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sen comments on Making intentions concrete - Trigger-Action Planning - Less Wrong

25 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 01 December 2016 08:34PM

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Comment author: sen 03 December 2016 01:21:39PM *  1 point [-]

Reading through this, it seems completely obvious and intuitive, and yet I see a lot of "thumbs up" (or whatever the LW colloquialism is). For the sake of metaoptimization, I have to ask... Has this post actually helped anyone here? Reading through the comments, it seems again like everyone already knew this, and that people are just commenting with their own experiences. If this post didn't actually help anyone here, the obvious follow-up question would be whether the "thumbs up" signal is actually conveying the intended meaning.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 04 December 2016 08:35:10AM 3 points [-]

In the balance of too many or too few obvious things posted, LW is almost certainly erring on the side of too few. A single repository of all the things smart people find obvious, cross checked with comments on subtle variations or criticisms seems like a good thing.

Comment author: ChristianKl 04 December 2016 11:02:20PM 2 points [-]

The phrase TAP or trigger action planning has a specific meaning. If I chat with other people at my dojo, I can say: "You should make a TAP for the habit you want to adapt." Most people outside of this community wouldn't understand that sentence as it refers to a specific CFAR concept.

Having posts that explain core vocabulary of this community like "TAPs" and that can be linked is valuable.

As far as the actual content goes I didn't know that there was a study that showed that TAPs aren't helpful to people with socially prescribed perfectionism is useful knowledge that might change how I react if I talk to a person who falls in that cluster.

Comment author: sen 05 December 2016 06:56:57AM *  0 points [-]

Fair enough, though I disagree with the idea of using the discussion board as a repository of information.

Comment author: ChristianKl 05 December 2016 01:38:50PM 1 point [-]


This approach also has the advantage that different people can contribute their own thoughts and learnings around the concept.

Comment author: sen 06 December 2016 09:11:27AM *  0 points [-]

Information on the discussion board is front-facing for some time, then basically dies. Yes, you can use the search to find it again, but that becomes less reliable as discussion of TAPs increases. It's also antithetical to the whole idea behind TAP.

The wiki is better suited for acting as a repository of information.

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 December 2016 05:55:24PM 1 point [-]

LessWrong isn't simply a discussion board. It's a blog/discussion board hybrid. Various posts do get read long after they are written.

Comment author: Sinal 08 December 2016 03:55:27AM 1 point [-]

I personally found this post to be quite insightful. I previously made plenty of vague goals that I never did, such as "apply for internships", "fill out this form", and shower more often." I have heard the advice "set specific goals" before, but the idea of turning vague goals into if-then" goals has never occurred to me before.

Of course, since I just read this post a few minutes ago, I don't know whether the idea actually translates into increased productivity or not.

Comment author: Viliam 05 December 2016 01:06:21PM *  1 point [-]

Even for people familiar with the big idea, there may be some new previously unknown details, such as that TAP can actually harm some people (and which ones specifically).

Also, it's worth repeating the basics. Sometimes people chase new epiphanies when they should apply the 80/20 rule instead. The upvotes may express the feeling that having the basics written well, and bringing them back to attention is useful.

But... yeah, even this article could be considered "yet another epiphany", unless people will actually use it in their lives. And we have no evidence that someone actually used it; only that many people liked seeing it.

I wonder how much would it take to bring this to more productive level; to actually make people use the stuff. For example, if the article at the end would repeat a specific sequence of steps people are supposed to take, and then encouraged people to post the results in top-level comments below the article.


So, here are a few examples for myself:

  • When I get to my job, I order a vegetable-based lunch.
  • When my child goes to sleep, I start exercising. (Specifically, the first step is that I bring a cup of water from kitchen, and open my exercise log.)

But it is also interesting to see some of my bad habits as a kind of TAPs installed by a malicious agent in my brain:

  • When I turn on the computer, I start the web browser and go to Facebook.
  • When I am sitting at the computer, and not sure what to do next, I also look at LessWrong and Reddit.
  • When I enter the kitchen, I look at the place where cookies are usually stored, and take one.
Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 06 December 2016 12:44:56PM 2 points [-]

But... yeah, even this article could be considered "yet another epiphany", unless people will actually use it in their lives. And we have no evidence that someone actually used it; only that many people liked seeing it.

I wonder how much would it take to bring this to more productive level; to actually make people use the stuff.

Real-life workshops and study groups. :-)

I'm not even kidding here. This is basically the reason for why you didn't get a writeup of this from CFAR earlier: actually teaching the stuff in person is so much more effective in getting people to use it than just explaining it online is.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 04 December 2016 01:10:29PM *  1 point [-]

Complete obviousness and intuitiveness would imply that you already make all of your goals into TAPs, and never think anything with a vague trigger like "I'll do this later". Is that the case?

Comment author: sen 04 December 2016 02:21:08PM *  1 point [-]

That's not what OP says, and it's also a non-sequitur. Obviousness and intuitiveness does not imply that all goals should be turned to TAPs or that vague triggers shouldn't be used. It's obvious and intuitive to anyone that's flown on an airplane that the Earth is spheroid, but that doesn't mean I should use geodesics to compute the best way to get the the grocery store.

TAPs are useful for people that have problems following through with intentions. OP mentions three example indicators of such problems. If you don't have problems following through, then there is no reason to "make all of your goals into TAPs" or "never think anything with a vague trigger". Putting effort into solving a non-problem is a waste.

To answer your question, hell no. It's clear why this would help certain people, but it's certainly not optimal for people that can look ahead a bit into a future, keep things in mind for later, or... you know, stick to things. The general idea behind TAPs is that people are lazy when they have planning left to do, and they can't remember to do things. Yes, I'll set up notes sometimes, but for the vast majority of things, my brain just reminds me without any explicit triggers. It's not like I feel lazy either, and I don't feel off-put by non-concrete goals, not even a little.

I'm satisfied with my level of productivity, I don't get discouraged by planning or non-concrete goals, and I don't have trouble remembering to do things. TAPs has nothing to offer for me other than ideas on how to model certain aspects of people's brains.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 04 December 2016 04:24:18PM 2 points [-]

"I'm satisfied with my level of productivity." That's very unusual, even for a person with a very high level of productivity, but it's a good attitude to have (and many people even with lower levels of productivity would benefit by having it.)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 05 December 2016 05:55:46AM 1 point [-]

Fair enough.

Comment author: jollybard 18 October 2017 01:44:50AM *  0 points [-]

This post has been very helpful for me, as I kept hearing about TAPs in rationalist circles without ever knowing what it meant. Even knowing what the acronym was didn't help at all (is it usually sufficient for people?).

This post, however, for all its faults (it gets too quickly at examples without first convincing me that I should care), serves as a good reference, if only for the fact that I never knew the concept already existed in mainstream science and was called "implementation intentions". I remember once searching for something of the sort and only finding biology stuff about animal instincts.

I'm aphantasiac. Visualizing things is completely alien to me. So, of course, implementation intentions do not seem obviously good to me. But I see now that they are useful and that I regularly use something similar, and I now believe that most people should use them.