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Bad day contingency Dojo

1 Elo 02 October 2017 07:43AM

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/dojo-bad-day-contingency-plan/

The following is an exercise I composed to be run at the Lesswrong Sydney dojos.  It took an hour and a half but could probably be done faster with some adaptations that I have included in these instructions. In regards to what are the dojos? 

I quote Eliezer in the preface of Rationality: From AI to Zombies when he says:

It was a mistake that I didn’t write my two years of blog posts with the intention of helping people do better in their everyday lives. I wrote it with the intention of helping people solve big, difficult, important problems, and I chose impressive-sounding, abstract problems as my examples. In retrospect, this was the second-largest mistake in my approach.
It ties in to the first-largest mistake in my writing, which was that I didn’t realise that the big problem in learning this valuable way of thinking was figuring out how to practice it, not knowing the theory. I didn’t realise that part was the priority; and regarding this I can only say “Oops” and “Duh.” Yes, sometimes those big issues really are big and really are important; but that doesn’t change the basic truth that to master skills you need to practice them and it’s harder to practice on things that are further away.

Lesswrong is a global movement of rationality.  And with that in mind, the Dojos are our attempt in Sydney to be working on the actual practical stuff.  Working on the personal problems and literal implementation of The plans after they undergo first contact with the enemy. You can join us through our meetup group, facebook group and as advertised on lesswrong.

Below is the instructions for the Dojo.  I can't emphasise enough the process of actually doing and not just reading.  

If you intend to participate, grab some paper or a blank document and stop for a few minutes to make the lists.  Then check your answers against ours. If you don't do the exercise - don't fool yourself into thinking you have this skill under your belt.  Just accept that you didn't really "learn" this one.  you kinda said, "that's great I wish I could find the time to get healthy"  Or "If only I was the type of person who did things.".  If this is especially difficult for you, that's okay.  It is difficult for all of us.  I believe in you!

Good luck.

Everyone has bad days.  Each of us will have various experiences dealing with different causes and/or diagnosing, solving and resolving the causes of "bad-days"

With that in mind I want to do a few sets of discussions on factors of a bad day.

Part 1: Set a timer for 3 minutes - Make a list of things bad for state of mind, or things you have noticed cause trouble for you.  {as a group each person shares one} Review the hints list as a group:

  • routine meds/supplements (supposed to take)
  • have you taken something to cause a bad state? (things you should not take)
  • sleep
  • exercise
  • shower
  • Sunlight (independent of bright light)
  • talk to a human in the last X hours
  • talk to too many humans in the last X hours
  • Fresh air
  • Did I eat in the last X hours
  • drink in the last X hours
  • Am I in pain?  Physical or emotional
  • Physical discomfort, weather, loud noise, bright lights, bad smells
  • Feel unsafe in my surroundings?
  • Do I know why I'm in a bad mood, or not feeling well emotionally?  (remember do not dismiss or judge any answer)
  • When did you last do something fun?
  • Spend 5 minutes making a list of all the little things that are bothering you (try not to solve them now, just make the list) (and if necessary make plans for the ones you can affect).
  • Also possibly distinguish between "why am I feeling bad" and "what can I do to feel less bad/even though I feel bad" (e.g. if you're stressed about upcoming event or fight you had last night, you might not be able to act on it but you can still do things now that will improve your state or at least get you being productive)

at the bottom of the page:{our bonus list of bad things generated in the dojo}

{As a group - were there any big ones we missed and discussion about what we came up with}

Part 2: {set a timer 3 minutes} Come up with a list of things that are good for your mental state

{Group discussion - each share one}

{optional hints list} http://happierhuman.com/how-to-be-happy/ {feel free to go through it as a group or glance at it or skip it}

{bonus good stuff list at the bottom}

{as a group discussion - did we miss any big ones?}

Part 3: Possibly ambiguous factors

Now that we have a list of good and a list of bad, we should build a list of possibly ambiguous factors that you can look out for.  For example the weather, allergies, unexpected events - i.e. a death or car accident. Set a timer 3 minutes - ambiguous factors {as a group - each name one}

{Any big ones we missed} (discussion)

{bonus ambiguous list at the bottom}

Part 4: The important parts

Now I want you to go through the list and come up with the top 5-10 (or as many as matters) most relevant ones.  From here on in it's your list, no more sharing so it doesn't matter to anyone else what's on it.

{Timer 2 minutes}

Part 5: plan for where to keep the list so it's most accessible - so that on a bad day you can access the list and make use of it. Could be in an email draft, could be on your phone, could be a note somewhere at home or in a notebook.

Timer 2 minutes - come up with where you will be keeping the list that makes it most useful to you.

{discussions of plans - including double checking of each other's plans to make sure they seem like they are likely to work}

{assistance if anyone is stuck}

Some ideas:

  • notes app in phone
  • bedroom door poster
  • repeat and memorize
  • "noticing" and asking why, rumination.
  • add to existing lists

{end of exercise and break time}

{bonus list of bad things}

  • supplements
  • private time
  • sun
  • exercise
  • stress (and too much responsibility)
  • sleep
  • alcohol
  • my mother (stress)
  • weather (cold)
  • body temperature
  • sick/headache
  • pain
  • imminent deadlines
  • interpersonal rejection (and the complexities of these)
  • when my wife is unhappy
  • overeating
  • missing out on fun things
  • losing control of my schedule
  • not having a schedule
  • overthinking past failure
  • avoiding things I should do
  • task switching
  • accusations/misunderstandings
  • not sticking to good habits
  • being confrontational
  • need social time
  • bad news on the radio
  • obligation
  • fixating on bullshit
  • getting short with people
  • too much coffee
  • bad test mark
  • not continuing communication (not knowing what to say)
  • junk food
  • not being "myself" enough
  • breaking good routines
  • cold showers in the morning are bad
  • buyers remorse
  • sign up to bungee jumping (felt bad)
  • being unproductive at work
  • something on the mind

{bonus list of good things}

  • weather
  • exercise/swimming, dancing
  • sex
  • big meals
  • supplements
  • sorting my spreadsheets -> feeling on top of my tasks -> congruence of purpose
  • when things work smoothly
  • creating things -> feedback on completion
  • fasting
  • perfect weather
  • shower + bath
  • go for a walk
  • listen to nice music
  • good plan & following it
  • petting a cat
  • weightlifting
  • girlfriend
  • playing instrument
  • feeling connected with someone
  • veg-out in bed
  • good podcast
  • dancing around the house
  • good book/knowledge
  • meditating
  • a balanced day - a bit of everything "good day"
  • napping
  • solving a problem
  • learning knowledge/skill
  • new experiences + with other people
  • lack of responsibility and commitment -> option of impulsivity
  • nature experience (sunsets, cool breeze)
  • discovering nuance
  • progress feedback
  • humour
  • hypnotised to be relaxed
  • 3 weeks sticking to diet and exercise
  • new idea - epiphany feeling
  • winning debate/scoring a soccer goal
  • productive procrastination
  • consider past accomplishment
  • knowing/realising -> feeling the realisation
  • when other people are really organised
  • making someone smile
  • massage giving and receiving
  • hugs
  • deep breathing
  • looking at clouds
  • playing with patterns
  • making others happy
  • good TV/movie
  • getting paid
  • balance social/alone time
  • flow
  • letting go/deciding not to care
  • text chat
  • lying on the floor sleep

{bonus ambiguous list}

  • some foods
  • water
  • sleep (short can feel good endorphins)
  • chemical smells (burning plastic, drying paint)
  • too much internet/facebook
  • coffee buzz
  • conversations
  • helping people
  • humans
  • finding information (sometimes a let down)
  • balance discipline/freedom
  • seeing family
  • junk TV/movies
  • junk food
  • menial chores
  • fidgeting
  • paid work
  • partner time
  • coding binge
  • being alone
  • exercise
  • reading documentation (sometimes good, sometimes terrible)
  • being needed/wanted
  • enthusiasm -> burnout
  • masturbation
  • alcohol
  • sticking to timetable
  • performing below standard
  • sex
  • learning new stuff
  • clubs
  • brain fog
  • breaking the illusions of reality

Meta: this took an hour to write up and a few hours to generate the exercise.   

A collection of Stubs.

-5 Elo 06 September 2016 07:24AM

In light of SDR's comment yesterday, instead of writing a new post today I compiled my list of ideas I wanted to write about, partly to lay them out there and see if any stood out as better than the rest, and partly so that maybe they would be a little more out in the wild than if I hold them until I get around to them.  I realise there is not a thesis in this post, but I figured it would be better to write one of these than to write each in it's own post with the potential to be good or bad.

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/many-draft-concepts/

I create ideas at about the rate of 3 a day, without trying to.  I write at about a rate of 1.5 a day.  Which leaves me always behind.  Even if I write about the best ideas I can think of, some good ones might never be covered.  This is an effort to draft out a good stack of them so that maybe it can help me not have to write them all out, by better defining which ones are the good ones and which ones are a bit more useless.

With that in mind, in no particular order - a list of unwritten posts:

From my old table of contents

Goals of your lesswrong group – As a guided/workthrough exercise in deciding why the group exists and what it should do.  Help people work out what they want out of it (do people know)? setting goals, doing something particularly interesting or routine, having fun, changing your mind, being activists in the world around you.  Whatever the reasons you care about, work them out and move towards them.  Nothing particularly groundbreaking in the process here.  Sit down with the group with pens and paper, maybe run a resolve cycle, maybe talk about ideas and settle on a few, then decide how to carry them out.  Relevant links: Sydney meetup,  group resources (estimate 2hrs to write)

Goals interrogation + Goal levels – Goal interrogation is about asking <is this thing I want to do actually a goal of mine> and <is my current plan the best way to achieve that>, goal levels are something out of Sydney Lesswrong that help you have mutual long term goals and supporting short term goal.  There are 3 main levels, Dream, Year, Daily (or approximate) you want dream goals like going to the moon, you want yearly goals like getting another year further in your degree and you want daily goals like studying today that contribute to the upper level goals.  Any time you are feeling lost you can look at the guide you set out for yourself and use it to direct you. (3hrs)

How to human – A zero to human guide. A guide for basic functionality of a humanoid system. Something of a conglomeration of maslow, mental health, so you feel like shit and system thinking.  Am I conscious?Am I breathing? Am I bleeding or injured (major or minor)? Am I falling or otherwise in danger and about to cause the earlier questions to return false?  Do I know where I am?  Am I safe?  Do I need to relieve myself (or other bodily functions, i.e. itchy)?  Have I had enough water? sleep? food?  Is my mind altered (alcohol or other drugs)?  Am I stuck with sensory input I can't control (noise, smells, things touching me)?  Am I too hot or too cold?  Is my environment too hot or too cold?  Or unstable?  Am I with people or alone? Is this okay?  Am I clean (showered, teeth, other personal cleaning rituals)?  Have I had some sunlight and fresh air in the past few days?  Have I had too much sunlight or wind in the past few days?  Do I feel stressed?  Okay?  Happy?  Worried?  Suspicious?  Scared? Was I doing something?  What am I doing?  do I want to be doing something else?  Am I being watched (is that okay?)?  Have I interacted with humans in the past 24 hours?  Have I had alone time in the past 24 hours?  Do I have any existing conditions I can run a check on - i.e. depression?  Are my valuables secure?  Are the people I care about safe?  (4hrs)

List of common strategies for getting shit done – things like scheduling/allocating time, pomodoros, committing to things externally, complice, beeminder, other trackers. (4hrs)

List of superpowers and kryptonites – when asking the question “what are my superpowers?” and “what are my kryptonites?”. Knowledge is power; working with your powers and working out how to avoid your kryptonites is a method to improve yourself.  What are you really good at, and what do you absolutely suck at and would be better delegating to other people.  The more you know about yourself, the more you can do the right thing by your powers or weaknesses and save yourself troubles.

List of effective behaviours – small life-improving habits that add together to make awesomeness from nothing. And how to pick them up.  Short list: toothbrush in the shower, scales in front of the  fridge, healthy food in the most accessible position in the fridge, make the unhealthy stuff a little more inacessible, keep some clocks fast - i.e. the clock in your car (so you get there early),  prepare for expected barriers ahead of time (i.e. packing the gym bag and leaving it at the door), and more.

Stress prevention checklist – feeling off? You want to have already outsourced the hard work for “things I should check on about myself” to your past self. Make it easier for future you. Especially in the times that you might be vulnerable.  Generate a list of things that you want to check are working correctly.  i.e. did I drink today?  Did I do my regular exercise?  Did I take my medication?  Have I run late today?  Do I have my work under control?

Make it easier for future you. Especially in the times that you might be vulnerable. – as its own post in curtailing bad habits that you can expect to happen when you are compromised.  inspired by candy-bar moments and turning them into carrot-moments or other more productive things.  This applies beyond diet, and might involve turning TV-hour into book-hour (for other tasks you want to do instead of tasks you automatically do)

A p=np approach to learning – Sometimes you have to learn things the long way; but sometimes there is a short cut. Where you could say, “I wish someone had just taken me on the easy path early on”. It’s not a perfect idea; but start looking for the shortcuts where you might be saying “I wish someone had told me sooner”. Of course the answer is, “but I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway” which is something that can be worked on as well. (2hrs)

Rationalists guide to dating – Attraction. Relationships. Doing things with a known preference. Don’t like unintelligent people? Don’t try to date them. Think first; then act - and iteratively experiment; an exercise in thinking hard about things before trying trial-and-error on the world. Think about places where you might meet the kinds of people you want to meet, then use strategies that go there instead of strategies that flop in the general direction of progress.  (half written)

Training inherent powers (weights, temperatures, smells, estimation powers) – practice makes perfect right? Imagine if you knew the temperature always, the weight of things by lifting them, the composition of foods by tasting them, the distance between things without measuring. How can we train these, how can we improve.  Probably not inherently useful to life, but fun to train your system 1! (2hrs)

Strike to the heart of the question. The strongest one; not the one you want to defeat – Steelman not Strawman. Don’t ask “how do I win at the question”; ask, “am I giving the best answer to the best question I can give”.  More poetic than anything else - this post would enumerate the feelings of victory and what not to feel victorious about, as well as trying to feel what it's like to be on the other side of the discussion to yourself, frustratingly trying to get a point across while a point is being flung at yourself. (2hrs)

How to approach a new problem – similar to the “How to solve X” post.  But considerations for working backwards from a wicked problem, as well as trying “The least bad solution I know of”, Murphy-jitsu, and known solutions to similar problems.  Step 0. I notice I am approaching a problem.

Turning Stimming into a flourish – For autists, to make a presentability out of a flaw.

How to manage time – estimating the length of future tasks (and more), covered in notch system, and do tasks in a different order.  But presented on it's own.

Spices – Adventures in sensory experience land.  I ran an event of spice-smelling/guessing for a group of 30 people.  I wrote several documents in the process about spices and how to run the event.  I want to publish these.  As an exercise - it's a fun game of guess-the-spice.

Wing it VS Plan – All of the what, why, who, and what you should do of the two.  Some people seem to be the kind of person who is always just winging it.  In contrast, some people make ridiculously complicated plans that work.  Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle.  I suggest that the more of a planner you can be the better because you can always fall back on winging it, and you probably will.  But if you don't have a plan and are already winging it - you can't fall back on the other option.  This concept came to me while playing ingress, which encourages you to plan your actions before you make them.

On-stage bias – The changes we make when we go onto a stage include extra makeup to adjust for the bright lights, and speaking louder to adjust for the audience which is far away. When we consider the rest of our lives, maybe we want to appear specifically X (i.e, confident, friendly) so we should change ourselves to suit the natural skews in how we present based on the "stage" we are appearing on.  appear as the person you want to appear as, not the person you naturally appear as.

Creating a workspace – considerations when thinking about a “place” of work, including desk, screen, surrounding distractions, and basically any factors that come into it.  Similar to how the very long list of sleep maintenance suggestions covers environmental factors in your sleep environment but for a workspace.

Posts added to the list since then

Doing a cost|benefit analysis - This is something we rely on when enumerating the options and choices ahead of us, but something I have never explicitly looked into.  Some costs that can get overlooked include: Time, Money, Energy, Emotions, Space, Clutter, Distraction/Attention, Memory, Side effects, and probably more.  I'd like to see a How to X guide for CBA. (wikipedia)

Extinction learning at home - A cross between intermittent reward (the worst kind of addiction), and what we know about extinguishing it.  Then applying that to "convincing" yourself to extinguish bad habits by experiential learning.  Uses the CFAR internal Double Crux technique, precommit yourself to a challenge, for example - "If I scroll through 20 facebook posts in a row and they are all not worth my time, I will be convinced that I should spend less time on facebook because it's not worth my time"  Adjust 20 to whatever position your double crux believes to be true, then run a test and iterate.  You have to genuinely agree with the premise before running the test.  This can work for a number of committed habits which you want to extinguish.  (new idea as at the writing of this post)

How to write a dating ad - A suggestion to include information that is easy to ask questions about (this is hard).  For example; don't write, "I like camping", write "I like hiking overnight with my dog", giving away details in a way that makes them worth inquiring about.  The same reason applies to why writing "I'm a great guy" is really not going to get people to believe you, as opposed to demonstrating the claim. (show, don't tell)

How to give yourself aversions - an investigation into aversive actions and potentially how to avoid collecting them when you have a better understanding of how they happen.  (I have not done the research and will need to do that before publishing the post)

How to give someone else an aversion - similar to above, we know we can work differently to other people, and at the intersection of that is a misunderstanding that can leave people uncomfortable.

Lists - Creating lists is a great thing, currently in draft - some considerations about what lists are, what they do, what they are used for, what they can be used for, where they come in handy, and the suggestion that you should use lists more. (also some digital list-keeping solutions)

Choice to remember the details - this stems from choosing to remember names, a point in the conversation where people sometimes tune out.  As a mindfulness concept you can choose to remember the details. (short article, not exactly sure why I wanted to write about this)

What is a problem - On the path of problem solving, understanding what a problem is will help you to understand how to attack it.  Nothing more complicated than this picture to explain it.  The barrier is a problem.  This doesn't seem important on it's own but as a foundation for thinking about problems it's good to have  sitting around somewhere.


How to/not attend a meetup - for anyone who has never been to a meetup, and anyone who wants the good tips on etiquette for being the new guy in a room of friends.  First meetup: shut up and listen, try not to be too much of an impact on the existing meetup group or you might misunderstand the culture.

Noticing the world, Repercussions and taking advantage of them - There are regularly world events that I notice.  Things like the olympics, Pokemon go coming out, the (recent) spaceX rocket failure.  I try to notice when big events happen and try to think about how to take advantage of the event or the repercussions caused by that event.  Motivated to think not only about all the olympians (and the fuss leading up to the olympics), but all the people at home who signed up to a gym because of the publicity of the competitive sport.  If only I could get in on the profit of gym signups...

leastgood but only solution I know of - So you know of a solution, but it's rubbish.  Or probably is.  Also you have no better solutions.  Treat this solution as the best solution you have (because it is) and start implementing it, as you do that - keep looking for other solutions.  But at least you have a solution to work with!

Self-management thoughts - When you ask yourself, "am I making progress?", "do I want to be in this conversation?" and other self management thoughts.  And an investigation into them - it's a CFAR technique but their writing on the topic is brief.  (needs research)

instrumental supply-hoarding behaviour - A discussion about the benefits of hoarding supplies for future use.  Covering also - what supplies are not a good idea to store, and what supplies are.  Maybe this will be useful for people who store things for later days, and hopefully help to consolidate and add some purposefulness to their process.

list of sub groups that I have tried - Before running my local lesswrong group I partook in a great deal of other groups.  This was meant as a list with comments on each group.

If you have nothing to do – make better tools for use when real work comes along - This was probably going to be a poetic style motivation post about exactly what the title suggests.  Be Prepared.

what other people are good at (as support) - When reaching out for support, some people will be good at things that other people are not.  For example - emotional support, time to spend on each other, ideas for solving your problems.  Different people might be better or worse than others.  Thinking about this can make your strategies towards solving your problems a bit easier to manage.  Knowing what works and what does not work, or what you can reliably expect when you reach out for support from some people - is going to supercharge your fulfilment of those needs.

Focusing - An already written guide to Eugine Gendlin's focusing technique.  That needs polishing before publishing.  The short form: treat your system 1 as a very powerful machine that understands your problems and their solutions more than you do; use your system 2 to ask it questions and see what it returns.

Rewrite: how to become a 1000 year old vampire - I got as far as breaking down this post and got stuck at draft form before rewriting.  Might take another stab at it soon.

Should you tell people your goals? This thread in a post.  In summary: It depends on the environment, the wrong environment is actually demotivational, the right environment is extra motivational.

Meta: this took around 4 hours to write up.  Which is ridiculously longer than usual.  I noticed a substantial number of breaks being taken - not sure if that relates to the difficulty of creating so many summaries or just me today.  Still.  This experiment might help my future writing focus/direction so I figured I would try it out.  If you see an idea of particularly high value I will be happy to try to cover it in more detail.

Cultivate the desire to X

3 Elo 07 March 2016 03:40AM

Recently I have found myself encouraging people to cultivate the desire to X.

Examples that you might want to cultivate interest in include:

  • Diet
  • Organise ones self
  • Plan for the future
  • be a goal-oriented thinker
  • build the tools
  • Anything else in the list of common human goals
  • Getting healthy sleep
  • Being less wrong
  • Trusting people more
  • Trusting people less
  • exercise
  • interest in a topic (cars, fashion, psychology etc.)

Why do we need to cultivate?

We don't.  But sometimes we can't just "do".  Lot's of reasons are reasonable reasons to not be able to just "do" the thing:

  • Some things are scary
  • Some things need planning
  • Some things need research
  • Some things are hard
  • Some things are a leap of faith
  • Some things can be frustrating to accept
  • Some things seem stupid (well if exercising is so great why don't I automatically want to do it)
  • Other excuses exist.

On some level you have decided you want to do X; on some other level you have not yet committed to doing it.  Easy tasks can get done quickly.  More complicated tasks are not so easy to do right away.

Well if it were easy enough to just successfully do the thing - you can go ahead and do the thing (TTYL flying to the moon tomorrow - yea nope.).

  1. your system 1 wants to do the thing and your system 2 is not sure how.
  2. your system 2 wants to do the thing and your system 1 is not sure it wants to do the thing.  
  • The healthy part of you wants to diet; the social part of you is worried about the impact on your social life.

(now borrowing from Common human goals)

  • Your desire to live forever wants you to take a medication every morning to increase your longevity; your desire for freedom does not want to be tied down to a bottle of pills every morning.
  • Your desire for a legacy wants you to stay late at work; your desire for quality family time wants you to leave the office early.

The solution:

The solution is to cultivate the interest; or the desire to do the thing. From the initial point of interest or desire - you can move forward; do some research to either convince your system 2 of the benefits, or work out how to do the thing to convince your system 1 that it is possible/viable/easy enough.  Or maybe after some research the thing seems impossible.  I offer Cultivating the desire as a step along the way to working it out.

Short post for today; Cultivate the desire to do X.

Meta: time to write 1.5 hours.

My table of contents contains my other writing

feedback welcome

General buying considerations?

6 Elo 12 October 2015 05:18AM

The following is an incomplete list of suggestions for generic considerations that you might like to make when you go out to buy a thing. I have tried to put the list in order; being generic - certain things will be more or less important in different orders.


0. Do I need the thing? Am I just wanting it on a whim (you are allowed to do that, but at least try to not do that for many expensive things that don’t have resale value)?  If a month had gone by, would I still be wanting it?

  1. What is the thing? What functionality considerations do you need to make?  What does it need to do?  If you already had it - what would it be doing? Will it fit in your life?
  2. What is your expected use? Daily? Once-off? Occasional? (no more than 5 times in your predicted future)
  3. What do I want it to do?  Does this thing do what I want it to do?  (It can be very easy to buy a thing that doesn't quite suit the need because we get distracted between wanting a thing and getting a thing)

Consider your options that avoid buying it:

  1. Can I borrow one from a friend? Or a family member? (some things cannot be borrowed like a wristwatch - no sense borrowing one if it’s an item you wear every day - or other reasons to not borrow a thing)
  2. Can I get one second hand?  
    Some items are perfectly fine second hand, i.e. books, whereas others are potentially less fine (i.e. cars) where more can go wrong with a second hand one.  The point of this inclusion was to encourage you to consider it when you previously would not have. for whichever reason.  Books second hand can also be occasionally out of date or damaged; and cars second hand can be excellent purchases.
  3. Is anyone I know also interested in having the thing, and would they be willing to split the cost with me in order to have it on a kind of timeshare, and can we agree on a deprecation schedule such that one of us buys out the other's share in the future, if one of us is moving away or something?
  4. Renting/hiring the thing - as a one off. (works for most power tools, as well as storage space, a boat, all kinds of things...).  It is also an option to rent short term while you decide if the thing fits your life.  i.e. rent a jetski.  If you find you don’t use it enough to warrant a full purchase you only needed to invest a little bit of the final cost; and might be saving money to do so.
  5. Timeshare - businesses exist around sharing cars; boats; holiday houses and various other products.  You might be able to take advantage of these businesses.
  6. Can I apply for credit for the thing? Can I get the item on consignment?
  7. Could I earn money using the thing and return some costs? (Am I likely to do that based on my past experiences doing so with other purchases?)

Knowledge about the thing:

  1. Do any of your trusted friends have opinions or knowledge in the area?
  2. What do online reviews say?
  3. Is there a community of enthusiasts (i.e. Online) who have resources or who you can outsource the search to? 
  4. Are there experts in the field - (i.e. buying houses), is it worth engaging an expert for this transaction?
  5. How much time do I want to spend on considering and shopping vs how much use will I get out of the thing? (for items under $20, try not to spend more than half an hour on it; or it’s almost better to randomly buy one available {depending on your local minimum wage})

Purchase considerations:

  • What is my budget?
  • Can I afford it? (see options that avoid buying it)
  • Price range of the things on the market?
  • Is it cheaper somewhere else in the world and posted to me?
  • Can I ask for a discount?
  • Can I combine postage with other items?
  • How long will the thing last?
  • How long do I need it for?
  • How quickly do I need it?
  • Do I want to be able to sell it when I'm done?
  • What's the return policy of the various places selling it vs price vs shipping?
  • What is the shipping time?
  • Does it come with a warranty?  Does the warranty last long enough for my liking?
  • Are any laws, customs or taxes applicable to it; or its purchase, or resale?
  • What's the difference between the best price and the worst price, and when do you wind up spending more time (in terms of the value of your time) than that difference trying to get the best price?
  • Does it have resale value?  Do some have better resale than others? (are you actually a person who re-sells things? - have you resold a thing before?)
  • Can I get it in a physical store?  Can I get it online?

General specifics:

  • Is the one I want a quality item?
  • Is the item disposable or not? Have you considered the merits of a similar but disposable one? (or a similar non-disposable one)
  • Does it have the correct colour? Or other embellishments?
  • Do I have storage space for it within my existing storage area?
  • Is it big? Can I get a smaller one?
  • Is it heavy? Can I get a more lightweight version?
  • What are its power options? AC, DC, battery, built-in battery, built-in solar, etc.
  • What is it made out of? Does it come in metal, plastic, wood, etc. what would I prefer?
  • Does it suit my existing possessions?
  • Will this one cost more to repair than the other similar ones?

Miscellaneous considerations:

  • Do I have a backup for if this one fails?
  • What are the consequences of a lower-quality thing breaking while I'm using it?
  • Can I pay for it from someone who is going to donate proceeds to charitable causes?
  • For any purchase under $50 (adjust for your life circumstances) it’s not so much worth running through this checklist; but for more expensive purchases - it’s likely that if you want to appreciate that you put in effort and came to a good conclusion, a process like this will be helpful.
  • Is the process of buying it give me pleasure? Or I will suffer in a long line for it?
  • What kind of signalling is the thing going to give me?  Do I want that?
  • Does the thing have an upkeep or maintenance cost?


Nearly all of the points listed here could be expanded to its own post.  These points apply to everyone to different extents.  “Considering borrowing” is advice that is priceless to one person, and useless to another person.  similarly; “budget” might be significant to one person because they don’t spend often but then spend whatever they like when they need to; but useless to another person because they live and breathe budget.

I plan to cover this in another post about making advice applicable to you.

meta: 3 hours write up.  3-5 reviewers, slack channel inspiring the post, and giving me a place to flesh out the thoughts.

This post is certainly open to improvements.  Please add your comments below.

See also: My Table of contents for other posts in this collection.

See also other repositories on lesswrong:

3 classifications of thinking, and a problem.

0 Elo 26 July 2015 03:33PM

I propose 3 areas of defining thinking "past", "future", "present".  followed by a hard question.



This can be classified as any system of review, any overview of past progress, and any learning from the past broadly including history, past opportunities or challenges, shelved projects, known problems and previous progress.  Where a fraction of your time should be spent in the process of review in order to influence your plan for the future.



Any planning-thinking tasks, or strategic intention about plotting a course forward towards a purposeful goal.  This can overlap with past-strategising by the nature of using the past to plan for the future.



These actions include tasks that get done now, This is where stuff really happens; (technically both past-thinking and future-thinking classify as something you can do in the present, and take up time in the present, but I want to keep them apart for now)  This is the living-breathing getting things done time.  the bricks-and mortar of actually building something; creating and generating progress towards a designated future goal.


The hard question

I am stuck on finding a heuristic or estimate for how long should be spent in each area of being/doing.  I reached a point where I uncovered a great deal of neglect for both past events and making future purposeful plans.  

Where if 100% of time is spent on the past, nothing will ever get done, other than a clear understanding of your mistakes;

Similarly 100% on the future will lead to a lot of dreaming and no progress towards the future.  

Equally if all your time is spent running very fast in the present-doing-state you might be going very fast; but by the nature of not knowing where you are going in the future; you might be in a state of not-even-wrong, and not know.

10/10/80?  20/20/60?  25/25/50? 10/20/70?

I am looking for suggestions as to an estimate of how to spend each 168 hour week that might prove a fruitful division of time, or a method or reason for a certain division (at least before I go all empirical trial-and-error on this puzzle).

I would be happy with recommended reading on the topic if that can be provided.

Have you ever personally tackled the buckets? Did you come up with a strategy for how to decide between them?

Thanks for the considerations.

Proposal for a structured agreement tool

6 DilGreen 30 September 2010 11:31PM

I hope this is a good place for this - comments/suggestions welcome - offers of collaboration more than welcome!

I envisage a kind of structured wiki, centred around the creation of propositions, which can be linked to allow communities of interest to rapidly come to fairly sophisticated levels of mutual understanding; the aim being to foster the development of strong groups with confidence in shared, conscious positions. This should allow significant confidence in collaboration.

Some aspects, in no particular order;

  • Propositions are made by users, and are editable by users - as in a wiki
  • Each proposition could be  templated - the inspiration for the template being the form adopted by Chris. Alexander et al in 'A Pattern Language', namely;
    1. TITLE (referenced)(confidence level)
    2. picture
    3. context - including links to other propositions within whose sphere this one might operate
    5. Discussion
    6. CONCLUSION - couched in parametric/generic/process based terms
    7. links to other propositions for which this proposition is the context
  • Some mechanism for users to make public their degree of acceptance of each proposition
  • Some mechanism for construction by individuals/groups of networks of propositions specific to particular users/groups  (in other words, the links referred to in 3. and 7. above might be different for different users/groups) These networks can work like Pattern Languages that address particular fields / ethical approaches / political or philosophical positions / projects
  • Some mechanism for assignment by users/groups of tiered structure to proposition networks (to allow for distinctions to be made between fundamental, large scale propositions and more detailed, peripheral ones)
  • Some mechanism for individual users to form associations with other users/established groups who are subscribing to the same propositions
  • Some mechanism for community voting/karma to promote individuals to assume stewardship of groups

Enough of these for now. Some imagined interactions might be more helpful;

  1. I stumble across the site (as I stumbled across LessWrong), and browse proposition titles. I come across one called 'Other people are real, just like me'. It contains some version of the argument for accepting that other humans are to be assumed to have roughly the same motivations, needs et al, as me, and the suggestion that this is a useful founding block for a rational morality. I decide to subscribe, fairly strongly. I am offered a tailored selection of related propositions, as identified by the groups that have included this proposition in their networks (without identification of said groups, I rather think) - I investigate these, and at some point, the system feels that my developing profile is beginning to match that of some group or groups - and offers me the chance to look at their 'mission statement' pages. I decide to come back another day and look at other propositions included in these groups' networks, before going any further. I decline to have my profile made public, so that the groups don't contact me.
  2. I come across some half-baked, but interesting proposition. As a registered user, but not the originator of the proposition, I have some choices;  I can comment on the proposition, hoping to engage in dialogue with the proposer that could be fruitful, or I can 'clone' (or 'fork') the proposition, and seek to improve it myself. Ultimately, the interest of other users will determine the influence and relevance of the proposition.
  3. I am a fundamentalist christian (!). I come across the site, and am appalled at its secular, materialist tone. I make a new proposition; 'The Bible is revealed truth, in all its glory' (or some such twaddle. Of course, I omit to specify which edition, and don't even consider the option of a language other than english - but hey, what do you expect?). Within days, I have assembled a wonderful active group of woolly minded people happily discussing the capacity of Noah's Ark, or whatever. The point here is that the platform is just that - a platform. Human community is a Good Thing.

  4. I am pushed upward by the group I am part of to some sort of moderator role. The system shows various other groups who agree more or less strongly with most of the propositions our group deems fundamental. I contact my opposite number in one of those, and we together make a new proposition which we believe could be a vehicle for discussions that could lead to a merger.
  5. I wish to write a business plan that is not a pile of dead tree gathering dust 6 weeks after it was presented to the board. I attempt to set out the aims of the business as fundamental propositions, and advertise this network to my colleagues, who suggest refinements. On this basis, we work up a description of the important policies and 'business rules' which define the enterprise. These remain accessible and editable , so that they can evolve along with the business.
  6. I am considering an open-source project. I set out the fundamental aims and characteristics of the tool I am proposing, and link them together. The system allows me to set myself up as a group. I sit back and wait for others to comment. Based on these comments, the propositions are refined, others added, relationships built with potential collaborators. At some point, we form a group, and the project gets under way. Throughout its life, the propositions are continually refined and added to. The propositions are a useful form of marketing, and save us a great deal of bother talking to people who want to know what/why/how.

Enough... Point 6 is almost recursive.......


There is more discursive (and older) material, here.

Thanks for reading, and please do comment.