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RomeoStevens comments on 2017: An Actual Plan to Actually Improve - Less Wrong

17 Post author: helldalgo 27 January 2017 06:42PM

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Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2017 07:02:42AM *  11 points [-]

This is inspiring, thank you.

Edit crossposted:

The past 18 months have seen what subjectively feels like more progress than the previous 8 years combined. Inspired by this post I want to briefly outline my current guesses for what the inputs to this have been. Why do I consider myself to have leveled up?

  1. I can trace the genesis of experiences in a much less flinchy, moralizing, or otherwise unhelpful way. This is a dramatic performance improvement for the debugging console, making me more likely to use it.

  2. I consume more worthwhile material than at any previous point in my life, while taking detailed notes that allow me to refer back to it systematically.

  3. As a result of 1, iterating habits is much more effective. All of my self care: sleep, exercise, diet, etc. have improved in ways I expect to be more robust (though not immune) to disruption.

  4. Noticeable decrease in neuroticism. I.e. negative moods are less harsh and shorter in duration.

  5. Noticeable decrease in stress and reactivity. People yelling in my face (including people who have power over processes vital to projects) hasn't bothered me much lately whereas before it would have me shaken for days, and likely cause an unpleasant recall months or years later.

  6. It feels like there is more room in my mind to think bigger, more complex thoughts.

  7. Feel more excited and less defensive when encountering critical feedback or the idea that I have a blindspot.

  8. Far fewer problems seem intractable.

  9. My problem decomposition skills seem improved in the sense that when I talk over problems with intelligent friends I often feel it is easy to point out many potentially useful distinctions that their current model does not make and suggest ways we might test them. I can also rubber duck my own plans in this way and improve their quality dramatically. It's not that this didn't happen before, but there is a sharp clarity that wasn't there before.

Things that seem to have helped (lots of potential confounding with the biggest one being age. I am somewhat disinclined to believe that due to the suddenness of the shift. Shrug.):

  1. Movement. Sure, having an exercise habit, but also just physically altering my state when I am not functioning well gets things working more often than not. Weights, cardio, yoga, but also just walking and sit stand desk ($30 from Ikea parts).

  2. Info triaging. Reading many things at a coarser level and prioritizing more ruthlessly based on what seems valuable, alive. This is a rather pithy description for something of such vast value. It is probably worth a post. (huge ht to Alex Ray for finally finally convincing me to actually do this.)

  3. Developing exobrain systems that work for me in a pleasant rather than onerous, virtue based way. eg I use workflowy, pomodoros, and konmarie like systems a lot. I find many other systems for organizing my priorities to be unpleasant, so I don't use them. Note I said organize my priorities, I don't use such systems in order to try to make myself work. Once I stopp thinking of these as 'productivity systems' I started getting tons of value out of them. That frame is propaganda for an internal fight that it's better to get a ceasefire on rather than developing ever more powerful weapons for.

  4. Noticing negative self talk and not putting up with it. Internal parts that are motivated to get something can engage respectfully with other parts/values or they can be ignored. This got more subtle as I got better at it. I went from noticing explicitly violent internal moves (yelling, shaming, etc.) to noticing that parts use things like hypnotic binding, misleading choice of words to frame issues etc. Your parts are as smart as you because they are you. (sometimes they seem smarter because systems arrived at via selection don't have to stick to a particular abstraction level the way explicitly planned ones do)

  5. Internalizing the core framework of coherence therapy and Immunity to Change by Kegan: that your current bugs/negative emotions/etc. are trying to help you and if you don't acknowledge the important job they are doing any fighting you do against them likely won't work. Or in other words, akrasia is self healing unless you figure out the ways your current coping strategies are helping you get your needs met and you find alternate ways.

  6. I don't know what to call this one that won't induce an eye roll. To paraphrase Lama Yeshe: 'I am not telling you to help others as some sort of virtuous commandment. I am saying that from a 100% selfish standpoint you should try out focusing on the needs of others. Try it for 3 weeks, and honestly evaluate if your life is better. If not, you never have to do it again. But it will likely be impossible not to notice how much better things go when you get in the habit of keeping a lookout for ways you can assist others in their positive goals. No one is telling you to give up your critical faculties and be taken advantage of. And you'll find that your paranoia was unwarranted.' I'll note that if you are secretly keeping a tally of how people owe you you are not doing the thing. This might be semi-involuntary and take conscious effort to drop. Others might be wary as they suspect you of angling for some advantage. Let them in on the secret that you are being selfish. Those you genuinely enjoy helping and those you don't will work itself out naturally.

  7. My attention span has improved dramatically as a result of significantly reduced use of super stimuli (news feeds, video games, pornography, super stimulating foods, hero's journey fiction, hyper attention grabbing style music, frequency of hamster pellet checks (fb, email, messaging, etc.), video binging) and the resulting free time is shocking.

  8. Schematizing everything. This is an improvement not to normal mental tools but to the mental toolbox. Collecting schematic workflows that other tools can be plugged in to for specific tasks. There are far fewer of these and they assist in the mental availability of the correct mental tools because they have what Eugene Gendlin calls a 'specific' or 'sharp' blank. ie a blank that knows what it is looking for (what was that word? no that's not it etc.). Ever wonder why you can remember thousands of words but not 100 mental tools? Because you have a rich associational web for your words (connotation space) but not one for mental tools. This starts fixing that. The sooner you start the better.

  9. Noting (outlined here: http://lesswrong.com/…/triaging_mental_phenomena_or_leveli…/).

  10. Rituals make your life more like Groundhog Day. Mainly used for the meta-habits of setting intentions around other habits and doing reflection. A morning and evening routine is very worth it. It will repeatedly fail, you have to keep iterating so it fits your current life.

  11. Climbing out of the valley of bad meta of believing if I just installed the correct set of mental tools and habits that things would magically fall into place at some indeterminate point in the future. Realizing that I can't use the outputs of other people's processes as my process (as you would be doing if you tried to instantiate this list as a set of processes rather than using it as inspiration to examine your own life more closely)

  12. Meta: carefully investigating motivation, prioritizing, meaning, the concept of 'carefully investigating', goals, systems, mental tools, mental states, search strategies, what counts as an explanation, tacit vs explicit, procedural vs declarative, and others.

Comment author: drossbucket 28 January 2017 11:18:18AM *  2 points [-]

Item eight of your second list ('schematizing everything') sounds really interesting. Is it possible to give some specific examples? I'd like to get clearer on what you mean by 'schematic workflows that other tools can be plugged into'.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2017 09:46:05PM 4 points [-]

The executive summary would be that TAPs are cfar discovering one of these. You can hit various systems with the decomposition hammer and you'll start to see the more common pieces crop up over and over. OODA loop, GTD, analogical reasoning, sorting schemes for prioritization. The tell tale sign of one of these is that you can feed it to itself, which indicates it is flexible enough to take all sorts of arguments.

I'll try to write a short post on it at some point.

Comment author: drossbucket 29 January 2017 08:24:59PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, that's useful! A post on this some time sounds good.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 28 January 2017 10:53:54PM 0 points [-]

I'll try to write a short post on it at some point.

Please do!

Comment author: folkTheory 03 February 2017 03:39:25AM 0 points [-]

I could really benefit from a better note taking system such as the one you mention in item 2. Could you give me some pointers for improving note taking? Relatedly, what system/app do you use for the note taking?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 04 February 2017 03:13:47AM *  1 point [-]

I use workflowy, the key for me is to not worry about messy ontologies and just clean it up every once in a while. If you search for something and can't find it, be sure to add the first search term you tried to use to the thing once you do find it.