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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 (559)

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: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 06:05:05AM 0 points [-]

Not sure if I understand the difference. Doing your own research is another kind of asking (e.g. asking the internet). Do you mean asking a domain expert?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 07 March 2013 07:02:21AM 20 points [-]

Sometimes people are willing to spend hours privately researching something — in an intellectually unrewarding and tiring state of incomprehension — when by simply asking an appropriate friend, coworker, or forum they could get a clear and explanatory answer that would much better serve their needs. Scholarship is a virtue, but wasting time and energy is not.

In technical workplaces, this is especially a problem when people think they shouldn't ask for help, out of fear of admitting ignorance. Some folks will spend hours struggling with bad, inadequate, incorrect documentation and beating themselves up over it, for the sake of avoiding admitting to their coworker that they're not quite sure what the third argument to that function is supposed to be.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 March 2013 07:31:08AM 2 points [-]

Any suggestions for best forums for questions that don't have obvious places to ask? I've been happy with ask.metafilter.com, but I haven't used it lately.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 07 March 2013 07:53:14AM 0 points [-]

Reddit has a number of these, e.g. /r/askscience for general science explanations, /r/answers for "everything you ever wanted to know about anything but were afraid to ask." There are other specific Q&A subreddits for history, social science, and estimation of unusual quantities.

Comment author: ChristianKl 07 March 2013 10:56:44PM 2 points [-]

If your answer fits any of the categories of Stackexchange that's usually a good place for a question.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 07 March 2013 09:16:11AM 1 point [-]

In technical workplaces, this is especially a problem when people think they shouldn't ask for help, out of fear of admitting ignorance.

This is probably the biggest waste of time in tech. Who knows what isn't identified and properly leveraged. People are punished for saving time by seeking direction of those who know better (they don't know their jobs), and those who know better aren't rewarded for the work they save others.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 March 2013 09:06:00PM 7 points [-]

On the other hand, you also have the problem of people who will ask questions that could be answered in a 1-minute Google search or by reading the documentation, thus breaking the flow of the senior programmer and wasting 30 minutes of their time.

It does go both ways.

My personal policy is to spend 5-10 minutes searching if I'd be interrupting someone's concentration.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 March 2013 11:46:30AM *  6 points [-]

Usually the best way to find out answers to questions is to do a single google search. If present the search result that includes the domain "wikipeida.org" usually gives decent answers quickly.

The parent would be greatly improved by replacing the 'usually' with a more representative frequency ("sometimes") or including a qualifier.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 07 March 2013 04:14:42PM 3 points [-]

You're right - and I think this is a common failure mode of the population at large, but my most common failure mode is not finding something in a quick google search then failing to just ask someone else who probably knows while either wasting too much time searching or giving up. At the risk of the typical mind fallacy, perhaps this is the most common failure mode of the average LW member as well. If the grandparent could somehow be changed to target people like me better, I think that would improve it the most.

Comment author: Elithrion 07 March 2013 07:02:23PM 1 point [-]

Okay, well, edited it to be a lot more specific at the cost of punchiness, which I suppose was pretty much the point.

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 07 March 2013 06:18:18AM *  8 points [-]

Very insightful. Not boring at all.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 06:23:54AM 31 points [-]

Too insightful! Not boring enough!

Comment author: twanvl 07 March 2013 11:42:59PM 13 points [-]

the best way to not do it.

This sounds too punchliney. What do you actually mean? What part of not doing it needs figuring out? How to avoid it? What to do instead? Something else entirely?

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 08 March 2013 02:10:47AM 1 point [-]

The best way not to do something is to do the best thing you could be doing instead in the best way.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 March 2013 04:11:42AM 17 points [-]

How to avoid it at minimal cost, retrieve the resources spent on preparing to do it, get some of the (refactored) results you wanted out of it, and update on the information that you're not going to do it to avoid being in situations where you're supposed to do equivalent things later.

Comment author: jsalvatier 08 March 2013 12:09:36AM 5 points [-]

Intriguing! Do you have any concrete examples? I'm having a hard time visualizing any.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 March 2013 04:10:16AM 28 points [-]

From today:

"Yeah, I'm not gonna get around to making those cookies today. I will put the butter back in the freezer, instead of leaving it out on the off chance I change my mind."

Basically, don't be poised to do things when poising takes resources and you won't do the things.

Comment author: Dorikka 08 March 2013 05:02:27AM 10 points [-]

Basically, don't be poised to do things when poising takes resources and you won't do the things.

I much prefer this version to its grandparent.

Comment author: lsparrish 07 March 2013 06:01:08AM *  5 points [-]

You can get soluble fiber (for example, dextrin, which is long indigestible chains of glucose) from the store. So if you aren't eating enough fiber due to how inconvenient vegetables are, you can start with this. It will make you thirstier, less hungry, and more regular. It also seems to improve blood sugar levels. The popular brand for dextrin is Benefiber, however I have only tried WinCo's version, Qualifiber. I paid $5 for 38 servings of 3.5 grams, which are 1/3 a daily supply at full strength.

Note: Fiber intake should be increased gradually, and with plenty of water.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:18:02AM 11 points [-]

AFAIK, the evidence that fiber is good for you independent of increased fruit and vegetable intake is poor.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:42:05PM 3 points [-]

Whether or not it's good for me in and of itself, adding fiber to my protein shakes eliminated the desire to snack. Although it definitely decreased my desire to consume the protein shakes, as well... I'm currently rewarding myself with a cigarette each time I drink one to try to train myself.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 08:40:21PM 2 points [-]

ah I hadn't taken satiety into consideration. It is indeed useful for this, and there doesn't seem to be any detrimental health effects.

Comment author: ciphergoth 07 March 2013 06:07:45AM 14 points [-]

Wash your hands before every meal.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 03:48:08PM *  1 point [-]

Except when they come in direct contact with the food, isn't washing hands after going to the bathroom and before cooking enough?

Comment author: Elithrion 07 March 2013 07:33:22PM 5 points [-]

It's probably better to just wash them anyway so you don't have to plan out whether you'll be touching bread and fruits or not.

Comment author: ChristianKl 07 March 2013 10:45:34PM 1 point [-]

For what reason? Which concrete benefit do I get from following that advice?

Comment author: Xachariah 08 March 2013 01:04:07AM 12 points [-]

In a study of children in schools, setting up a 'handwashing event' 4x per day cut sick days in half. Another controlled study on hand sanitizer showed a 20% decrease in sick days.

Here's a replication on sanitizer showing 20% reduction in illness rate for college students.
http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/Sept03/090203/75n-0183h-c000075-att-14-vol154.pdf

Here's one in Pakistan where incidence of Pneumonia and Diarrhea in children were cut in half.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16023513

Here's one in China where intensive handwashing programs for child schools cut sickness by ~40%. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17556631

The short of it is 20% to 50% fewer contagious sicknesses, depending on your current habits (assuming what holds true for children or college students holds true for you).

Comment author: Stabilizer 07 March 2013 06:20:59AM 30 points [-]

Don't beat yourself up.

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: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 10:49:01AM 12 points [-]

My upvote goes mostly to the "set an alarm on your phone" part. So boring; so useful!

Comment author: aelephant 07 March 2013 01:33:59PM 15 points [-]

I can confirm this. I set alarms for the most ridiculous things -- eg, "Umbrella" 5 minutes before I leave the office so I don't forget it.

Comment author: brilee 07 March 2013 08:53:20PM 2 points [-]

Set double layers of alarms. I've turned off the first one and slept another two hours, way too many times!

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 01:01:00AM 17 points [-]

Get in the habit of not turning off alarms unless you're doing the thing you're supposed to do. This sounds impossible for some people I know. I used to be one of those people that would set 10 snoozes. But simply doing what the alarm says immediately IS a trainable skill. Every time you set the snooze you're reinforcing setting the snooze.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 08 March 2013 01:48:10AM *  6 points [-]

Yes! For example, if you have trouble getting up when you hear an alarm, you can repeatedly practice lying in bed and setting your alarm for one minute from now, then immediately getting up when you hear it.

Comment author: Crux 07 March 2013 06:33:11AM *  4 points [-]

If you have trouble getting into an exercise routine, try this. Join a gym, and go every single day and do the same exact thing every time. For a lot of people, doing something every day is a lot easier than coming up with a schedule that changes depending on the day, especially if one of the changes is 'do nothing on Sunday' (recipe for doing nothing on Monday too, and then forgetting about the whole thing).

What I do is this. I wake up to my alarm, and then I immediately go eat a light breakfast, and then head to the gym. Once at the gym I stretch for like 5 mins, run on the treadmill for 5-10 mins, do a couple sets of military press or something, and then go to the sauna. Hits all the major pieces. Flexibility, cardio, lymph movement, resistance training, sweating, etc. Once I finish at the sauna, I take a shower, put on fresh clothes, and then start my day. I essentially use the gym as my 'morning routine'. I'm not ready for anything until I put on fresh clothes after my (quick) workout.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:21:51AM 7 points [-]

As per user Wedrifid you can try sucking on a nicotine lozenge while you do the exercise.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 07 March 2013 04:18:47PM 4 points [-]

This honestly made me smile in a "man do I love LW" sort of way.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:40:22PM 1 point [-]

I started that this month, actually. I don't know if it's because I'm excited about the experiment, or because the experiment is working, or just plain placebo, but I'm a lot more revved up to go work out.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 11:04:00AM 1 point [-]

Even if you exercise at home, do the same exact thing every time. (Deciding what exercise you want to make, and how much you want to make, already consumes willpower.)

Comment author: PECOS-9 07 March 2013 06:36:33AM *  11 points [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 07:52:00AM *  2 points [-]

Using antimicrobial mouthrinse is more efficacious.

"... in combination with toothbrushing, daily use of the tested mouthrinses may result in a higher interproximal plaque reduction than daily flossing."

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 08:06:41AM 1 point [-]

this is contentious AFAIK, and flossing has more benefits than plaque reduction. It's better than nothing though.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 March 2013 11:48:25AM 3 points [-]

"Floss, brush and use an antimicrobial mouthwash".

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:39:15PM 13 points [-]

For those who hate flossing, consider investing in a waterpik or similar product. My breath went from persistently horrible to perpetually pleasant when I started using one.

Comment author: Crux 07 March 2013 06:40:01AM *  12 points [-]

I used to forget to brush my teeth a lot, or even when I'd remember I'd shrug it off out of some sort of extreme level of laziness. Here's how I fixed it: I put my toothbrush in my shower. I brush my teeth in the shower. Saves time, makes it easier to remember, and it's less boring since I'm multitasking.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 08:04:23AM 5 points [-]

Shaving in the shower is useful for me as well.

Comment author: jsalvatier 08 March 2013 12:12:40AM 4 points [-]

Plus you get to spend more time in the shower!

Comment author: tadrinth 08 March 2013 05:20:33AM 0 points [-]

I finally started brushing regularly when I finally tried an electric toothbrush and began brushing immediately after I showered at night.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 06:41:50AM 7 points [-]

Start saving extra money while you are young.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:16:44AM *  13 points [-]

I disagree with this one if you mean in the sense that "compound interest will make you rich!" meme. If you mean in terms of having emergency funds and or saving for shorter term freedom (being able to quit your 9-5 temporarily if an opportunity you want to pursue comes up) I agree.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 10:46:43AM *  16 points [-]

Maybe the saved money itself during youth is not as important as starting a good habit. Then when you start making decent money, you already have a habit of saving them, and you are already familiar with how it works (you don't have an "ugh" field about money and saving).

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 10:56:05AM 7 points [-]

strongly agree. I get a lot of mileage out of the rule of thumb "keep your lifestyle expenses a pay raise or two behind you."

Comment author: MileyCyrus 07 March 2013 02:36:47PM 1 point [-]

What's the problem with the "compound interest will make you rich" meme? Is it inflation?

Comment author: tut 07 March 2013 03:29:51PM 5 points [-]

Mostly that life is too short and interest too low for that to really happen before you die.

Comment author: Swimmy 07 March 2013 06:27:34PM 9 points [-]

Compound interest gains most of its power when large amounts have been saved. So if you don't make much money, compound interest simply won't make you rich, you won't be able to save enough (though you can still have a decent retirement). If you make a lot, it doesn't matter as much anyway. If you're middle class and willing to save half your income, then it might make you rich, but that is a painful 30-40 years. Explore the graphs and savings calculator here for examples of what you would need to do to have a million by 60.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 01:02:24PM 5 points [-]

I have seen people argue for the reverse, on the grounds that the money you'll save while in your n-th job (for small n at least) will likely be negligible compared to the money you'll make when in your (n + 1)-th (or is it (n + 1)-st?) job.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 05:30:20PM 4 points [-]

This worked for me before I was 30; later my income stopped raising quickly. I admit this could be because I made a few stupid choices. But I think that for most people their incomes stop raising rapidly at some age.

Is there a rule of thumb which would work well for both situations? For example "always save x% of what you made N years ago"? ... Oops, that is exactly the opposite of what this article suggests. A smart seeming advice, which no one would ever use in their real life.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 March 2013 09:18:10AM 0 points [-]

I had taken “young” in Trevor_Blake's comment to mean “in your twenties”.

Comment author: Crux 07 March 2013 06:45:41AM *  13 points [-]

If you're trying to learn a foreign language, get a channel in that language and leave it on in the background, occasionally sitting down to watch for a few mins, for example while eating breakfast. Do this for a year. Improvement doesn't always have to take effort.

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: Desrtopa 07 March 2013 03:08:43PM 11 points [-]

I think the usefulness of this advice depends on the person receiving it. For some people, this translates to

"If you can muster up even a little excuse not to go to work, don't go."

Comment author: Decius 08 March 2013 12:25:36AM 1 point [-]

If they are adult about whether they would rather attend work reliably and receive the benefits which do accrue or not, it remains good advice even if they discount future paychecks more than skiving today.

Granted, that group has some confusing personal issues and probably inconsistent values.

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: Elithrion 07 March 2013 07:17:24PM 19 points [-]

Although it should be noted that while this is usually a good idea, it doesn't work on everyone and you should notice if your conversation partner doesn't seem very enthusiastic about talking about themselves. (Yes, I do mean myself - not a big fan of vacuously discussing what I'm up to, most of the time.)

Comment author: jsalvatier 08 March 2013 12:05:20AM 9 points [-]

Do you have more examples of specific questions you like to ask? I've been trying to figure out a good way to get people to talk about the people in their lives (friends, family etc.), just cause I usually like to hear people talk about that.

Simple things I've asked are:

  • Do you have family around here?
  • Do you have siblings?
  • Do you have roommates?

    But I'd like to figure out how to get people to tell me stories and descriptions of the people in their life.

Comment author: ModusPonies 08 March 2013 01:48:47AM *  10 points [-]

EDIT: I just now realized that your comment above is a great example of the sort of follow-up questions I'm talking about. Well played.

Examples from the past week:

  • Started with the "how was your week" thing. The guy had been on an MIT board discussing their strategy for building MOOCs, and I got to hear a lot about business models in education and how that's changing with technology.
  • Him: "I'll be leaving early tomorrow." Me: "Where are you going to be?" Well, he's helping his son move, and also trying to deal with the previous landlord because apparently his grandkids damaged the walls, and there's all sorts of drama around that...
  • I overheard someone talking about hockey. I know absolutely nothing about the sport, so I asked some extremely basic question, I can't recall what. I learned a little about the structure of the game, and then a lot about how stricter enforcement of the rules in recent decades has changed the dominant playstyles.
  • Right now, in my IRC window, I am hearing about changes to World of Warcraft in the ~5 years since I've played after asking about a cryptic comment someone made about downloading a patch.

As you can see, this is at best an imperfect tool for getting a specific type of story. The core of the technique is that I don't have anything in mind when I start, and I'm not steering towards any particular topic.

I haven't tried to get stories like the ones you're looking for, but I've found that being direct is usually a good approach. Maybe just go with "so who are the important people in your life?"

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:23:27AM *  35 points [-]

Learn to cook at least a handful of simple, cheap, fast meals. This will have more effect on your resolutions to "eat healthy" than temporary spurts of mega-motivation.

(also recognizing that spurts of motivation are temporary in general, do not rely on them for lasting change)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 10:42:14AM *  9 points [-]

Also make a list of those recipes (including ingredients) and store it somewhere in the kitchen.

When you catch yourself repeating the same three recipes over again, just look at the list for a new-old inspiration. Do it before you go shopping, so you can immediately buy the necessary ingredients. (If you go shopping on your way home from job, maybe you should put the list online so you can read it before leaving your job.)

Comment author: Error 07 March 2013 03:10:05PM 9 points [-]

Related: Shop with a list. Do not buy anything not on the list. If possible, do not put anything on the list that doesn't require cooking to eat.

(not having anything snackable on hand is a great way to ensure that you only eat when you actually need to. Most people won't go out of their way to cook just to satisfy the "hrm, I'm bored, let's eat something" impulse.)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 05:17:54PM 12 points [-]

If possible, do not put anything on the list that doesn't require cooking to eat.

Exception: vegetables.

not having anything snackable on hand is a great way to ensure that you only eat when you actually need to.

Preparing a snackable version of vegetables (e.g. clean a few carrots, cut them to small pieces, and put them into the bowl) and putting it next to your computer could be an easy way to make yourself eat more vegetables.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 March 2013 06:33:48PM 1 point [-]

Does it generally make sense to cook one meal at a time rather than making a larger batch?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 08:46:47PM 3 points [-]

the time savings from batch cooking do add up surprisingly quickly, especially when you include cleanup.

Comment author: Error 07 March 2013 09:32:19PM 1 point [-]

Not if the idea is to deliberately introduce trivial inconveniences.

Comment author: Kindly 07 March 2013 11:11:54PM *  5 points [-]

If possible, do not put anything on the list that doesn't require cooking to eat.

In my exprience, following this advice leads to me skipping approximately every fourth meal.

Edit: to my detriment.

Comment author: Decius 08 March 2013 12:16:04AM 4 points [-]

Converge what you enjoy eating with what you can cook.

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: 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: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 07:43:13AM 4 points [-]

Supplementing potassium has a large effect on mental performance for some people, it's cheap and easy enough to be quite worth trying. Personally I add a few grams of KCl (nusalt) to a drink.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 March 2013 10:26:08AM 1 point [-]

Is there any reason to not take potassium in capsules?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 10:57:26AM 4 points [-]

potassium capsules come in a maximum size of 99mg due to federal law.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 07 March 2013 01:06:52PM 6 points [-]

What is the actual evidence for this? I've only heard gwern say that Kevin said it was good. Google thinks it's for everything but mental performance.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 05:26:57PM 2 points [-]

You'll find various anecdotes from other LWers by googling "potassium lesswrong." I've heard something to the effect that AnnaSalamon is essentially a different person on potassium.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:36:11PM -1 points [-]

Note: Potassium supplements can be next-to-impossible to find. Seriously, I've tried. In three different states. The internet is your friend.

Also note: Potassium is fat-soluble (which means, among other things, your body does a -terrible- job of regulating its intake, unlike most other vitamins which will pass through your digestive system unabsorbed if you already have sufficient levels), and dangerous to overdose on. There are treatments if it's caught - essentially, rat poison - but they're not particularly pleasant. Be very careful with the stuff.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 08:44:59PM 3 points [-]

huh? "for a person with normal kidney function and normal elimination (see above), hyperkalemia by potassium intake would be seen only with large infusions of KCl"

From looking around it seems the RDA is 4800mg and the average person gets about half that from diet. I agree one shouldn't be supplementing 5 grams a day, but 1-2 grams (~2-4 grams KCL) seems well well within safety tolerance.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 09:36:41PM *  0 points [-]

For one-time doses, yes, otherwise salmon would be regarded as toxic. For continual dosage, not so much.

The kidneys can excrete potassium. The liver can process alcohol. That's not to say it's wise to consume large amounts of either; and long-term potassium exposure has been associated with reduced kidney function (note: the evidence definitely suggests renal failure causes high potassium exposure; AFAIK the reverse causation is largely theoretical at this point). Also note that kidney function can be impaired just by not drinking enough water.

I'm not saying don't take it. Although 1-2 grams a day is pushing it -well- into the "You should consult a doctor before doing this" category. I'm saying be really careful when you take it. It's not something somebody should do without research. The issue with supplements is that they don't replace anything you eat. And when somebody does something silly like eat six pounds of salmon in a day, with your supplement level, they're at risk of harming themselves.

[Edit: In point of fact, your post reminded me to order some potassium, which I've been meaning to do but haven't gotten around to. I would just prefer a disclaimer on there about being careful with it.]

Comment author: AlexSchell 07 March 2013 11:36:20PM 1 point [-]

Can you cite any sources for these concerns? From what I can tell the hypothesis that potassium intake around the RDA will cause renal damage in the long term doesn't have much evidence to single it out for worry.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 12:43:37AM 3 points [-]

Everything I see in a quick search on google scholar says that healthy adults excrete extra and there is no established upper limit, this implies the upper limit is far enough away that almost no one ever hits it.

One data point: One banana contains 400+ mg of potassium and no one has had potassium related issues on a 30 bananas a day (12,000mg) diet.

Comment author: handoflixue 08 March 2013 01:43:59AM 1 point [-]

no one has had potassium related issues on a 30 bananas a day (12,000mg) diet.

If I eat 1 banana per day, every day, I will get horrible leg cramps within a week. I really like bananas, so I've spent a lot of time testing this, although it's hardly a double-blind high-sample-size study.

Comment author: AlexSchell 08 March 2013 03:00:40AM *  2 points [-]

That's surprising. Muscle cramps are a symptom of hypokalemia (low potassium). Hyperkalemia is usually asymptomatic until you have heart beat irregularities. Also, based on the renal excretion of potassium, I would expect it doesn't accumulate much, and it would probably reach equilibrium in much less than a week, in a person with normal kidney function.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 08 March 2013 03:17:32AM 0 points [-]

To determine whether the problem with bananas is potassium, try other sources, eg, eat a potato every day. or KCl.

Comment author: Caerbannog 07 March 2013 10:16:59PM 8 points [-]

I think it's possible you're conflating potassium (element symbol K) with vitamin K. Vitamin K and warfarin (rat poison) are antagonists. Potassium (as chloride) is quite soluble in water, is prevalent in blood, and is primarily regulated by the kidneys.

Comment author: AlexSchell 07 March 2013 11:47:59PM *  3 points [-]

Everything in the second paragraph (except hyperkalemia being dangerous) rings false to me. Potassium ions are water-soluble, vitamin levels are regulated mostly by modulating excretion rather than absorption (pretty sure), and nothing rat-poison-like (warfarin?) is commonly used to treat hyperkalemia.

ETA: Caerbannog has a very plausible hypothesis that you're confusing vitamin K for potassium. If so you should retract your posts on the topic.

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: RomeoStevens 07 March 2013 08:02:14AM *  49 points [-]

Spend more money/time on optimizing boring things you use a lot:
Shoes
socks/underwear
Mattress
Tailored clothes
Hygiene products that work well for you
Kitchen accessories (part of the reason you don't cook healthy meals for yourself might be because your kitchen work flow sucks)
Ergonomic setup at computer

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 10:59:11AM 25 points [-]

socks/underwear

Find what is best for you, and buy a lot of them. Then you can ignore this topic for a long time.

If you buy more identical pairs of socks, if some of them get destroyed, you can make pairs of the remaining ones. On the other hand, if you buy similar pairs, you will waste a lot of time sorting them.

Mattress

...and a pillow (or two). Try different sizes and shapes.

Kitchen accessories

For example a cutting board should be large and easy to wash. An increased size can make cutting much easier.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 07 March 2013 12:59:19PM 9 points [-]

If you buy more identical pairs of socks, if some of them get destroyed, you can make pairs of the remaining ones. On the other hand, if you buy similar pairs, you will waste a lot of time sorting them.

I recently had a sock cull, in which I got rid of every sock that couldn't immediately be visually matched with one of its fellows. I must've reduced the total number of socks I have by about two thirds, but the overall availability of matched socks is now much higher.

Comment author: Error 07 March 2013 03:14:02PM *  7 points [-]

socks/underwear

Find what is best for you, and buy a lot of them. Then you can ignore this topic for a long time.

I have tried this with pants, because I have trouble finding comfortable ones. Unfortunately by the time I have a pair of pants that I'm sure are comfortable and I'm ready to buy five more of them, nobody stocks the same model anymore.

Comment author: byrnema 07 March 2013 03:30:56PM 1 point [-]

In this case, they might be found inexpensively on Ebay.

I know exactly what shoes I like to wear to work, and I buy a couple pairs on Ebay whenever one of the colors (brown, blue, black) wears out. It's up to you, if you're willing to wear used shoes (you can also buy them new) but the pair I'm wearing look brand new and cost 1/20th the department store price.

I also buy identical pairs of socks in bulk. When they did stop selling the brand I liked, I got rid of all the old type knowing how much trouble it is to match different brands of the same colored socks.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 March 2013 05:12:12PM 4 points [-]

I am lucky to have many pairs of identical socks which have their sizes written on the bottom side. Nobody sees the bottom sides of my socks, but it is so easy to look there when sorting them. So they don't get mixed with the older socks of the same color.

If in the future I don't have the same luck, maybe I could just make some marks on the bottom sides. For example one small colored dot, using a washing-resistant color. The most work would be finding that color. But marking the already sorted socks, that would be a question of a few seconds.

Comment author: byrnema 07 March 2013 05:50:26PM 3 points [-]

That's an excellent alternative to throwing out perfectly good socks. This is something I can immediately apply to the socks of my children, since the issue there is that they're necessarily white-but-different-sizes (and it's difficult for me to tell just by looking at them whether they're 'little' or 'medium-little'.)

Comment author: Will_Newsome 07 March 2013 07:12:41PM 7 points [-]

(For casual clothing, short (like, no-show) black socks are mostly more fashionable than white socks.)

Comment author: jsalvatier 08 March 2013 12:06:51AM *  3 points [-]

For men, navy or possibly grey are good defaults for non no-show socks.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 05:22:51PM 8 points [-]

Previous LW discussion about ergonomics.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 07 March 2013 09:26:45AM *  29 points [-]

The 80/20 rule is especially true for cleaning. Better to get it 80% clean twice as often than 99% clean half as often.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 01:08:44PM 2 points [-]

Not to mention the fact that getting it 80% clean will take much less that 80/99 of the time it'll take to get it 99% clean.

Comment author: handoflixue 08 March 2013 01:38:38AM 7 points [-]

My understanding of the 80/20 rule was "80% of the work takes 20% of the time", so this seems already covered?

Comment author: [deleted] 08 March 2013 09:18:58AM 1 point [-]

Yes, what was I thinking?

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 01:19:33PM *  2 points [-]

META: There is a good reason to assume that an punchy-sounding piece of advice will be more useful than a boring-sounding piece of advice: all other things being equal, the listener is usually more likely to have already heard the latter than the former. (Of course, “more likely” != “sure”, and also people often do forget advice they've already heard, so it's not like boring advice is always useful; but the tone of this post appears to imply that punchyness and usefulness are not in fact positively correlated.)

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 03:09:47PM *  4 points [-]

Perhaps we should try to convey useful advice in punchy ways to make them more memorable, and to encourage people to spread them. Aphorisms are probably very popular and widely shared because they convey information which readers likely already know, but which hitherto had never been shared in such a witty, laconic way. Reading an aphorism prompts you to think, "Wow, this is true, and it is so eloquently expressed -- funny how I didn't think of saying it like this." People tend to remember aphorisms better for that reason, and they also tend to share aphorisms more often with their friends, because they want to come across as witty themselves.

Comment author: TimS 07 March 2013 02:33:23PM *  8 points [-]

When starting a business, know your costs. The amount you need to earn (today / this week / this month) to break even is a number you should have essentially memorized. Beware ignoring so-called minor costs or failing to allocate costs to revenue sources.

AKA know your "nut".

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 02:54:27PM *  -2 points [-]
Comment author: falenas108 07 March 2013 03:15:31PM *  6 points [-]

This article doesn't back up what it claims. The evidence:

“The results suggest that recreational swimming can induce significant modifications in some skin biophysical properties related to skin hydration.” This abstract, "Variations of skin biophysical properties after recreational swimming," was published this month as a full paper in Skin Research and Technology.

In this article, Sophie Gardinier et al. describe a study where skin hydration, skin pH, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), skin temperature and sebum casual levels were measured at 0, 4, 24, 48 and 72 hr after the start of the study. The study was repeated a second time but after the subjects had been swimming for 1 hr between the first and second measuring point. During the control period, none of the skin parameters showed any significant variation over time on all body sites that were measured. In contrast, during the swimming period, significant changes were found 1.5 hr after swimming for skin pH (increased) and sebum casual levels (reduced on upper chest but not on the forehead), while TEWL and skin temperature remained unaffected. From the next measuring point (t = 24 hr) onwards, all changes had disappeared.

This might be evidence against long showering, although shower conditions are not pool conditions. There's a difference between being submerged in water and having it fall on you. And that is after an hour and a half, which is far longer than what people consider to be long showers anyway.

But, this is most definitely not evidence against hot showers, or even frequent showers. This is only evidence for harm being done in a single long submersion in water.

Furthermore, if you go to the study they site, the sample size is 9, and they only have female subjects.

They address the chlorine argument:

But how does this scientific backing help a parent in a "shower battle” with their teenagers? First of all, these teenagers argue that their shower water is not chlorinated (true), to which I argue that the water in our city is hard, which increases the irritancy effects of water.

But that only applies to some cities, and the mineral content is still different.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2013 03:17:23PM *  0 points [-]

Thank you for doing the research. Much appreciated. This might be a better link.

Comment author: falenas108 07 March 2013 03:36:10PM -1 points [-]

So, I still don't see a citation to a study in that article. Based on anecdotal evidence, I would agree that hot showers tend to result in drier skin, but it would be good to link to a study, rather than an news article reporting on something.

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: ModusPonies 07 March 2013 03:21:23PM 38 points [-]

If a complete stranger or an acquaintance can do something useful for you, ask. (Politely. At a convenient time. With an appropriate amount of honest flattery.) If they say no, don't press them.

Failure case: make someone else feel important. Success case: get a favor, maybe make a connection.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:40:52PM *  24 points [-]

Always remember to thank them after they agree to help you and again after they've actually helped you, see for reference Ben Franklin effect , the 299th rule of acquisition, and the power of reinforcement.

Comment author: ModusPonies 07 March 2013 08:03:00PM 21 points [-]

A thousand times yes! And since this is a thread for boring, useful advice, I'll include the general version: Thank people who do things for you, whether or not you asked them to do it. It conditions them to help you. Thanking people reliably and sincerely is a powerful tool, and while there's a bit of skill to doing it well, it's more than worth practicing.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 08:27:36PM 1 point [-]

Does anyone know why the rest of my comment isn't showing? There should be links to an article on conditioning, an article on the Ben Franklin effect, and the rules of acquisition.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 March 2013 08:54:18PM 0 points [-]

I don't know, but you have a chance of finding out if you click on the edit icon (the pencil in a square) for the comment. There's probably something wrong with the way you formatted the links. See if the Show Help box has anything useful.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 09:02:46PM 0 points [-]

I've done both and it looks correct.

Comment author: arundelo 07 March 2013 09:31:32PM 4 points [-]

See if it's one of these problems. If not, I'll look at your Markdown source code if you email it to me. (My username AT hotmail.com or gmail.com.)

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 09:41:04PM 1 point [-]

That worked, I had en.wikipedia instead of http://en.wikipedia.

Comment author: lsparrish 07 March 2013 03:28:20PM 62 points [-]

Try to live close to where you work. Failing that, try to work close to where you live. Commuting takes a lot of time and you don't get paid for it.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 07 March 2013 04:52:06PM 40 points [-]

Alternative: commute effectively. Taking a train to NYC from Long Island I get almost 2 hours to read/watch lectures or entertainment. Some days these are 2 best hours of the day.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 05:20:14PM 12 points [-]

And commuting is apparently just fairly horrible in general.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:30:35PM 11 points [-]

Alternative: Prioritize the ability to telecommute over raw salary, if you're in an industry where you're able. Consider the time spent traveling when considering jobs.

If you can telecommute, also consider that you can live in a different state. Your paycheck can go further still when you aren't paying income taxes.

Comment author: twanvl 07 March 2013 11:44:32PM 14 points [-]

Telecommuting might not be the best thing for everyone. At home I have less social interaction and more distractions.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:34:30PM 2 points [-]

Also, consider remote work.

Comment author: curiousepic 07 March 2013 03:48:20PM *  20 points [-]

Some previously posted boring advice about maintaining an exercise routine:

I was successful in keeping a strict (but light) exercise routine for a year. Here are the main things I think helped me form the habit:

  • Not worrying about quantifying, or optimizing. I would immediately get into the rabbit hole of analysis, when I knew that any exercise was much better than procrastinating until I found the perfect method. Once the habit is formed, then you can optimize it.
  • Reduce physical inconveniences to actually exercising. The thought of going to a gym immediately turns me off, so I knew it had to be at home. That meant obtaining equipment. To keep it simple, this consisted of a yoga mat and a resistance band.
  • Doing it right after waking up. I think this was vital to habit formation, as my mind wasn't very active, and it was easy to fall into routine. Only very rarely did I find myself considering not exercising.
  • Doing it every other day - not too often to get burnt out, and not too infrequently to form the habit. In order to keep a consistent sleep schedule and not have to wake up very early, I alternated morning routines - exercise days and shower days. My workouts weren't intense enough to necessitate a shower immediately after. Also, I worked it in with my intermittent fasting routine on non-exercise days.
  • Tracking it. Noting days that I exercised did give me a couple of achievement hedons. The effect diminished, but not before the habit was formed.
Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:28:46PM 2 points [-]

Find what works; if something doesn't work, find something else that does. If it stops working, immediately start looking for something else in turn.

I don't exercise at home because it's too easy to rationalize that I'll do it in five minutes, and never actually do it. Whereas if I go to the gym every day on my lunch hour, there's little room for procrastination.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 12:46:30AM 17 points [-]

Once the habit is formed, then you can optimize it.

I think this is really important and not mentioned enough.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 08 March 2013 01:50:14AM 2 points [-]

Yes, this is why I tried to install a habit of trying new things before optimizing exactly which things to try and how to try them.

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: Matt_Simpson 07 March 2013 05:18:11PM 0 points [-]

Sure, I'm just saying that personal usefulness shouldn't be the only reason you upvote.

Comment author: latanius 07 March 2013 08:37:05PM 5 points [-]

As for this thread: wouldn't upvoting commens that you think are useful for someone else but not for you be actually an indirect case of other-optmizing?

Comment author: Decius 07 March 2013 11:52:04PM 0 points [-]

With the expectation that others would reciprocate by encouraging behavior that benefits you.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 08 March 2013 02:06:54AM 1 point [-]

I think so.

Comment author: Yossarian 07 March 2013 05:35:36PM 12 points [-]

In addition to making lists for "work," make one for things you want to watch, read, and/or play. You'll feel more productive and motivated even when taking a break from work.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:33:29PM 0 points [-]

On a similar note using the Getting Things Done organizational system and/or the website remember the milk provides a good way to organize you lists.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 08 March 2013 05:54:32AM *  1 point [-]

Workflowy is good for this.

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

Buy the most forgiving toilet paper you can afford.

Moisturize.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 07 March 2013 06:42:55PM 5 points [-]

Getting a bidet is better as far as pampering your sensitive regions goes. Especially if you easily get hemorrhoids.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:27:11PM -1 points [-]

Wipe back to front, rather than front to back. Yes, it's more awkward. It's also more effective and requires less toilet paper, and fewer strokes.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 March 2013 07:36:20PM *  1 point [-]

Wipe back to front, rather than front to back. Yes, it's more awkward. It's also more effective and requires less toilet paper, and fewer strokes.

I'm boggling. There are people who wipe front to back? That never even occurred to me. (And so) imagining that way now seems more awkward, not less.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:44:15PM 1 point [-]

I'm honestly not sure what percentage of the population does what. It's one of those pieces of information that gets completely uncommunicated in our culture.

...so tempted to start a poll... but no.

Comment author: satt 07 March 2013 10:59:33PM 0 points [-]

...so tempted to start a poll... but no.

Maybe we could ask Andrex to run one!

Comment author: handoflixue 07 March 2013 08:47:15PM 3 points [-]

Like maia said, females get told this is unhygienic. Not the first time I've seen advice-specific-to-one-gender generalized to another, especially since OrphanWilde is generalizing the other way in recommending back-to-front :)

Comment author: maia 07 March 2013 07:53:58PM 7 points [-]

I'm told this is unhygienic, because there are bacteria that you don't want to move from back to front. This may only apply to females, though.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 March 2013 08:46:22PM 13 points [-]

Downvoted: This is potentially harmful advice if you have a vagina.

The majority of cases of cystitis or urethritis are from E. coli, the normal flora that lives in your gastrointestinal tract. This helps you digest your food, but if you wipe from back to front you risk smearing it to your urethral meatus (pee hole). Then the bacteria get into a sterile environment [your pee hole] and cause a UTI. This was traditionally taught in medical school to be "Honeymoon cystitis" as many women would get UTIs after their vigorous honeymoon weekend and come back with this normal infection. Maybe we see less of this these days with premarital sex and living together.

Source: http://lifehacker.com/5805108/which-direction-should-i-wipe

Comment author: shminux 07 March 2013 10:12:23PM *  0 points [-]

And the rest of the article says that there is no conclusive evidence either way.

Comment author: handoflixue 07 March 2013 10:21:50PM 3 points [-]

That feels a bit mis-representatative: There's no conclusive evidence, but there is weak evidence in favor.

The first doctor says it doesn't matter, the second says it does, and the three linked studies say (mildly harmful, no effect, no effect), with small sample sizes. The first doctor also explicitly states that he'd still wipe front-to-back if he were female!

I'd call that weak evidence towards harm, i.e. this is potentially harmful advice.

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: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:31:46PM 5 points [-]

Using a debit card gives you most of the same benefits, but has slightly different costs. If your doing this it makes sense to research which one is best for you.

Comment author: latanius 07 March 2013 08:28:37PM 1 point [-]

Also consider mint.com. Draws awesome graphs. (It only works for US bank accounts only though...)

Comment author: William_Quixote 08 March 2013 03:33:15AM 7 points [-]

In general, a credit card will be the better option.

1 cards are safer and more fraud resistant. A credit card company has to cancel a false charge if you tell them to, it's much harder to get a bank to give you money back to too up an account. 1.5 related to one, you want to not give your bank account number out more often than needed

2 more credit cards have benefits than debit cards do.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:53:09PM *  12 points [-]

Building off of an earlier comment. Setting alarm(s) for anything you need to at/by a specific time increases the chance you will actually do them, while decreasing the amount of time you spend worrying about doing them. Corollary, this can make your watch/alarm clock/smartphone a single point of failure for a huge chunk of you life, so take good care of it and/or have a back up.

ETA: "worrying about"

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 12:54:14AM 7 points [-]

This reminds me that I need a better alarm app so I don't have an ugh field about setting alarms.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 07:56:47PM 4 points [-]

Bring your coat - but don't wear it. Being cold burns calories and improves circulation.

On that note, does anybody have any boring advice for cold-weather exercise? I can jog in 110 degree, 100% humidity weather, no problem. I grew up in the swampy parts of Texas. Heat and humidity are no problem for me. But jogging in cold weather - < 60 Fahrenheit - is killer; my throat feels like I'm swallowing jagged chunks of ice.

Comment author: Decius 07 March 2013 11:45:39PM 1 point [-]

Breathe primarily in and out of your nose; anecdotally that helps keep your lungs from drying out due to the low dewpoint. Also, drink enough water to pass clear urine four times a day to recover moisture loss (also due to low dewpoint)

Comment author: AlexSchell 08 March 2013 12:00:45AM 2 points [-]

Re: jogging in cold weather -- throw in some nasal breathing (~10-15% of breaths) and take periodic short breaks during which you just walk (every 1 mile or so).

Comment author: Elithrion 07 March 2013 07:56:57PM 8 points [-]

Although this may not be for everyone, I'd recommend listening to audiobooks. The main advantage is that you can easily listen to them while walking or taking public transport, while cooking, while exercising, etc., which I personally find makes these activities a lot less boring.

I've also found that my personal rate of reading is faster with audiobooks (using RockBox with an mp3 player to speed up playback to 3-3.5x) than with normal reading, at something like ~450 words/min or ~1.3 pages/min. Most of the speed increase comes from me being really slow at reading normally due to getting distracted, focusing too much on thinking through one part, or just forgetting to read quickly, but still.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 March 2013 08:04:59PM 0 points [-]

Although this may not be for everyone, I'd recommend listening to audiobooks. The main advantage is that you can easily listen to them while walking or taking public transport, while cooking, while exercising, etc., which I personally find makes these activities a lot less boring.

I second your advice and am curious what sources of material you consume this way.

Comment author: Elithrion 07 March 2013 08:24:16PM 2 points [-]

Mostly p2p sources, to be honest, supplemented with LibriVox for public domain titles. I'd like to be able to buy more, since there are a lot that just aren't available by other means (especially less popular or newer books on more serious topics), but my current budget doesn't really allow for it.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:59:19PM 20 points [-]

In addition to optimizing boring things you use frequently you should optimize boring things you do frequently. You usually need to set a side a time to do this, rather than hope you remember to do it when doing a boring thing. On a related note beware reoccurring commitments. Remember, for less than a dollar a day you can waste 300 dollars a year.

Comment author: TsviBT 07 March 2013 09:47:51PM 4 points [-]

(Fat free) yogurt is cheap, tasty, healthy, lasts a long time in the fridge, and requires no preparation and only one utensil.

In addition to budgeting time, budget mental energy. Cooking may take a bit of time, but it doesn't take much mental energy once you've done it a few times. If you have a bunch of chores to do, don't batch them up completely; batch them into chunks and use those chunks as mental breaks. Just because cleaning isn't fun, doesn't mean it is as mentally draining as learning mathematics. (Too punchy?)

Comment author: Randy_M 07 March 2013 11:18:19PM 1 point [-]

Health benefits a bit mixed, but it does make a quick breakfast.

Comment author: TsviBT 07 March 2013 11:29:06PM 0 points [-]

Can you be more specific? I didn't do any research, it's just low sodium, high protein, high potassium.

Comment author: AlexSchell 07 March 2013 11:54:40PM 1 point [-]

How, if at all, does fatty yogurt differ?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 12:52:32AM 3 points [-]

the fat contains the fat soluble vitamins.

Comment author: jklsemicolon 07 March 2013 09:56:48PM 7 points [-]

If you're good at something, do that thing.

(Obvious caveats apply.)

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 11:19:38PM 5 points [-]

So it's not obvious to me that this is a good idea. On the one hand, comparative advantage. On the other hand, fixed vs. growth mindset: you can change what you're good at, and this might be valuable. Aaron Swartz wrote a nice blog post about how restricting it is to be good at one thing because it feels like you shouldn't do other things that I can't currently find.

Comment author: jklsemicolon 07 March 2013 11:24:53PM 6 points [-]

Yes; "do that thing" should not be confused with "do only that thing".

Comment author: OrphanWilde 07 March 2013 09:57:22PM *  1 point [-]

Try using nonstandard razors.

I tried a traditional straight-edge - my experience is that it's too much bloody work just to keep the thing in working order. Also, a wet strop is a ruined strop, in an environment in which it's likely to get wet - not workable if you share bathroom space with other people who may not be as careful of your stuff as you are. Or animals who think it makes a nice chew/scratching toy.

However, you can find straight edge razors which accept single-edge razor blades (the cheap replaceable kind), and also safety razors in either the double-edge or the straight-edge variety.

Straight edge with replaceable blade advantages:

They don't get clogged.

Substantially cheaper to use.

Closer shave.

You don't need to trim a beard before you shave it off.

Disadvantages:

Until you figure them out, and probably even after you do, you'll cut the heck out of yourself.

Unwieldy for some applications (upper lip, I'm looking at you)

Unusable for some applications

You might get mistaken for a hipster or contrarian or both.

Safety razor with replaceable blade advantages:

Cheaper

Substantially harder to clog, and easily remedied - pull the blade out, rinse it off, put it back

Closer shave than the X-blade monstrosities

Substantially more stylish than plastic

Disadvantages:

Sharper, AKA "Safety" is relative - unlike the more conventional plastic things, I find shaving cream of some kind to be an actual necessity, and irritation seems more frequent.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 March 2013 01:08:11AM *  0 points [-]

My best shave comes from the disposable single blade old fashioned razors. you can't get them in most stores but you can get them just as cheap as other disposables online. Bic makes some called Bic Metal. i find they do a better job for me than even the laser cut japanese feather DE razors.

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: shminux 07 March 2013 11:07:47PM *  53 points [-]

Start your post or comment with a summary when posting anything over 3-5 paragraphs.

Comment author: Vaniver 07 March 2013 11:30:32PM *  28 points [-]

Stop doing stupid shit seems relevant.

To summarize: if you're good at something and it doesn't seem like it's taken serious effort to get to where you are, there's probably some low-hanging fruit that you haven't picked, because you haven't looked for it. Put a serious effect into improving and fixing your small, frequent mistakes.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 March 2013 09:52:58AM 18 points [-]

It's a meta-boring advice: Instead of looking for new cool things you could learn, do the boring work of fixing the mistakes you make.

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: 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 [-]

Why?

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: 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: FiftyTwo 08 March 2013 05:51:16AM 40 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: FiftyTwo 08 March 2013 05:56:52AM 17 points [-]

Google it.

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: 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: 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.