 0 points [-]

Interestingly, I've been using card and online banking for so long that I seem to have internalized "money is the number stored in the bank's computer/my mental register". Recently I came into a steady flow of cash (long story), and I didn't want to go to the bank every damn week to deposit it, so I started paying for groceries and restaurants with that cash. It felt like giving away play money and getting real goods and services in exchange. "You mean I can give you some colored paper slips, and you'll just give me $100 worth of groceries? It doesn't reduce the money I have in the bank? And I'm not going to jail for this?" It was weird.

Comment author: jooyous 08 March 2013 06:41:08AM *  15 points [-]

Map things:

  • Sanity check when you're using a maps-enabled device to get around. It might not be showing you the correct thing. Also, it might be showing you the correct thing, but you might be reading it wrong. (Well maybe not you, but definitely me.)
  • If you've moved to a new area, avoid using map services to get around and work on your own internal brain-map. You don't want to live somewhere for a year and be helpless without your phone.
Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 08 March 2013 11:24:40AM *  5 points [-]

Related: buy a small and reliable compass. Not a compass app for your phone, but an actual compass. GPS, your own spatial awareness, and reasonable assumptions about geography can all let you down, but north is always north.

Edit: I will now ruin the punchiness of this comment with an explanatory edit. I do a lot of walking around a large city. Google Maps is fairly reliable but leaves much to be desired. Establishing GPS location, battery consumption and occasional out-and-out wrongness are common bugbears, so I started trying to navigate without it.

The biggest problem I found was orienting myself. Surfacing from a subway stop only to have no idea which direction was which, I'd sometimes fall back to GPS just to check what direction I was facing (which Google Maps is really bad at anyway. Anyone who's ever done that "let's walk ten metres in this direction to see what way I'm pointing" thing will know what I mean. I played around with some compass apps, which are just as much of a pain as Google Maps. Eventually I just gave in and bought a compass.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 March 2013 11:43:03AM *  7 points [-]

Related: buy a small and reliable compass. Not a compass app for your phone, but an actual compass. GPS, your own spatial awareness, and reasonable assumptions about geography can all let you down, but north is always north.

Almost equivalent: Buy a lightweight and reliable spear. Not a speargun or an effective modern weapon, but an actual pointy stick. Guns, the rule of law, supermarkets and the reasonable assumptions that your geographic location contains no dangerous predators can all let you down. But a pointy stick is always a pointy stick.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 08 March 2013 12:26:47PM 3 points [-]

This is an unfair comparison, especially in light of the explanation given in the edit.

OP's point was that GPS can frequently be unreliable. In terms of navigating without it, basic orientation is typically enough to get you started, and "smart" substitutes for a compass are strictly inferior to an actual compass.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 March 2013 12:31:49PM *  4 points [-]

especially in light of the explanation given in the edit.

The edit does indeed change things. If I was replying to the edited version rather than replying to the original version I would reply differently. But judging a reply because it does not apply to what is now a completely different comment is an error that I strongly discourage.

Almost all of the value of the advice comes from the two additional paragraphs. Even then I suggest it somewhat exaggerates the relative value of carrying a magnet. This distracts from the probably overall more valuable advice of doing an additional 15 minutes research when purchasing a GPS device in order to maximise reliability.

Comment author: handoflixue 08 March 2013 11:22:00PM 4 points [-]

"smart" substitutes for a compass are strictly inferior to an actual compass.

I know my city layout, so I always know where North is. It might require walking (gasp!) as much as a block, but even that is ridiculously rare. Trust me, this is superior to a compass.

The big problem with a compass is that it is Yet Another Thing I Must Remember To Carry. If I use it regularly, forgetting it will probably suck since I don't have a backup. If I use it infrequently, why bother with the hassle of one more thing cluttering my purse? And what makes you think I'll remember to pack it on the days I do end up needing it?

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 09 March 2013 10:02:55AM 2 points [-]

If you don't frequently experience navigational problems, clearly a compass is not a sensible investment.

I have to say, I've made questionable suggestions on LW in the past, but the tone of the responses to this one has been baffling.

Comment author: gwillen 25 July 2013 03:16:01AM 2 points [-]

People pattern-matched it to a curmudgeonly and irrational dislike for modern technology, because they have never tried actually using the magnetic sensor in a smartphone as a compass, so they aren't aware of just how unreliable those sensors are.

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 March 2013 10:46:21PM 3 points [-]

If you've moved to a new area, avoid using map services to get around and work on your own internal brain-map. You don't want to live somewhere for a year and be helpless without your phone.

If you're terrible at brain maps, learn a bunch of routes. If you're terrible at that too, carry paper maps.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:36:02AM *  16 points [-]

As per Yvain: Use amazon prime

As per me: Also use slickdeals, sign up for alerts for things you need but don't need right now. You can then safely forget about it until an email alerts you there is an excellent deal on one. I use this for things I need to buy intermittently such as supplements.

Don't forget to check retailmenot for coupon codes when buying online.

Comment author: someonewrongonthenet 16 March 2013 10:39:07PM *  5 points [-]

I don't understand...the benefits he mentions are a result of Internet shopping in general.

How does Amazon prime, a $79/year deal for free two day shipping significantly improve upon this?

Also, if you are in school, Amazon Student lets you get the 2 day shipping free.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 16 March 2013 10:45:38PM *  0 points [-]

Cognitive load. Shopping for the best price online can be just as stressful and just as much a waste of time as shopping in real life. By contrast training yourself just to buy the first item that looks good enough will (TDT) save you lots and lots of money/time/stress in the long run. 2 Day shipping as opposed to variable shipping (and tracking your packages) means you can buy a lot more items without having to plan too far ahead. I can often go a day without something but can't go the possible 5-10 business days that many other places offer.

Amazon student is a good tip. anyone with access to a .edu email address can get it free for a time and half off after that.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 08 March 2013 12:13:04PM 17 points [-]

If you spend a lot of time frustratedly explaining to people why you don't do some common social activity, consider giving in and just doing it.

There have been a few discussions on Less Wrong about how to explain to people why you don't drink. I eventually got so frustrated at having to verbally offset the mistrust I received through not drinking, I just went ahead and started drinking. It obviously depends on your social situation, but for me this amounts to maybe four glasses of wine a month, which is a ridiculously good trade-off.

Comment author: Emily 10 March 2013 02:41:32PM 12 points [-]

Can you find nicer friends? No one has ever been weird about the fact that I don't really drink. (If anyone tried to be weird about it, I think I would claim there was alcoholism in my family - there's not, as far as I know. And not be friends with them.)

Comment author: JDM 23 May 2013 09:11:47PM *  2 points [-]

Without outright asking or commenting, people can still subconsciously judge, especially in certain situations or social groups.

For example, I am the president of my chapter of my fraternity. Some people interested don't drink. While for the most part people look past the not drinking, there are some activities or events where drinking is common. We have had some non-drinkers still enjoy themselves, but some have been scared away as a result of said activities.

I think an equal precursor to the idea of being judged for not drinking is how you handle being around others who are. If you can still enjoy yourself without the alcohol, in a lot of cases being judged for it is in your imagination. If you sit there awkwardly in the corner sober while everyone else is having a good time, the judgement is very real. It's just not entirely for the reason you think.

Comment author: bbleeker 09 March 2013 08:01:25PM 1 point [-]

Mistrust? Why would people mistrust you if you don't drink?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 March 2013 01:31:39PM *  6 points [-]

I can't speak for everybody, but I think this is the reason why I tend to dislike non-drinkers.

Comment author: bbleeker 11 March 2013 06:39:46PM 1 point [-]

Huh, you got a downvote for that? That wasn't me!

I probably should drink less myself, and I tend to think of non-drinkers as "sensible people who didn't like the taste of alcohol when they were teenagers and didn't give in to social pressure" (like my mother, my sister and my husband).

Comment author: DanArmak 11 March 2013 10:35:10AM 15 points [-]

It's a refusal to participate in ritualized social bonding, and that signals you aren't willing to relax around other people and don't consider them to be part of your social in-group. If you're not drinking, that may also mean you get to keep your guard up while everyone else is saying and doing silly or even forbidden things.

I can't drink because of my medications, and I always get teased about it. "Come on, just one shot is fine..."

Comment author: buybuydandavis 12 March 2013 12:59:11PM 1 point [-]

Or it signals that you are comfortable asserting your own values in contradiction to a group. That's a very positive signal to me, but probably generally negative.

Comment author: BlazeOrangeDeer 14 March 2013 05:18:25AM 3 points [-]

Or maybe they think that your non-drinking is not a value of yours, but a value of another group that you are choosing over theirs.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 08 March 2013 03:49:36PM 9 points [-]

After putting polyurethane on the floor of a house, I had an -excellent- reason which few people questioned: After polyurethaning the floor, alchohol started tasting like polyurethane smelled. (To this day it still hasn't faded completely. I stopped drinking entirely for a long time there, and still can't do straight whiskey shots, which was my old standard. Went from tasting pretty good to... awful.) Takes about thirty seconds to explain, and most people accept it just based on the weirdness of the reason.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:26:24AM *  17 points [-]

Requisite meta: Pay attention to boring things that people who have accomplished goals you want to accomplish do more.

Comment author: lsparrish 07 March 2013 06:30:38AM *  21 points [-]

Take melatonin a half hour before your desired bedtime. Set an alarm on your phone so that you remember to take it at the exact same time every 24 hours. This gets you to bed at roughly the same time every night and establishes a steady 24 hour cycle, but requires almost no willpower expenditure since you are already awake and it's just a matter of taking a quick pill. Worked for me.

Comment author: Stabilizer 07 March 2013 10:27:56PM 30 points [-]

Don't smoke.

Comment author: AlexSchell 07 March 2013 11:57:36PM 6 points [-]

Also seriously look into regularly using other sources of nicotine unless it's included in your workplace's drug screens.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 08 March 2013 05:51:16AM 41 points [-]

If you feel sad when you shouldn't feel sad consult a medical professional or therapist, they can help.

[Wish I'd realised that a few years ago.]

Comment author: jooyous 08 March 2013 05:56:55AM 17 points [-]

How do I know when I shouldn't feel sad? Also, it's scary. :(

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 07:19:59AM 23 points [-]

The parent post shouldn't have made you sad.

Comment author: therufs 08 March 2013 05:16:38PM 13 points [-]

How do I know when I shouldn't feel sad?

My personal metric has been that it's reasonable to feel sad when there's a specific event (as opposed to a circumstance) to be sad about (death of someone close to me, breakup of a relationship, loss of a job.)

But whether or not you "should" feel sad, professionals can help.

Also, it's scary.

The voice that is telling you that awful things are loitering just outside the edge of your awareness, I call The Jerkbrain.

I can self-report that directly and emphatically addressing it as such (usually "shut up, Jerkbrain!") has had helpful effects including:

  • increased aptitude for dealing with problems in the physical world
  • much less energy wasted dealing with problems that exist only in distant possibility (and maybe not even there.)

I am not my jerkbrain, and you are not yours, either.

Comment author: simplicio 11 March 2013 10:36:02PM 1 point [-]

Yes, I called it the Saboteur.

I think this might be a very helpful piece of advice for non-depressed people. Locating self-defeating thoughts and behaviours "outside" yourself and telling them to take a running jump is a great technique.

Comment author: jooyous 08 March 2013 07:08:10PM 4 points [-]

I guess it would be helpful to have a "normal" range of time in which it's reasonable to feel sad or weird after a death, break-up, etc. Sometimes, it feels like they all pile up.

Comment author: handoflixue 08 March 2013 11:42:29PM 7 points [-]

If it's been more than a year, and it's disruptive to your daily life (trouble enjoying pleasant things, pervasive thoughts, crying spells, difficulty functioning at work, difficulty connecting with new partners, etc.), it's probably worth seeking help.

Heck, if it's been more than 3 months, you'll probably benefit from help.

If you have friends you trust, asking them is probably best, since they'll know how important that particular person was to you.

If you feel like it's "all piling up", that's a sign that you're dealing with more than you know how to cope with. That's exactly when getting someone else to help can be most useful.

Now I just need to convince myself to take my own advice here :(

Comment author: TimS 10 March 2013 03:26:07AM 10 points [-]

I think a functional definition is best. Do your negative thoughts (sadness, depression, anxiety, or suchlike) interfere with your ability to live your life (hold a job, attend social events, etc)? Then talking to a therapist may be helpful.

You wouldn't be ashamed to visit a doctor for advice on how to deal with a nagging cough - emotions that impose a similar level of difficulty can be improved with expert attention.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 February 2015 12:07:14PM 2 points [-]

I seriously don't understand this. E.g. in post-Soviet Eastern Europe lot, really a lot of people go through life functionally in the sense of being able to hold down a job, stay in a marriage, raise kids, while being wholly joyless / anhedonic and just doing it from a sense of duty. And coping via drinking etc.

Are you talking from the viewpoint of a culture where people refuse to do things they don't enjoy and thus their anhedonia becomes visibly dysfunctional?

For example, social events aren't "mandatory" in the sense job/family are (in the sense of your parents probably did not drill it into you that you must do these to be allowed to not feel worthless about yourself), they are mostly for fun, so it is difficult to say what it does with functionality if we do not link functionality with joy. Again the people I am talking aboud do not attend to social events, if getting shitface drunk with the neighbor does not count as one.

At any rate I do not yet see a culture-neutral link between anhedonia and dysfunctionality, it seems they are only strongly linked if people define functionality itself as an enjoyable, autonomous life, but when people think they were born to fulfill certain mandatory roles and tasks, they can go through it efficiently while still feeling totally empty inside.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 March 2013 01:48:39AM 12 points [-]

If you find this list describes you well some fair portion of the time (say, more than 20%, though even that sounds like a lot given what I know about people who don't have chronic depression), that's probably a start.

As to it being scary -- yeah, it is. One really important thing to do ahead of time if you decide to seek help is figure out how to make a safe exit if you're uncomfortable, or don't want to continue with a specific provider. Some people find that easy; others find it challenging. Not sure which you are, or how much trouble you have asserting your own boundaries, but it's a very useful skill.

One practical matter of safety here: if you want to walk away from someone and you're worried they might escalate, know that in most cases they can only act without your consent if they believe you pose some specific danger to yourself or others. Think about what you're going through that might be interpreted that way, and be careful before sharing anything like that if you think you might want to stop seeing that provider.

Comment author: juliawise 10 March 2013 02:39:59AM 15 points [-]

figure out how to make a safe exit if you're uncomfortable, or don't want to continue with a specific provider.

Yes. The first therapist I saw was so bad that I called him to cancel after the first visit (though I still didn't have the guts to say it in person). Keep in mind that this is always an option. "I don't think this is a good fit" is a totally acceptable thing to say to a therapist or doctor.

Comment author: bbleeker 09 March 2013 06:06:26PM 3 points [-]

Wow, a lot of things on that list describe me. I'm not even feeling that unhappy... I thought it was just low self-confidence plus some nasty ugh-fields.

Comment author: juliawise 10 March 2013 04:29:20AM 4 points [-]

Regardless, is low self-confidence getting in your way and making your life worse? If so, seeing a therapist might be one way to work on that.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 12 March 2013 01:06:24PM 3 points [-]

Talk to some friends first. Much of what we fret over are problems shared by others, or problems that we have blown out of proportion for ourselves.

Much of depression is trying to live up to a false image of yourself that your friends don't have.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 12 March 2013 09:12:25PM 6 points [-]

Plus, y'know, neurotransmitter deficiencies.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 March 2013 05:05:51PM 3 points [-]

For instance if you are having thoughts of self-harm.

Comment author: ModusPonies 07 March 2013 07:02:45AM 74 points [-]

When in need of a conversation topic, ask a question about the other person's life. Anything about their life. (If I can't think of something else, I ask about weekend plans.) Listen for what part of their answer they're most interested in. Ask followup questions about that thing. Repeat as necessary.

People like to talk about themselves. This cuts awkward silences down to nothing and makes people like you. I've also learned all sorts of fascinating things about my acquaintances.

Comment author: MaryCh 27 March 2017 02:36:48PM *  1 point [-]

My kid has recently decided he's into meteorology. First, he just walked around with scribblings of "+5, -11" and hummed a weather forecast theme. This got boring for everybody else, so we explained to him that 'weather' happens in some places, and people watch it for explicit purposes of deciding some matters, not for sheer cuteness. (I don't think he believed me on that one.)

So now we make 'forecasts' - several for Ukraine (first the video, then the sound, for 25 cities or for north-south-center-west-east), Earth ('Australiaaa... thirty-six degrees... kangoroo can live'), and space in general (with fictional planets, although he ordered a Solar system, too). The upcoming one is going to be for mammoths (I'm thinking Eurasia + North America).

This lets us work on reading, writing, reciting (short messages; he doesn't like learning poetry by heart), painting and building things from cardboard, finding places on the globe. Although my husband groans about having to edit the end product (without delay).

Comment author: sumguysr 27 February 2015 02:21:42AM 3 points [-]

If you routinely lose things behind the same piece of furniture either move it closer to the wall or block that space, or move it further from the wall to make retrieval easier.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 09 January 2015 02:42:04AM 3 points [-]

Invest at least 10% of your after-tax income, each month, in a Vanguard index fund. Do not buy individual stocks, nor any actively managed index fund, nor any fund with an expense ratio over 0.5%. If you absolutely must pick stocks, and I admit that I am not blind to the attraction, use a fee-free broker such as Loyal3, and don't count this towards your 10% - use play money for active investing.

If you are looking at your latest paycheck and finding it hard to see where you're going to cut to be able to put 10% into investments, precommit now to starting this program after your next income increase; also, start with 1% instead. If you cannot free up even 1% of your income, you have a major problem, which you need to fix. (Incidentally, if you can do 20%, do that.)

If your employer has a 401K match, for the love of all that's holy, contribute enough to max out the match! That's free money, that is!

If you have several old 401Ks, roll them over into an IRA with Vanguard. It'll be easier to keep track of your money, you'll likely pay lower fees, and IRA money is more accessible than 401K money.

Maintain a savings account with at least three months' expenses in it; six is better; twelve is probably too much - at that point you're losing more in growth than you're gaining from being able to ride out a job loss. But people do differ in how they feel about risk; by all means make it twelve if you'd be happier that way.

If you have recurring credit-card debt (not paid off at the end of each period), pay that down before starting on investing. And for dog's sake do so right now, that stuff is poison. Consider Lending Club or other peer-to-peer lending services, it is fairly likely that you can get a better rate than your credit card gives you.

Comment author: taryneast 06 January 2015 10:41:33PM *  4 points [-]

Budget some money each month towards substantially improving your life.

Look for the best, lowest hanging fruit (ie objects, classes and experiences that will have the most impact per dollar spent)

Ask others to recommend things - so you don't just think of the things you already know about.

Note: I've set up a page to collect these ideas here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/li4/low_hanging_fruit_for_buying_a_better_life/

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 06 March 2014 06:58:41AM 1 point [-]

If you want to live longer, consider reading this post on high-impact ways to lead a healthier lifestyle by RomeoStevens.

Comment author: Donovanable 04 March 2014 07:07:33PM 5 points [-]

After you get a haircut you like, ask your stylist to describe what ey did/what the style is, ideally in the vocabulary of the trade. For instance, my current style includes a face frame, long layers, and some other style words.

Write it down, stick the note in your wallet, forget about it until the next haircut. You get the benefit of repeating instructions as they would be described from one hairstylist to another and are less likely to fall victim to terrible cuts or the poor memory of your regular stylist.

As someone who is less productive with a bad haircut (I have to pin unruly lengths out of my eyes, etc), this has saved me time and confusion.

Comment author: MaximumLiberty 29 October 2014 09:59:17PM 3 points [-]

After you get a haircut you like, get a friend to take a picture of you from all four sides (and top, I suppose) with your phone. In future haircuts, show it to the stylist.

Comment author: Error 20 January 2014 04:21:46PM 3 points [-]

(By request)

Shower-drying optimization:

Leave the bathroom door open and the shower curtain partway pulled so humidity doesn't collect in the room. Have an oversized bath sheet in reach (you can get good ones at Costco). When you're done showering, towel-dry hair, then the rest of you, then comb your hair so it doesn't stick. Without humidity in the room, you don't keep sweating so you don't feel clammy. You can get dressed immediately if you're pressed for time. If you're like me and hate putting dry clothes on damp skin, find something you can do for ~15 minutes while you air-dry the rest of the way (making/eating breakfast is good for this, since you probably have to do it anyway).

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 14 December 2013 10:58:47PM *  1 point [-]

Reduce routine shopping time by

  • Make a list of items you shop all the time

  • Shop at a fixed schedule e.g. every tuesday, every 4 weeks, every first tuesday of the week.

  • Shop the items in a fixed order (possibly matched on you list). Note: Most stores change the order almost never and the order is part of the customer retention program, so you should be aware that this will bind you to the store.

  • Choose a weekday and time where the supermarket is mostly empty (e.g. in the morning instead of on saturday or in the evening when it may be crowded)

  • Do the shopping together with other persons to batch larger amounts and/or use transporation together (a car)

  • Buy a larger fridge (possibly a large top loading one in the basement (the top loaders are much more engery efficient) to reduce the number of times you have to go shopping.

  • Freeze some food not customarily frozen: bread/buns, butter, cut cold meat (it may affect the taste)

  • Use a a grocery delivery service. But note that it may not save as much time as you think:

    • oportunity time costs for need to be there when the delivery arrives
    • limited availability of frozen goods
    • storing away the purchase also takes some time esp. on large purchases (you do not usually feel this time on small purchases as it gets merged into everyday tasks)
  • You can still buy fresh fruits and vegetables etc. more often e.g. bi-weekly. You can use that time to do fun shopping with a mostly empty basket and unhurried.

Some more context for this can be found in the following scattered comments:

Personal example:

We used to shop every five weeks with a pre-filled checklist for 6 persons. In total about 4-5 shopping carts full (I heard the german carts are relatively small compared to the US ones). It takes 3-4 hours total. Note that this includes >1h to store everything away (e.g. unpacking vegetables, fruits, unpacking boxes, reordering fridge). What remained were short weekly single-shop trips to buy milk, fruits, bread and a few other items.

I'd guess that compared to shopping every two days as my mother used to which took at at least 1h each time (whatever the amount purchased) this probably saves about an 1.5 hours each week.

And it is cool.

Comment author: Rukifellth 04 October 2013 05:17:12PM *  4 points [-]

Read literature with an old writing style, especially if you dislike said writing style. The more opaque and complicated, the better.

I find that I'm a very fidgety reader, unconsciously skipping words, or even whole sentences, skimming over words I don't actually know the meaning of, and failing to connect the context of words that I do know the meaning of with the rest of the narrative or lecture. This I do with both literature and more importantly, when reading science. I've decided to read At The Mountains of Madness and penalize myself for every time I lose track of the narrative, and reward myself for every time I recognize when one sentence adds or contributes to something implied by another sentence earlier on in the paragraph, and so on. Furthermore, I will do this for only literature, and not with learning new scientific concepts, or even old ones that I have already learned. The problem is with reading comprehension, not with understanding concepts, and exercising two skills at once prematurely may cause problems. I hope this will instill genuine patience, so that being careful and observant becomes a natural thing, rather than the uncomfortable thing I wrestle with.

Comment author: Benja 31 August 2013 12:22:01PM *  1 point [-]

You should frequently change your passwords, use strong passwords, and not use the same password for multiple services (only one point of failure where all your passwords get compromised rather than every such service being a point of failure). It's not easy to live up to this in practice, but there are approximations that are much easier:

  • Using a password manager is better than using the same password for lots of services. Clipperz is a web service that does the encryption on your computer (so your passwords never get sent to the server), and can be installed locally. Alternatively, you can use a local application if you're not worried about ever needing your passwords when you don't have access to your computer. I currently try to get by with (a login password) + (passwords for particularly important online services like online banking) + (a password manager password).

  • If you balk at the inconvenience of regularly memorizing randomly-generated passwords, it's better than nothing to come up with memorable phrases and take the first letter of each word to form your password. (Non-boring bonus advice: You can use phrases that remind you of something you want to do each time you log in to your computer, like looking at your todo list. [ETA: Never mind. I've now tried this twice and both times entering the password has become automatic far too quick, stopping almost immediately to serve as a useful reminder.])

Comment author: PECOS-9 06 October 2013 05:25:27PM 0 points [-]

I like the approach of password recipes to have a unique password for each service without needing to memorize very much.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2013 07:15:51PM 1 point [-]

“Furthermore, your unique password should not contain any word in any language.” -- ahem...

Comment author: PECOS-9 06 October 2013 07:57:22PM 1 point [-]

The purpose of that suggestion is to protect against dictionary attacks. Agreed that the advice "should not contain any word in any language" is overly strict (better advice would be "should not simply be one or two words in some language").

Regardless, password recipes are a solution for the problem of coming up with a different password for different services. Even using the technique in the comic to remember phrases like "correct horse battery staple", it would be difficult to remember a different password for dozens of services compared to just remembering a single password recipe.

Comment author: lsparrish 18 October 2013 02:11:04AM 1 point [-]

You can generate a very strong passphrase with Diceware. Physical dice are more secure than almost any electronic device, and dictionary words let you memorize the randomness very efficiently.

This can then be used with KeePass or some other password manager. Also useful for brainwallets and other kinds of data where offline attacks are likely.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 October 2013 04:51:25PM *  1 point [-]

you can use a local application if you're not worried about ever needing your passwords when you don't have access to your computer

... or you can just store your KeePass database in Google Drive.

Comment author: Benja 31 August 2013 12:11:40PM 3 points [-]

As a pedestrian or cyclist, you're not all that easy to see from a car at night, worse if you don't wear white. High-visibility vests (that thing that construction workers wear, yellow or orange with reflective stripes) fix the problem and cost around $7-$8 from Amazon including shipping, or £3 in the UK.

Comment author: peirce 06 July 2013 12:41:58AM 2 points [-]

Make commitment contracts for anything important (works best for long term things). Commitment contracts (beeminder.com stickk.com) have basically solved 90% of motivational problems. The more important something is and the lower the initial expectancy of you actually doing it, the bigger contract you make. for example, if you really need to study for an exam, but you know that in this past you have always intended to study for exams but ended up doing nothing, then put a lot of money on yourself doing it. Be wary if there is ever something important that you do not want to make a commitment contract for, as if you actually expect to do it, then making the contract should pose no problem, as you will be unlikely to lose any money.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 06 July 2013 12:44:57AM 2 points [-]

Good advice, but not boring enough! Beeminder is exciting and shiny!

Comment author: Prismattic 22 May 2013 10:52:09PM *  8 points [-]

I was moved to post this by the fact that numerous LW participants apparently find the preparation and consumption of food to be such a huge imposition that they're willing to try rather radical interventions just to avoid cooking and eating. Assuming that such steps don't appeal, may I suggest some more mundane ones.

Write a weekly meal planner. This eliminates the extra cognitive load of having to think about "what am I going to make for lunch/dinner" on a rolling ad hoc basis. It also makes it more likely that your grocery shopping purchases will actually match your consumption needs.

To the extent possible, parcel the ingredients out by meal in your refrigerator as you stock it. This saves preparation time later.

I can't guarantee it will work for everyone, but I think a typical individual can save themselves both time and stress concentrating meal selection and the early stages of food preparation all at one time per week, rather than repeating the process on a daily basis.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 May 2013 01:07:35AM 1 point [-]

I absolutely endorse this. I don't bother with it anymore because I enjoy spontaneous cooking (and find it soothingly meditative much of the time), but during the first few months after my stroke when cooking (like everything else) was hard work, I found that organizing my food prep for the week (and cooking in large quantities, and sticking to minimal-prep techniques like roasting and crock-potting) saved me much-valued hours.

Comment author: BrienneYudkowsky 13 May 2013 02:38:14AM *  15 points [-]

Learn how to remember people's names.

Of course you're horrible with names. That's because you haven't learned how to learn them. You evolved to know something like 100 names at a time, so your software needs an upgrade if you want to do more than that. Use the mnemonic technique called "linking" or "chaining". This video is cheesy, but it's exactly how I do it.

Calculate the VOI on giving this a try. If you go to conferences very often, or have lots of students, or live in a large city or something, it's probably really useful to you to be able to remember names. Especially given that you can google any name you manage to remember. And consider the psychological effects! A person's name is her favorite word, and knowing it is the password to her attention.

By the way, I'd be very interested to hear from any face blind people who have experimented with this.

ETA: This is also a fantastic party trick I use all the time.

Comment author: Sinal 10 April 2015 06:24:07AM *  2 points [-]

Link for the video doesn't work

Comment author: RomeoStevens 01 May 2013 09:40:09AM 14 points [-]

Whenever you need something for which just buying the popular version on amazon won't work, seek out the enthusiast forum for whatever it is you're trying to buy. They usually have a sticky that will flat out tell you what is considered a great cost/performance item by experts.

Disclaimer: you should not do this if you are the sort of person to fall down the rabbit hole of new enthusiasms.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 01 May 2013 12:22:53AM *  11 points [-]

I just posted this on my Facebook wall and realized it might belong in this thread:

If you think you spend too much time on Facebook but don't know what to do about it, try this: set the password to a long string of characters (say, 50 letters or numbers) which you need to manually copy every time, and log off when you finish your session. The daunting prospect of having to manually enter this information will discourage you from logging in unless you really desire it. I went from checking Facebook a dozen times per day to just one or two times. (Tip courtesy of Piers Steel, The Procrastination Equation.)

Comment author: [deleted] 01 May 2013 06:37:21PM 2 points [-]

LeechBlock has an option to prevent you from accessing the settings until you retype a random 32-, 64-, or 128-character code. I think it's a brilliant idea.

Comment author: James_Miller 11 April 2013 02:13:16AM 2 points [-]

Call your cable company to try to negotiate a better rate.

Comment author: CarlShulman 19 May 2013 06:42:37AM 4 points [-]

Which works better if you a) check out the competition from the phone company to get a competing offer or b) call the "cancel my service line" which is empowered to give extra deals. Here is a random article with some further tips along these lines.

Comment author: Stabilizer 05 April 2013 11:35:13PM *  6 points [-]

Before heading to the gym for a workout, plan out your workout in detail (what exercises, in what order, how many sets, how many reps) and preferably carry a piece of paper with the workout written on it. This leads you to getting more done in less time. But more importantly, this prevents decision fatigue from draining your willpower; and you need willpower in large quantities to finish your workout.

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 March 2013 10:14:15PM *  3 points [-]

If you want to stop taking prescription meds and they're cheap enough, keep buying them and stockpile.

(Source: Burninate)

Comment author: wedrifid 26 March 2013 10:39:03PM 2 points [-]

If you want to stop taking prescription meds and they're cheap enough, keep buying them and stockpile.


Comment author: gwern 26 March 2013 10:59:21PM 9 points [-]

So you can sell them on Silk Road?

Comment author: MixedNuts 27 March 2013 07:58:52AM 5 points [-]

I was thinking in case you need them again, to avoid the cost of convincing a doctor to prescribe them anew, but that too.

Comment author: wallowinmaya 28 March 2013 01:58:17PM 1 point [-]

Or ask for a higher dosage than you need, split the pills in half and stockpile.

Comment author: MixedNuts 28 March 2013 04:42:06PM 2 points [-]

Make sure the pills can be split, if you do that.

Comment author: wallowinmaya 28 March 2013 07:31:36PM -1 points [-]

Every pill can be split. Use your teeth or a knife if necessary ;) In the case of capsules filled with powder the procedure will be a bit more annoying, but still manageable.

Of course, these methods could lead to an increased rate of absorption, so be cautious.

Comment author: MixedNuts 28 March 2013 10:57:27PM 2 points [-]

If a pill isn't designed to be split, it means the manufacturer thinks it's unsafe to split. The manufacturer has expertise you should usually defer to.

In particular, don't split bupropion unless you want a seizure.

Comment author: Mestroyer 23 March 2013 09:49:12AM 9 points [-]

If you're picking out a CPU or graphics card for a custom-built personal computer, ignore basically every number the manufacturer provides to quantify its performance, and go look at some benchmarks. Not because the numbers the manufacturers provide are inaccurate, but because there are so many factors that go into how good hardware is besides the those numbers, that you will never get as accurate an estimate from them as with direct measurement of the performance.

Also, make sure they are compatible with your motherboard.

Comment author: Yossarian 21 March 2013 12:30:57AM 10 points [-]

Give people permission to bug you.

If you commit to doing or following up on something for somebody, tell them to bug you if you don't get back to them about it. You'll feel less stressed about remembering or being obligated to do it because you've shifted at least some of the responsibility to them and given yourself external pressure, which is ultimately more efficient than relying on your own willpower anyway.

Conversely, give yourself permission to bug people, though without judgment. You know how you feel when you have email in your inbox that you know you really ought to get to, but don't? Somebody is feeling that way about your email right now. How helpful would it be if they electronically tapped you on the shoulder as a reminder? More helpful than getting more and more resentful because they've forgotten/don't care/don't consider you valuable enough to bother replying.

Comment author: wmorgan 11 March 2013 10:03:32PM 24 points [-]

Always negotiate on salary, i.e. ask for more than their initial offer. Patrick McKenzie explains why.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 10 March 2013 03:46:22AM 11 points [-]

Meta: Perhaps we should all pre-commit to rewarding people who say boring but true things, in general upvotes and/or social cache goes to people who say interesting things regardless of truth.

Comment author: Mestroyer 12 March 2013 12:52:18AM 6 points [-]

Boring true things tend to be already known, and not as useful as true interesting things.

If it's boring enough, it is a waste of time to say. I think what people in this thread are looking for are true things that are not as interesting as normal, but not really really boring.


Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 March 2013 11:26:05AM 33 points [-]

Never post a web link that requires readers to click on it to find out if they want to click on it.

Comment author: sketerpot 28 March 2013 05:09:00AM 5 points [-]

On that note: middle-click (or Ctrl-click) on links while you're reading to open them in a background tab. Later, glance at the tab to find out if you want to have clicked on it. If the answer is "No, I don't really want to have clicked on that link," just close the tab.

(The downside is that this may lead to tab explosions on web sites like TV Tropes.)

Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 March 2013 11:07:00AM 15 points [-]

Never take gossip at face value.

When you eventually hear the other person's side, don't take that at face value either.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 March 2013 10:51:02AM 12 points [-]

If what you are doing is not working, do something else.

Comment author: CharlesR 09 March 2013 12:42:04AM 3 points [-]

If you type a lot, buy a mechanical keyboard.

Comment author: PECOS-9 12 March 2013 02:01:41AM 3 points [-]

Also, buy one without a number pad so that you can put your mouse in a reasonable location. Normal keyboards are too wide.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 09:15:42PM *  49 points [-]

A major mental change that allowed me to own less things was someone mentioning "treat craigslist as free storage." The idea being that if you ever really need X you can get it fairly easily. But this extends to retail goods as well. I now keep in mind that everything that costs<(.1)(paycheck) is already mine and I only go pick it up if I really, actually, need it.

Comment author: Joshua_Blaine 06 June 2014 09:44:26PM 1 point [-]

This is a nice comment. It's a useful frame of reference and I especially like it because it jives well with the intuitions I've developed since I started studying Economics. And probably my identity as a Neat Person and someone who enjoys experiences over things.

Comment author: lsparrish 08 March 2013 08:30:59PM 25 points [-]

Watch your internal monologue for two patterns: Hero stories where you are in the process of solving problems, and victim stories where you are incapable of solving problems. Attempt to reinterpret victimization stories into as-yet-unresolved heroic stories.

Comment author: lsparrish 08 March 2013 08:25:30PM 15 points [-]

Identify emotionally draining people in your circles and spend less time with them. Alternative: Identify and fix major sources of emotionally draining interactions in people you like to spend time with.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 08 March 2013 06:53:30PM 15 points [-]

A few random tips:

Reminded by the conversation about phone alarm clocks - if you have trouble getting up in the morning, schedule two alarms, one thirty minutes prior to when you want to get up, and the second when you actually want to get up. Set an energy drink or large cup of coffee next to your phone/alarm. When the first alarm goes off, drink the coffee/energy drink, and go back to sleep.

Invest in an automatic soap dispenser for dish soap. http://www.amazon.com/simplehuman-Sensor-Sanitizer-Brushed-13-Ounce/dp/B003JTCAHK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362766673&sr=8-1&keywords=simplehuman+soap+dispenser is what I use; it's refillable, adjustable, and accepts just about anything. (I previously used one of those dispensers with proprietary refills; they were expensive, dispensed too much soap, and when I drilled a hole in the top to refill it, it refused to dispense soap, although that may have been some kind of error on my part.) Makes a small but noticeable difference in the pleasantness of doing dishes.

Invest in good tools, and keep them in good repair; if it's a one-off task, get it used, but get it good. Exceptions - tools which are more work to maintain than they save you (I'm looking at you, paintbrushes); tools which are expected to be destroyed by the work done with them (as the roto-rooter guy put it, in his line of business, all gloves are disposable); and tools you intend to misuse (flathead screwdrivers in my house are disposable tools that get destroyed frequently). If a job seems ridiculously hard - if it takes you two hours to drill a hole in a 2x4 - you're not using the right tools. Get the right tools, or borrow them. (On that note, it should be obvious, but treat borrowed tools with respect and return them promptly.)

Sometimes the right way to do things is the wrong way. I eventually gave up on the concrete saw while cutting out a new basement window and just started smashing things with a sledgehammer. It was easier to repair the excess damage with some new concrete than to do the job right to begin with.

If you have no idea what you're doing, hire somebody who is willing to work with you for a few hours. I'm 10x better at carpentry since I hired a carpenter. (And one of the important things I learned was one I never would have learned on my own - namely, that sometimes the correct solution is to just hammer things in until they fit.)

On a continuation of the previous two, everything really is a nail at some point. Be prepared to use the tools you have. It's not a bias to put the resources at your disposal to their fullest use; it's only a bias to fail to consider acquiring new resources when the situation demands it.

Don't spent $100 to save yourself $10. This should be obvious, but the number of times I've done something like spend an hour trying to save a $.10 plumbing part rather than just destroying it and replacing it...

When getting rid of things, don't consider how you feel about getting rid of it, consider how you feel about not having it anymore. If you don't expect to regret it, don't think so hard about it.

When cleaning house, prioritize getting rid of those things without practical utility first. Even duplicate tools serve a purpose.

If you're one of those people who buys things they intend to resell, first resell what you have. Otherwise you're not being a shrewd businessperson, you're just shopping.

Keep basic maintenance items on hand. Expand your definition of basic. If your kitchen drain falls apart after your hardware store closes, are you going to be able to cook dinner?

Buy a couple sealed 5 gallon jugs of water and store them. Even the least-disaster-prone city can still have broken water mains.

On a preparedness note, if you live anywhere prone to blizzards, keep a stock of medical supplies. Keep more gauze than you think you'd ever need; wound dressings need to be changed frequently. Keep a bottle of iodine on hand as well; a useful all-purpose disinfectant with a decent shelf life (5-10 years).

Invest in a good set of locking pliers/vise grip pliers. These are some of the most useful tools you can keep in your home, and a lot of people don't even know they exist.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 March 2013 02:58:57PM 1 point [-]

How is an automatic soap dispenser better for dish soap than a pump soap dispenser?

I agree that it's better to have soap in a container that you don't have to pick up and open every time you use it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 March 2013 08:35:45PM 12 points [-]

if you have trouble getting up in the morning, schedule two alarms [...]

Also, experiment with going to sleep earlier.

Comment author: therufs 08 March 2013 05:27:42PM 3 points [-]

If you are having trouble finishing tasks on a task list, make a task schedule.

Comment author: therufs 08 March 2013 05:18:58PM 41 points [-]

If you are looking for employment, tell everyone you know. I have gotten 100% of my jobs from friends saying "hey, did you hear about this one".

Comment author: taryneast 05 September 2014 05:28:50AM *  4 points [-]

This includes posting "I'm looking for a job" publically on your facebook page, on linkedin and any other social-networking you may have. Use the magic of the internets to reach out to as many friends-of-friends that you can.

note: don't do this (or only post to friends) if your current employer does not know you are looking elsewhere...

Comment author: Benquo 01 May 2014 07:46:07PM *  1 point [-]

Related: When looking for a job that is different from whatever you're doing now, go on informational interviews. Come up with a list of specific things you are curious about, related to the field - intensity of work, skills used, related jobs, terminology that's unclear to you, advancement opportunities - and ask those questions during the interview.

The point is not to get a job from the person you're talking to, but to search many nodes of your social network. If you decide you do want to work in their field, you should ask, "Whom do you know, who's hiring?" And always, always ask, "whom else do you know that I should talk to?"

Comment author: therufs 01 May 2014 09:49:40PM 1 point [-]

It took me a long time to believe people actually liked to talk about their jobs/companies and were quite happy to refer me to other contacts, but it seems to be true.

Comment author: simplicio 11 March 2013 10:23:06PM 1 point [-]

Yes, this. Even with a good resume you might cold e-mail hundreds of companies and never get a bite. Knowing somebody almost always gets you to interview stage.

Comment author: therufs 17 March 2014 09:00:00PM *  0 points [-]

Extremely belated reply, but for what it may be worth, I didn't actually have contacts at some of the jobs, just friends keeping tabs on some outlets I didn't (for example, neighborhood listserves I wasn't subscribed to, printed postings at businesses I didn't frequent.)

Comment author: tgb 08 March 2013 04:46:52PM 19 points [-]

Get some decent winter clothes if you live in a climate where this is necessary. I can't tell you how many people I know at my college that have been going here for four years, complain about the weather, and don't own anything more than a sweatshirt to keep them warm. If it's windy, a raincoat can go over a fleece-style under layer and makes a huge difference. If it rains or snows, get some boots and maybe some wool socks. A hat and some gloves work wonders, too. Glove liners work nicely as light-weight gloves that can keep your hands warm when either driving or walking places but will get wet quickly if you put your hands in snow. There's no reason to be uncomfortably cold.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 March 2013 02:04:34PM *  5 points [-]

Conversely, sometimes people wear dark-coloured, tight-fitting, full-length clothes and then complain about the heat. I understand why in certain situation someone might not want to wear tank tops or shorts, especially if they (think they) are not very conventionally-attractive, but lighter colours, looser-fitting clothes would still help.

Combining the two, I've meet at least one person who would dress more or less the same way in January and July and complain both about the cold and about the heat.

EDIT: I meant “I understand” in a descriptive way (‘I think I know what's going on in their minds’), not in a normative way (‘ugly people had better please cover their bodies’). Body policing is evil and I'd rather not do that.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 08 March 2013 09:32:07PM 1 point [-]

Look for the clothes somebody who has to work in the absolute worst of that weather buys.

Oilcloth dusters and hats are versatile all-weather gear, and available in tractor supply type stores. Australian cuts are the best I've encountered; since they're designed for airflow, they're appropriate for hot weather, and can be mixed with more typical winter underlayers to provide all-year protection.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 09:08:24PM 17 points [-]

Long johns seem to be something that a lot of people who didn't grow up in the snow never think of. Standing around in freezing weather being cozy is awesome.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 08 March 2013 12:18:20PM *  19 points [-]

Be helpful. I have built a significant network of useful people, and in many cases the relationship started from from me offering to do small favors - as small as helping put away chairs after a lecture - and striking up a conversation.

Addendum: while on occasion I use this technique consciously, there is some concern about seeming transparent (still don't let this stop you, especially with unique opportunities at stake). Best reward yourself for being a helpful guy/gal, make it part of your self image. As your status grows it will be quite natural to offer help to important people (I once got the nerve to offer help to a very rich mayor of a major US city, as I had something to offer. Nothing came of it, but still).

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 08 March 2013 06:37:58AM 21 points [-]

Tips on giving a speech or presentation:

  • Practice your presentation several times out loud (if possible).
  • The first thing you should talk about after introducing yourself and your topic is why the audience should even care about your topic (and don't assume it's obvious).
  • If using a hand-held microphone, hold the microphone near your mouth, not in front of your chest.
  • If you're using a computer for slides or a demo, set it up ahead of time if possible.
Comment author: buybuydandavis 12 March 2013 01:13:11PM 5 points [-]

The first thing you should talk about after introducing yourself and your topic is why the audience should even care about your topic (and don't assume it's obvious).

This applies to posts as well. If you've got a long one, start by giving the reader a clear idea of where you're going and what his payoff will be. Motivate the reader.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 March 2013 10:16:41AM *  13 points [-]

If you're using a computer for slides or a demo, set it up ahead of time if possible.

This. In my experience at least 50% of computer presentations started at least 15 minutes late because of some technical problems. But people always believe that the computers are the same everywhere, therefore nothing could go wrong. (Then they turn on the projector and see only a blue screen. Or the light bulb is burned out. Or a remote control is missing; or a cable. Or the presentation is in PDF and the computer can only run Powerpoint, or the other way round. Or it's a different version of Powerpoint. Or the computer does not recognize the memory stick in the USB port. Or, most importantly, something else.)

Comment author: [deleted] 09 March 2013 10:23:15AM 1 point [-]

Or the presentation is in PDF and the computer can only run Powerpoint

Seriously??? I always save my presentations as PDF in order to be sure that they'll run on whichever computer I'll use -- is that not a reasonable assumption?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 10 March 2013 12:41:16PM 3 points [-]

Depends on how reasonable and computer-literate is the person who prepares the computer. I guess this improves over time; most of my data are like 10 years old. (I met people who didn't know that Internet is not the same thing as Explorer, or that companies other than Microsoft make software too.)

Probably the risk is lower if a person prepares the computer for presentations of many different people; and higher if it is usually for the same three or four people from the same organization. Lower if the organization is computer-related (university teaching computer science, IT company) and higher otherwise.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 08 March 2013 06:12:29AM *  34 points [-]

Obtain a smartphone. It will make your life better. (If you don't have one because you feel like they're overhyped, remember that reversed stupidity is not intelligence.) Here is a list of things I use my smartphone to do, in no particular order:

  • Record things I want my future selves to do in RTM on the go
  • Record sleep data using Sleep Cycle
  • Take notes on conversations using either voice memos or Evernote
  • Record various kinds of things in Workflowy, e.g. exercise data
  • Respond more quickly to emails (people I know have debated the value of doing this, but I get really annoyed when other people take a long time to respond to my emails and don't want to do that)
  • Receive calendar alerts, alarms, and Boomerangs from my past selves that remind me to do things
  • Look things up, e.g. on Wikipedia, on the go (e.g. when I am waiting in line for something)
  • Read academic papers on the go
  • Search my email for important information on the go, e.g. the location of some event or an ID number of some kind
  • Look up directions on the go, e.g. to the location of some event
  • Look up places on Yelp on the go
  • Look up prices and reviews of an item I'm considering buying IRL on Amazon

There is a possibility of wasting large amounts of time playing games which I curtailed early on by refusing to download games except during breaks from school.

Comment author: therufs 08 March 2013 04:37:08PM 8 points [-]

My main objection to smartphone use is that by putting anything you want to pay attention to at your fingertips, it can introduce a certain distance from what is actually going on. I would not advocate, say, spending your 4 hours at the DMV observing your surroundings (that would be a waste of time). But I am concerned that time spent with portable Internet corresponds to ever thicker-walled and less-apparent echo chambers. Is this an issue you have thoughts on?

By way of example, I'm trying to think about the difference between reading a novel on the subway and reading the internets on the subway; the main distinction is that when I'm reading the novel, I'm aware that I'm not actually paying attention to my surroundings.

Comment author: handoflixue 08 March 2013 11:34:24PM 3 points [-]

If I'm interacting with people, I treat it as rude to pull out my phone without asking.

If I'm already not-interacting-with-people, I don't see why it would be any worse than a book. So many other people have smart phones that "socialize while waiting" is dying off regardless of what I do, and a book generally kept people from trying to strike up a conversation anyway.

As to the "not aware I'm not aware"... I've always felt equally towards books and smart phones. Possibly a bit more aware with my smart phone, actually, since dropping it or having it stolen is a much bigger deal.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 08 March 2013 06:25:43PM 2 points [-]

it can introduce a certain distance from what is actually going on.

This is probably true, but I think this is a small negative and is outweighed by the large positives. If you decide you want to pay more attention to your surroundings with a smartphone, you can add an RTM item or use calendar alerts to remind yourself to do that periodically.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 22 March 2013 08:22:52PM 2 points [-]

Indeed, one of the ways in which owning a smartphone has improved my life is by reminding me to do things which I need to do regularly in order to change a trait or habit. For instance, I used to have bad posture, which I corrected after setting A HIT interval timer to vibrate every 10 minutes, and interpreting these vibrations as reminders to improve the way I was standing or sitting.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 March 2013 05:40:05PM 1 point [-]

I infer that when you read the internets, you aren't aware that you aren't paying attention to surroundings.
I have trouble understanding why that is.

Comment author: taelor 13 March 2013 07:56:02AM 8 points [-]

Look things up, e.g. on Wikipedia, on the go (e.g. when I am waiting in line for something)

Upvoted for this. I think possibly the single biggest impact of the existence of smartphones is that in a world where its possible to carry device cappable of accessing Wikipedia in your pocket means that no one ever has an excuse for being ignorant of basic facts about any subject that they had a reasonable amount of time to prepare for.

Another thing: I've found that listening to podcasts while doing mindless, repetative tasks (mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, cleaning) makes the process much, much more enjoyable.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 08 March 2013 03:57:28PM 1 point [-]

The only feature I regularly use on my phone is the alarms. They're absurdly useful. Advanced alarm functionality alone is worth the price of admission.

Comment author: tgb 08 March 2013 04:41:57PM 3 points [-]

What exactly is 'advanced alarm functionality' and how do you recommend using it?

Comment author: OrphanWilde 08 March 2013 06:14:15PM 2 points [-]

I'd hesitate to pin it down to any particular feature set, but the following two features have been very useful to me:

Date-based alarm scheduling - I don't want a feature-heavy calendar application running on my phone, so this has been useful.

Custom text for alarms - Useful for gym reminders; I can plan exercises for each day in advance, rather than deciding what to do in advance. (Again, I stay away from feature-heavy applications. I like lightweight.)

Day-based alarms, and multiple alarms, while trivial features on most smartphone alarm apps, are in fact quite useful, and weren't present in my pre-smartphone phones. I have two alarms set for waking up, for example; the first tells me to down an energy drink (Xenadrine drink mix, supposedly for dieting but my favorite energy drink, or Redline energy drinks, are both awesome for this) or extra-large cup of coffee. Thirty minutes later, when the second alarm wakes me up, I wake up easily and without grogginess. (Alternatively, you can use an alarm application that wakes you up in the ideal part of your sleep cycle. That's a bit... feature-rich for me, however.)

Comment author: [deleted] 08 March 2013 01:17:59PM 7 points [-]

(And having a camera good enough that text in pictures stays legible is sometimes very handy IME.)

Comment author: FiftyTwo 08 March 2013 05:56:52AM 17 points [-]

Google it.

Comment author: Tem42 12 August 2015 12:12:03AM 1 point [-]

And always read multiple results, even if that means having to Google with a different search string.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 08 March 2013 04:01:42AM *  15 points [-]

Whenever you make an investment, try to begin capturing value from it as soon as possible after spending the money/time for it. Converse: if for some reason you cannot begin exploiting an investment until a certain date, delay purchasing it until that date.

(I learned this from playing the board game Agricola, where a common error mode is to use the "Expand House" action early on, but then delay the "Family Growth" action. The former action is an expensive prerequisite of the latter, which is the one that actually benefits your position. The smart move is to do Family Growth ASAP after Expand House.)

Comment author: kpreid 09 March 2013 02:43:22AM 4 points [-]

if for some reason you cannot begin exploiting an investment until a certain date, delay purchasing it until that date.

Note that this applies to entertainment and hobby purchases. Put the stuff on a wish list and let it sit, until you know you (will) have the spare time to enjoy it.

Comment author: Error 11 March 2013 07:59:12PM 1 point [-]

Catch: Some entertainment items aren't available at a later date. For example, certain video games. (I'm looking at you, Atlus.)

Still good advice, just take into account future availability -- especially if you care about having it new and not used.

Comment author: kpreid 12 March 2013 02:55:03AM *  3 points [-]

Some entertainment items aren't available at a later date.

Oh, good point. One natural (not artificially limited) case of this is: other players, and public servers, for online multiplayer games.

Comment author: Error 12 March 2013 11:30:03AM 3 points [-]

That's actually a much better example than mine. Journey, for example, is fantastic, but a large part of what makes it so will be lost when the playerbase shrinks and/or the servers shut down.

Comment author: Decius 08 March 2013 01:10:48AM 2 points [-]

Don't use 'dimmable' LED lights.

Comment author: handoflixue 08 March 2013 01:29:26AM 4 points [-]


Comment author: Decius 08 March 2013 04:49:33AM 6 points [-]

The mechanism of dimming is to strobe. Professionals claim that it is imperceptible, and it indeed can't be noticed consciously. However, it becomes painfully obvious when looking at a moving object.

Get a bulb of the appropriate brightness and use it.

Comment author: latanius 08 March 2013 12:57:30AM 43 points [-]

If you are trying to do X, surround yourself with people who are also doing X. Takes much less willpower to keep doing it.

Comment author: beoShaffer 08 March 2013 01:12:33AM 32 points [-]

On a related note make sure that they are people who are actively doing X, or at least making credible progress towards it not just professing a desire to X. This is an easy mistake to make.

Comment author: sanddbox 27 May 2013 06:55:05AM 6 points [-]

Doesn't this, to a large extent, describe LW?