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Abuse of Productivity Systems

15 Post author: SquirrelInHell 27 March 2016 05:32AM

Comments (57)

Comment author: Viliam 27 March 2016 11:09:16AM 16 points [-]

I actually did the thing with Anki, three languages at the same time, and it failed just like you described.

I suspect that it was an instance of a more general harmful pattern in my life, how I unconsciously turn my successes into future punishments. A pattern that I learned at childhood, and it's difficult to overcome, because at the moment it feels like a virtue.

Here is the pattern: I notice myself doing something right, and instead of just enjoying the situation and rewarding myself mentally, I feel the impulse to increase the burden until I break, which then provides me an opportunity to punish myself mentally (feel disappointed with myself). Which means that in long term, I am punishing myself for doing things right.

At the moment it feels like the right thing to do: I have finally found something that "works" for me; why not use it more? Just think about all the opportunities!

But the problem is that things don't scale linearly. I have a limited amount of time / energy / attention / whatever, and maybe the method already consumes as much of some resource as is sustainable. Another problem is that there is a difference between approaching a "#1 problem" and "yet another thing that should be done"; the former motivates to creatively expore solutions, the latter just creates an ugh-field around anything you use to push yourself.

Sometimes it is necessary to accept that there are many things I would want to do, but maybe at the moment I only have enough resources to do one of them properly. And I should look at the bright side and be happy that it is one thing instead of zero.

With the examples from article, in (1) I would recommend staying with French, and perhaps when the Anki workload is smaller, do something else in the remaining time, such as read a book or watch a movie in French. Switch from learning to using, without increasing time. Until it becomes a part of life (e.g. Bob would start regularly reading some French web pages) so it doesn't require conscious maintenance. If he isn't equally passionate about German, maybe he shouldn't learn it at all; maybe he just doesn't have enough time and energy for all that. In (2), Sally could use a weekend or take a day of vacation to look for the new job.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 27 March 2016 01:08:08PM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for sharing, and it's good to know my examples were realistic :)

I see that you came to a lot of sensible conclusions about your motivation/energy/resources etc., but I detected some slight discrepancies with my models.

  1. I don't know if I'm right about you not fully grasping this one, but just in case: motivation is not something you have, it is something you create (also this)

  2. The advice to take a free day in Sally's case seems bogus according to the heuristics I'm currently running. If you stand behind your suggestion, I'd be interested in comparing our evidence.

Comment author: Arshuni 28 March 2016 06:32:58AM *  4 points [-]

I found the structure of your website interesting. Are those flashcards there? How well do they work for really internalizing things?

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 28 March 2016 06:56:07AM *  4 points [-]

That website is just an auto-generated snapshot from a system I use on my phone.

The way I use it on my part is that it prompts me at various intervals to do one of 2 things:

  • evaluate my track record regarding a given trigger,

  • predict situations in which it might be relevant in the future and plan what I'll do then.

And yes, at least the way I use this, it is great at making me internalize things.

It is so great in fact, that I can't tell anyone about it, because they would laugh at me.

This includes you of course.

Let me just mention that most things I add to this system actually become fully, subconsciously internalized the moment I add them to the system.

Like in, before the system prompts me about it even once.

If you don't believe me, well, I wouldn't believe myself either.

The only other report of this happening to other people from LW-sphere I've seen is here: http://agentyduck.blogspot.jp/2014/02/lobs-theorem-cured-my-social-anxiety.html

The difference is, I'm doing it with hundreds of things and it predictably works instantly in around 80% of cases.

Comment author: oge 26 May 2016 09:05:27PM 0 points [-]

Thank you, SquirrellinHell, for sharing your mind. I'm enjoying browsing through the triiger-action plans and trying them on :)

Comment author: tanagrabeast 28 March 2016 11:50:26PM 0 points [-]

Just wanted to thank you for sharing the seemingly silly and overly personal. More generally applicable and insightful than you might appreciate.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 29 March 2016 02:34:20AM 0 points [-]

Umm... you're welcome?

I suspected someone might get something out of it, and also somewhere in my plans I have "sneakily spread the culture of people sharing their trigger-actions with each other".

The way it is now (without any proper explanations), I'm afraid it's easy to miss or misunderstand the important stuff...

Though as long as you can get some value out of it, with no additional effort on my part, that's great I guess?

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 28 March 2016 08:33:42PM *  0 points [-]

I also have an Anki that very strongly reminds me of your entries. Also almost all insight type entries need no Anki repetition. They are just obvious. I still think that repeating them helps though. Also a nice repository to use for generating topics to use in discussions with my children.

ADDED: I notice that you seem to have no references in your entries. I use lots. I would have expected one for e.g. assuming I have lots of competitors for things I want. So this is really 'just' a trigger action planning tool.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 29 March 2016 02:08:20AM *  2 points [-]

From what you wrote, I'm guessing you use your deck for a different purpose.

For me, it's not about learning, or remembering.

It's about internalizing and offline habit training.

So this is really 'just' a trigger action planning tool.


I don't need references, because I don't add things I'm unsure what to think about. I might add things I want to test without being sure how they turn out, but I'm sure that I want to test them.

Also about the "assuming I have lots of competitors for things I want", I don't have any references because it's original. I don't add biases until I have a strong, personal experience related to them. Figuring out a new bias is a strong personal experience so it counts.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 29 March 2016 08:25:26PM 0 points [-]

It's about internalizing and offline habit training.

Sounds like a type of learning to me. Or else I do not understand what you mean by "offline habit training".

Yes, I use Anki for learning, but not much for rote learning currently. I use Anki's adaptive repetition system to remind me of topics which I deem relevant to keep aware of like low-frequency habits, contacts to people, insights and ideas.

I do not need memorization much because being out of university I can look up most facts I need online :-) So it's only important where to find some unusual concepts and for these I record the sources with the concepts. I noticed that I often have trouble to quickly locate good refs for advanced concepts online (those not found on Wikipedia for example).

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 30 March 2016 01:54:10AM *  1 point [-]

Is still suspect you don't fully get what difference I'm trying to point at. In any case, it's OK, and I'm not telling you your approach is worse or anything. But to make this clear, let me explain it like this:

  1. Are you familiar with mental play on piano or another instrument?

  2. Have you ever imagined yourself doing a physical motion, e.g. a jump, before you actually did it, to prepare your body to respond quickly and without hesitation in the way you wanted it to?

  3. Now imagine applying the same method to mental habits and CTAPS.

This is what I call "offline habit training".

And sure, it is also a way of "learning", but not the first one that comes to mind when you say the word "learning".

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 30 March 2016 10:04:39PM 0 points [-]

Interesting. I know that visualization future action works (I use it e.g. in fencing to 'plan' an attack).

It is also related to cached thoughts.

If I understand right you generalize from simple motor action to all kinds of physical or cognitive behaviors that can be represented and rehearsed succinctly, e.g. habits. Nice idea. And yes, my Anki is different but also contains things that fall into this category esp. in the area of charisma, acting and noticing and reacting to people.

Comment author: Viliam 27 March 2016 08:17:19PM 2 points [-]

motivation is not something you have, it is something you create

Sounds reasonable. But I expect that also creating motivation (e.g. by visualization) takes some time, so it is still possible to run out of the resources. But for people who don't do that at all, it is worth exploring.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 28 March 2016 04:09:58AM *  2 points [-]

so it is still possible to run out of the resources

Yes, but I would rather see this as a sign that you hit a wall with your motivation-creating skill, than a limitation on how much motivation you can have or how quickly you can achieve it. There seems to be plenty of evidence for people having success spirals that are very quick and powerful.

Also, the correct meta-strategy when you have little motivation seems to be to direct as much of it as you can towards exploring ways to get more motivation. I expect most people are not strategic about their motivation, so I point it out whenever I can.

Comment author: Viliam 28 March 2016 09:40:24PM 1 point [-]

I think I get it now. Seems like you are saying "motivation-creation tools and time-management tools are two different kinds of tools made for solving two different kinds of problems; if you try to use time-management tools for handling lack of motivation, they will break". Correct?

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 29 March 2016 02:13:13AM *  0 points [-]

If I haven't been saying that, it's only because it never crossed my mind I need to say it. Both my examples from the article are designed around this idea :)

Productivity/time-management tools (for me, at least) serve a function I'd roughly describe as "funneling motivation into high quality work".

So obviously there's a connection (motivation is necessary as "fuel" for productivity, and having productivity and successes makes it easier to get motivation), but those are two different things.

Edit: thank you phrasing it in this way - it was also useful for me to make this point clear.

Comment author: bbleeker 28 March 2016 07:03:20AM 1 point [-]

I would love to know more about how to create motivation!

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 28 March 2016 07:10:33AM *  2 points [-]

Now this is a big topic, and I don't see myself as any kind of expert at it... but my suggestion at the beginning is to recognize that at the point you want to create "motivation", it helps to stop using the umbrella term "motivation", and replace it with things like:

  • if left unchecked, what is my default action

  • if I ask myself what option I prefer, what answer seems "right"

  • if I imagine an outcome, how much do I "want" it

  • if I imagine an outcome, what emotions are associated with it

  • if I imagine looking back at my decision, what feelings are associated with it

  • are there any feelings associated with the action of imagining itself

  • what are my predictions about all of the above

  • what historical data do I have about all of the above

"Motivation" is such a broad topic I wouldn't know what to write even if I knew everything about it.

Comment author: moridinamael 28 March 2016 03:59:44PM 4 points [-]

Just to add to your list:

  • After forming a plan, ask yourself, "Will I actually do this?" and adjust your plans based on what your gut says.

  • Is your plan friendly to both your elephant and your rider (i.e. your unconscious and conscious selves)? If unfriendly to your elephant, can you craft a narrative surrounding the plan that appeals to you emotionally?

  • On what level are you experiencing the intention or blockage?

The problem with all of these suggestions and all thinking along these lines in general is that they require you to already be some sort of advanced Bene Gesserit to actually habitually employ them in real time.

Like, I know these are good ideas, but what I actually do in real life is just follow my Spirit of Wandering Attention and let it choose whatever project seems most entertaining in the moment.

Comment author: helldalgo 27 March 2016 09:37:09PM 0 points [-]

Seconding Viliam here. This is exactly what I've done multiple times with different productivity systems.

Comment author: Elo 27 March 2016 05:49:03AM 8 points [-]

Meta: I like this initiative to try a new style of post.

Comment author: Mirzhan_Irkegulov 05 April 2016 02:43:09PM 1 point [-]

Exactly. It's like how classrooms are supposed to work. I'm much more motivated to engage with this post, then those that simply state a certain truth. If an article simply explains a certain mechanism, I'll read it, say “yeah, that makes sense, I agree with this”, close an article and completely forget about its contents. It's like article wasn't effective at all, even though it's technically correct.

I think this post's style combines 2 things: gamification and the fact that you can't learn math without doing exercises. Gamification because it's like solving a logical puzzle, it's fun, and it's also not too hard so that I give up immediately, and not too easy, so that I actually spend some time thinking. And the exercises, well there's a reason why Khan Academy or simply doing exercises in textbooks is crucial to understand math, and it's the same here, I work back and forth, trying to figure out the answer, it helps understanding the idea better and remember it for longer.

I think there's probably a very deep problem with the Web, having to do with how people procrastinate and devote time/effort/flow to things. It may be that internet articles are super-ineffective and will always be, at least in a certain form. When you are on the Web, and you use your browser, you have lots of tabs open simultaneously, your "workspace" is cluttered. Facebook messages there, several interesting articles here. And the computer itself, even if it's a laptop, it's not something you can easily manipulate in the same way you can a book.

So when you read some interesting article, you usually aren't in a state of flow. And even if you are in a flow, you aren't in the mood that says "I'm doing something serious and I should put much intellectual effort into it". Therefore reading a book online is infeasible, but reading some short engaging and humorous article is. When I say infeasible I mean most of the time when we are behind the computer screen, we're in the context, where we don't feel like or don't expect ourselves to concentrate heavily and not distract ourselves.

So articles optimize for clickbaity headlines, easy read, shortness. They adjust to lack of concentration and unwillingness to actively work on the reader's part. And then you read an article, find it interesting and insightful, and its contents are completely washed out from your brain 5 minutes later. Even if the article contained actually valuable knowledge and was technically correct.

There's a deeper thing going. First, recognition is not recall: just because you go "O! I know that! This makes total sense!" doesn't mean you gonna actually remember it. Second, people are very good at pattern-matching. So good, actually, that when they gain new information, they jump to conclusions and think "Your thing X is like the thing Y that I already know or heard of". The moment they prematurely equate two different phenomena based on superficial similarity, they stop paying attention and thinking, because they think they already understood it.

Suppose there is an article with condensed, yet correct and without omissions, information, for example a self-help advice. And there's an equivalent book with the same self-help advice, but it's verbose, long-winded and not necessarily easy to read. I suspect that on average the book will be more effective, not simply because of length or other properties, but mainly because people read books in certain contexts and moods, where they expect to put effort and concentration, where they expect themselves to be in a state of flow. If that is true, maybe we should rethink the whole writing and reading articles on the Web business.

Comment author: MrMind 29 March 2016 12:47:12PM 3 points [-]

What mistakes are Bob and Sally making?

I would call it "identity-wide generalization". They both suppose from something that is true of a particular situation (that is, learning a specific language or completing some projects) something more general at identity level (I can learn any language) that simply isn't true.

What would you change, so turn those mistakes into successes?

I don't know if anything can be changed to fix the mistakes. Take the first example: if Bob had the motivation to study French only because he felt the pressure of going to live in France, it's not said that there could be anything he can do to learn German, if he stays there.

Is there something in your life, that has failed in a similar manner?

I'll skip this since there's nothing that currently is failing for this reason.

To what other domains does this generalize?

I guess everything that touches upon betting on self-identity: "I had a lot of fun swimming at the sea, surely I'll be good at my local swimming contest", "Learning C# was really easy, I bet I can conquer F# even faster", etc.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 30 March 2016 08:46:44AM 0 points [-]

I don't know if anything can be changed to fix the mistakes.

I had a broader range of "success" scenarios in mind, see note to the question.

Comment author: Elo 27 March 2016 05:56:21AM *  5 points [-]


Obo unf sbetbggra gb fgneg fznyy naq rssrpgviryl whzcrq va gur qrrc raq bs n arj ovt gnfx. Ur unf nyfb sbetbggra jul ur qvq gung gnfx va gur svefg cynpr (gb ergver gb senapr) fb whfg nffhzvat ur jbhyq or zbgvingrq gb yrnea zber ynathntrf sbe ab ernfba jnf n zvfgnxr. Obo pbhyq er-rinyhngr uvf ernfbaf sbe qbvat vg; naq rvgure qrpvqr ur nyfb jnagf gb xabj trezna fb ur pna ubyvqnl va treznal be qrpvqr ur qbrfa'g jnag gb qb vg.

Fnyyl qbrf abg xabj ubj gb znxr vg rnfvre sbe urefrys. Wbo svaqvat zvtug or uneq ohg gur fbyhgvba vf cebonoyl gb: 1. svther bhg jung arrqf gb or qbar
2. qb vg va tenqhny fgrcf.
Cbzbqbebf ner abg jbexvat sbe n qvssrerag ernfba gb jul gurl jrer jbexvat orsber. (guvf vf n qvssrerag gnfx naq fur unf qvssrerag ernfbaf gb qb vg.

rvgure gung be vg'f na vqragvgl ceboyrz, gurl rfgnoyvfurq na vqragvgl sbe gur checbfr bs fhpprrqvat ng n gnfx gung gurl jrer zbgvingrq gb qb; gura gurl hfrq gung vqragvgl gb thvqr gurve shgher orunivbhef. Na vqragvgl vf abg n zbgvingvba sbe qbvat n guvat; abg yvxr gur bevtvany qrfver vf.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 27 March 2016 06:03:32AM *  2 points [-]

Yes, I think it's a very good summary.

And thanks for playing along with the question-only format. I had actually hoped someone would use rot13 without any prompt on my part :)


Comment author: Brillyant 28 March 2016 02:23:40PM *  0 points [-]

This seems good.

Can you provide any more evidence for why you believe these views to be true?

Comment author: Elo 29 March 2016 03:33:07AM 0 points [-]

kinda... it's more covered by other people.

things like:

  • motivation-creation tools and time-management tools are two different kinds of tools made for solving two different kinds of problems; if you try to use time-management tools for handling lack of motivation, they will break

if you are talking about identity then it's more about keeping your identity small.


These particular identities were generated based on experiences.

they went: Motivation -> prolonged (or repeated) action -> redefine identity based on action that is being done -> act to take advantage of the identity and not the original motivation -> have no reason to actually do the thing other than a sense of "identity" -> fail.

(although it's possible to have not failed. a sense of identity can be very motivating to some people and in some circumstances.) Maybe SquirrelInHell can explain more)

Comment author: Brillyant 29 March 2016 02:11:48PM *  0 points [-]

Your answers seem definitive, but I see no reason to accept them as any more than a guess about how certain aspects of human motivation should be modeled.

I've been working on some motivation/productivity systems for myself for a couple years and, after some very significant initial success, have encountered some hiccups. I'm interested in figuring out new useful ways to proceed.

I'm skeptical of some of the "sounds good and/or science-y enough but doesn't actually work" stuff on LW. I was interested in knowing why you think Bob and Sally are wrong in the ways you think they are wrong, and why they ought to proceed in the way you say they ought.

This, for instance, seems too simple:

motivation-creation tools and time-management tools are two different kinds of tools made for solving two different kinds of problems; if you try to use time-management tools for handling lack of motivation, they will break

In my experience, there is a synergistic aspect to using certain time-management tools in order to create generalized motivation. That is, experiencing efficient productivity in something, whether or not it is terribly useful in it's own right, helps to create a motivational energy that can be used toward very useful means.

And in the OP, I see no reason Bob's technique of using ANKI to learn additional languages necessarily could not work if he could find a hack for increased motivation. Yes, his desire to move to France was the original motivation that drove his success in learning French, and now that is missing. But that's where the game begins.

The really interesting question here, I think, is how to create the "artificial" motivation to learn additional languages if you decide that is a thing you want to have achieved. After all, it's not terribly impressive to become motivated do a thing you need or desire to do. The real task is to find ways to do the things that would benefit you even if you don't have a desire for them at the present time.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 30 March 2016 02:18:49AM *  1 point [-]

Your [Elo's] answers seem definitive

There's no point in arguing about this, but let me just say that they didn't seem that way to me.

This, for instance, seems too simple:

In the continuation of that thread, I point out that:

So obviously there's a connection (motivation is necessary as "fuel" for productivity, and having productivity and successes makes it easier to get motivation), but those are two different things.

I don't think many people would miss this connection. But first, it was useful to split our mental buckets and define what concepts we are talking about, before talking about complicated synergies that occur between concepts.

In any case, you raise other interesting points, so let's move on to this:

The really interesting question here, I think, is how to create the "artificial" motivation


So now I'll try to give you a fun tool, that I personally find useful.

Please try it out and tell me what you think.

It is called the "find motivation" game.

It goes like this:

  1. Choose something you are not motivated to do (but would like to see it done somehow).

  2. Realize that for you to identify something you would like to see done, even though you have no motivation to do it, already requires you to have motivation on some level. Otherwise, you would never have raised this issue in step 1.

  3. Trace back until you find that motivation.

  4. Repeat the game until you run out of things to choose in step 1.

While this does not guarantee that you have enough motivation, it at least guarantees you have some.

In other words, I don't believe you can call any of your motivation "artificial" and be self-consistent.

Comment author: Elo 30 March 2016 05:57:38AM *  1 point [-]

Choose something you are not motivated to do.

should edit 1 to read:

  1. Choose something you want to do (or make yourself do) but are not motivated to do.
Comment author: Brillyant 30 March 2016 03:28:45AM 0 points [-]

On your "game": Meh.

In the example, Bob fails because he hasn't sufficient motivation to learn other languages. This is tied to the fact he is confusing motivation with productivity methods. Okay.

He still has some motivation. Just not enough. And that's the problem that needs solving. Zero versus tiny motivation. Meh. Okay. Yon win.

In the real world, we are aware certain pursuits would be good for us, but we don't do them. You could say there is the small seed of motivation that exists evidenced by the fact that we recognize we want to want to do these things, but the problems of actually making accomplishments still exists. Bob still fails despite having ostensibly good productivity methods in place.

Anyway, I'm tapping on this. I think this is basically a thread where no one has established good definitions of any of the key words being discussed. I don't see any reason to believe the ideas here are novel or practically useful.

Comment author: Elo 30 March 2016 05:56:54AM 0 points [-]

synergistic aspect to using certain time-management tools in order to create generalized motivation.

A particulary example; I will call "activation energy" where it's difficult to have motivation to start a task but once you have started the task you can continue fine.

  • Actual example: go for a run. Difficult to start but easy to keep running for the duration of the run.

Activation energy type problems can be solved by time-management or the more general "organisation" class of solution. Specifically; if you can organise a lower activation energy to the task; you can motivate yourself to do it.

  • Specific example again. If you can make it easy for yourself to go for a run; running shoes are ready next to your bed for when you wake up; breakfast pre-prepared for when you get back from the run; etc.

Then you can reduce the activation energy to starting the task; Thus solving a motivation problem with organisation. But again; I agree with SquirrelInHell that these are usually different problems (with synergy).

(I also see that you tapped out so you don't need to reply if you don't want to)

Comment author: Brillyant 30 March 2016 07:02:16PM *  0 points [-]

Actual example: go for a run. Difficult to start but easy to keep running for the duration of the run.

I think there is a physiological component to this in addition to motivation.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 29 March 2016 05:34:57AM *  0 points [-]

I'd need a more concrete question.

@Brillyant Which part of what Elo wrote is controversial? Also, my examples are fictional, so what sense of "truth" do you mean?

Comment author: Elo 29 March 2016 06:47:18AM *  0 points [-]

You asked a question generated from the examples; you said I gave "a very good summary", is there anything more you wanted to add to the summary?

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 29 March 2016 08:49:39AM *  0 points [-]

Err, now I don't know whose questions I'm answering, so I'll just focus on this part: "is there anything more you wanted to add to the summary?"

You already did a good job of pointing out where the mistakes were, so if I wanted to add something, it would be on the "fixing things" side.

My impulses tell me that besides the "big picture" description, it is useful to identify very specific thoughts or actions that could help, or serve as an early warning system.

E.g., to use patterns from Eliezer's sequences, that are well known to LW-ers:

This is the first time it has ever happened to her.

Response: Sally notices that she is confused, and immediately writes this in her surprise journal. Then she enters a "debug models/cognitive patterns" mode and brainstorms for 5 minutes.

(Note that the above is an example I picked for clarity, not because it's the best one in this case.)

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 30 March 2016 06:27:50AM 2 points [-]

What mistakes are Bob and Sally making?

Trying to use time-management tools to solve a motivational problem. System-1-wanting to do something, having pleasant emotions attached to it, feeling motivated etc is a separate issue to efficiently executing that thing. Anki Cards and pomos are not tools which will make your system-1 want to do something.

What would you change, so turn those mistakes into successes?

"How to make your system-1 want to do something." is a million dollar question. The specific case of "How to make your system-1 want to look for jobs" is something that I am currently (somewhat) struggling with, though I definitely find that focussing on just getting started at a task and removing distractions really helps.

You probably also need to do some soul-searching about where you see your life going, what you will achieve with the money from that job, etc. I think that has been a reasonably good motivator for me.

Comment author: bogus 01 April 2016 06:15:11AM 2 points [-]

"How to make your system-1 want to do something." is a million dollar question.

Well, not quite. We do know of a very general approach which ought to successfully align system-1 and system-2 values - namely the perceptual-control approach, which CFAR calls goal factoring. The devil is wholly in the details here.

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 01 April 2016 04:49:01PM 0 points [-]

perceptual-control approach, which CFAR calls goal factoring

where can I find out more about this?

Comment author: Viliam 29 March 2016 03:32:44PM 2 points [-]

Found this in SSC Open Thread:

Any discussion of time management which acts like time is the actual limiting factor has already missed the point, at least for me personally.

Oh indeed! All the time management advice starts from a position of “you have things you want/need to do but are too busy to fit everything in”, when for me it’s “you have things you need to do and time to do them in but can’t be motivated to get off your lazy backside to do them” :-)

Comment author: Lumifer 29 March 2016 03:57:03PM 3 points [-]

Well, kinda. As this thread (among other things) makes clear, managing time and managing motivation are different things. Technically speaking, calling managing your motivation "time management" is a misuse of the term.

Comment author: Mirzhan_Irkegulov 05 April 2016 02:03:39PM 1 point [-]

Is “time management” even a meaningful term? You can't manage time after all, it just flows. You can manage your focus and your actions and spend them more effectively, given allotted time. Mark Forster in a productivity book Do It Tomorrow says that we should call it “attention management” instead. It sounds like a stupid argument about semantics, but there's a point.

Most of the time I'm not that demotivated that I only want to binge watch TV series. Most of the time I feel like I want to do something productive. But there are multitude of things that “I could be doing” in my mind at the same time. I could continue polishing my Haskell skills, or maybe I should go back to theory and revise my knowledge of algorithms, or maybe I should go back to theoretical computer science and fix the holes in my understanding of complexity, computation, type theory and what not, or maybe I should go to StackOverflow and answer someone's question, or maybe I should practice how to use Emacs more efficiently, or maybe I should start writing a video game to improve practical programming skills, or...

Instead of doing any of those things, and it's obvious I can only do one thing at a time, I spend all day browsing StackOverflow, Facebook, MIRI's website, checking email and RSS.

What I should do instead is take one and only one task, turn on my pomodoro and spend 50 minutes doing nothing else than that.

Comment author: Lumifer 05 April 2016 02:39:48PM 2 points [-]

Is “time management” even a meaningful term?

Yes, insofar what makes a term meaningful is its uselfulness for communication :-) But your point is valid, "time management" is basically the management of your own attention and effort.

Comment author: Viliam 06 April 2016 01:11:18PM 1 point [-]

I would guess that the real problem here is the fear of not choosing correctly. (Which ironically leads to choosing even worse.) Fear indeed is the mind-killer, or at least a motivation-killer for mental tasks.

I imagine that a possible approach could be to limit the time when you are making the choice. For example, on Sunday you would decide what are you going to do the following week, and precommit that you will not change your decision during the week. Then, during the week it would be obvious what to do. And if you remember something else, just write it into a diary and review it on the next Sunday.

The idea is that you would only commit to the direction of your work, not the amount of the work you want to do. If you feel tired, take a rest. Don't push yourself into anything. It's just, don't longer ask yourself "Haskell or type theory", because you have already answered that for the whole week.

Comment author: Mirzhan_Irkegulov 06 April 2016 05:58:09PM 0 points [-]

I think you are absolutely spot on. Fear is a key to many failures of human behavior, and I want to think more about that.

Interestingly, many time management systems like Zen to Done and Do It Tomorrow do set up a form of commitments for a day or for a week. ZTD has:

3) plan. Habit: set MITs [Most Important Tasks] for week, day. Each week, list the Big Rocks that you want to accomplish, and schedule them first. Each day, create a list of 1-3 MITs (basically your Big Rocks for the day) and be sure to accomplish them. Do your MITs early in the day to get them out of the way and to ensure that they get done.

Do It Tomorrow has a concept of a closed list in contrast to a todo-list. Every time you go to sleep you compile a list of tasks for tomorrow that you absolutely definitely gonna do. It's realistic to expect yourself to not succeed at too many things, so your closed list might contain only one task. But the fact is, you do only things on the closed list, and not add anything on top of it.

The idea of setting up a commitment for a day, or a commitment for a week, sounds sorta like applying the concept of Pomodoro for a larger time frame. During Pomodoro you aren't allowed to not do the task at hand (which implies you aren't allowed being distracted), and here you aren't allowed to not do what you already planned for a week.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 27 March 2016 08:34:25PM 2 points [-]

What video does youtube want me to watch after watching your video? "Don't abuse your dogs."

"Don't abuse X" is not very useful advise because it is a tautology because "abuse" is a negative word. It is not entirely useless because the existence of the statement warns you that it is common for people to abuse X (if you trust the author). And I guess that is your first message. Your second message is the symptom of a common form of abuse of productivity systems: ceasing to use them. But your main message is how to think about and thus prevent a common form of abuse. Perhaps it would be better if the title made that clearer. For example: "What does it mean to abuse a productivity system?" Or even just "Abuse of Productivity Systems."

Comment author: ChristianKl 28 March 2016 12:02:31AM 1 point [-]

What kind of empirical observsations would you expect to see in a world where "Abuse of Productivity Systems." is a more effective headline than "Don't abuse Productivity Systems"?

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 28 March 2016 02:26:21AM 2 points [-]

I don't know what Douglas_Knight was thinking, but I can see now that YouTube suggestions have indeed changed after changing the title of the video. Now the suggestions look more like popular philosophy or whatever than animal abuse. It's a very empirical observation, though it has nothing to do with reactions of humans.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 27 March 2016 10:20:40PM *  1 point [-]

Accepted your suggestion, thanks a lot!

I think "don't abuse X" has more value as a slogan, and it's more memorable (partly because of its tautological wordiness?). That's the reason I chose it initially, but your point of view convinced me that it's worth signalling intellectuality in this case.

Comment author: PipFoweraker 30 March 2016 07:57:28PM 1 point [-]

I have a non-specific recollection that, generally speaking, phrasing directions in the positive imperative ("Treat dogs well") rather than a negative imperative ("Do not treat dogs badly") leads to better rates of recall / compliance.

If it interests you I'll ask around and find a proper reference.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 31 March 2016 01:40:02AM 0 points [-]

Thanks, I heard about this too, so it's OK without a reference. Though in this case "treat your productivity systems well" makes for a poor title :)

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 27 March 2016 10:39:54PM 1 point [-]

I think it might be memorable because of the imperative. I'm skeptical that tautology or wordiness are productive, even of memory.

Comment author: pjeby 16 April 2016 01:36:49AM 1 point [-]

Bob has replaced a concrete goal (live in France) with a vague abstract one (be cool?). Near motivation trumps far, every time.

Sally assumed that "procrastination" is one thing, rather than a wide variety of things we lump under one name.

(Even though an identity element is implied by the presentation, it's not clear this is directly related to either person's mistake.)

To correct his mistake, Bob needs to consider whether he actually has any concrete reason for learning any other languages: what actual concrete result is desired? Sally's mistake would be resolved by getting clearer on the nature of her specific procrastination and then choosing a more suitable approach for dealing with it.

Comment author: estimator 31 March 2016 06:15:24PM 1 point [-]

Is this acutally a bad thing? In both cases, Bob and Sally not only succeeded in their initial goals, but also made some extra progress.

Also, fictional evidence. It is not implausible to imagine a scenario when Bob does all the same things and learns French, German and then fails on e.g. Spanish. The same thing for Sally.

In general, if you have tried some strategy and succeeded, it does make sense to go ahead and try it on other problems (until it finally stops working). If you have invented e.g. a new machine learning method to solve a specific practical problem, the obvious next step is to try to apply it to other problems. If you found a very interesting article in a blog it makes sense to take a look at other articles in it. And so on. A method being successful is an evidence for it being successful in the future / on other sets of problems / etc.

So, I wouldn't change to change those mistakes into successes, because they weren't mistakes in the first place. An optimal strategy is not guaranteed to succeed every single time; rather it should have the maximal success probability.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 01 April 2016 01:35:45AM 0 points [-]

It is not implausible to imagine a scenario when Bob does all the same things and learns French, German and then fails on e.g. Spanish. The same thing for Sally.

A valid point.

If you have invented e.g. a new machine learning method to solve a specific practical problem, the obvious next step is to try to apply it to other problems.

There's a crucial difference here. Your machine learning method does not get tired, or bored. It does not say "to hell with this, I've had enough".

The stories point out the difference between having a successful method to do something, and having motivation to do it.

Comment author: Mirzhan_Irkegulov 05 April 2016 03:09:23PM 0 points [-]

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