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Too busy to think about life

85 Post author: Academian 22 April 2010 03:14PM

Many adults maintain their intelligence through a dedication to study or hard work.  I suspect this is related to sub-optimal levels of careful introspection among intellectuals.

If someone asks you what you want for yourself in life, do you have the answer ready at hand?  How about what you want for others?  Human values are complex, which means your talents and technical knowledge should help you think about them.  Just as in your work, complexity shouldn't be a curiosity-stopper.  It means "think", not "give up now."

But there are so many terrible excuses stopping you...

Too busy studying?  Life is the exam you are always taking.  Are you studying for that?  Did you even write yourself a course outline?

Too busy helping?  Decision-making is the skill you are aways using, or always lacking, as much when you help others as yourself.  Isn't something you use constantly worth improving on purpose?

Too busy thinking to learn about your brain?  That's like being too busy flying an airplane to learn where the engines are.  Yes, you've got passengers in real life, too: the people whose lives you affect.

Emotions too irrational to think about them?  Irrational emotions are things you don't want to think for you, and therefore are something you want to think about.  By analogy, children are often irrational, and no one sane concludes that we therefore shouldn't think about their welfare, or that they shouldn't exist.

So set aside a date.  Sometime soon.  Write yourself some notes.  Find that introspective friend of yours, and start solving for happiness.  Don't have one?  For the first time in history, you've got LessWrong.com!

Reasons to make the effort:

Happiness is a pairing between your situation and your disposition. Truly optimizing your life requires adjusting both variables: what happens, and how it affects you.

You are constantly changing your disposition.  The question is whether you'll do it with a purpose.  Your experiences change you, and you affect those, as well as how you think about them, which also changes you.  It's going to happen.  It's happening now.  Do you even know how it works?  Put your intelligence to work and figure it out!

The road to harm is paved with ignorance.  Using your capability to understand yourself and what you're doing is a matter of responsibility to others, too.  It makes you better able to be a better friend.

You're almost certainly suffering from Ugh Fields unconscious don't-think-about-it reflexes that form via Pavlovian conditioning.  The issues most in need of your attention are often ones you just happen not to think about for reasons undetectable to you.

How not to waste the effort:

Don't wait till you're sad.  Only thinking when you're sad gives you a skew perspective.  Don't infer that you can think better when you're sad just because that's the only time you try to be thoughtful.  Sadness often makes it harder to think: you're farther from happiness, which can make it more difficult to empathize with and understand.  Nonethess we often have to think when sad, because something bad may have happened that needs addressing.

Introspect carefully, not constantly.  Don't interrupt your work every 20 minutes to wonder whether it's your true purpose in life.  Respect that question as something that requires concentration, note-taking, and solid blocks of scheduled time.  In those times, check over your analysis by trying to confound it, so lingering doubts can be justifiably quieted by remembering how thorough you were.

Re-evaluate on an appropriate time-scale.  Try devoting a few days before each semester or work period to look at your life as a whole.  At these times you'll have accumulated experience data from the last period, ripe and ready for analysis.  You'll have more ideas per hour that way, and feel better about it.  Before starting something new is also the most natural and opportune time to affirm or change long term goals.  Then, barring large unexpecte d opportunities, stick to what you decide until the next period when you've gathered enough experience to warrant new reflection.

(The absent minded driver is a mathematical example of how planning outperforms constant re-evaluation.  When not engaged in a deep and careful introspection, we're all absent minded drivers to a degree.)

Lost about where to start?  I think Alicorn's story is an inspiring one.  Learn to understand and defeat procrastination/akrasia.  Overcome your cached selves so you can grow freely (definitely read their possible strategies at the end).  Foster an everyday awareness that you are a brain, and in fact more like two half-brains.

These suggestions are among the top-rated LessWrong posts, so they'll be of interest to lots of intellectually-minded, rationalist-curious individuals.  But you have your own task ahead of you, that only you can fulfill.

So don't give up.  Don't procrastinate it.  If you haven't done it already, schedule a day and time right now when you can realistically assess

  • how you want your life to affect you and other people, and
  • what you must change to better achieve this.

Eliezer has said I want you to live.  Let me say:

I want you to be better at your life.

Comments (62)

Comment author: Morendil 22 April 2010 05:43:29PM 18 points [-]

Think of LessWrong as a hobbyist community, where the things we like to take apart to see how they're built, tinker with endlessly, and exult in learning more about...

...are our own minds.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2010 03:11:51AM 8 points [-]

First two things that popped into my head when I read this?

  • Omega isn't going to visit me. No, really, he's not. The 'minds' we discuss are quite often not specific to humans or even concrete entities, much less ourselves.
  • How our minds actually handle excuses is a far narrower and somewhat different topic than how we like to discuss excuses. Investigations on, say, trends in 'forgiveness' behaviours among a selected population would never reach such a mammoth karma rating. It got to 88 (as of now) because it had a few practical implications but a whole bunch of simple game theory.

The subject comes up now and again but as communities that go that tinker with and learn about their own minds this one is neither particularly dedicated nor all that far ahead of the curve. (I would actually be rather embarrassed if that was our claim to fame!) We just aren't specialised in that area. It is one of many subjects of exploration, and not the first among them.

Comment author: Morendil 24 April 2010 09:34:52AM 8 points [-]

In fairness the grandparent was a semi-random thought that occurred to me on reading the OP. It's entirely possible I was projecting what I'd like LW to be about rather than accurately characterizing what it is about.

The 'minds' we discuss are quite often not specific to humans

Yep. That feels quite compatible with a hobbyist outlook though. I own one, you own one, we can compare the models we have and their specs, but it's also fun to speculate about what other models are out there, including the one that are out of practical reach, and even about what models could exist.

Investigations on, say, trends in 'forgiveness' behaviours among a selected population would never reach such a mammoth karma rating.

That seems again compatible with a hobbyist outlook: we're more interested in vignettes, field reports, even sheer bragging than we are in dry "scientific" investigation of our favorite plaything.

this one is neither particularly dedicated nor all that far ahead of the curve

Now you've made me really curious, which other communities did you have in mind? I'd appreciate pointers.

Comment author: aelephant 04 March 2013 11:58:27PM 5 points [-]

Don't forget you are not just a brain (or two brains), but also a body. A lot of intellectuals neglect the physical side of things. They might be brilliant, but how much more brilliant would they be if they ate right, exercised, dealt with stress effectively, etc.? There is also the influence on your emotional state. Maybe you feel anxious or unhappy simply because your body isn't expending energy the way it is supposed to. Sometimes you need to put the pen & paper down (or shut off the computer) and go lift something heavy or go for a run.

Comment author: anandjeyahar 03 March 2015 12:42:34PM 0 points [-]

I think Terry Pratchett makes this point well, in "The thief of time". Can't find the exact quote, but here goes my paraphrasing from memory

"Human beings make decisions by committee. The stomach has a mind of its, own and wants to put food in the mouth.

Comment author: anandjeyahar 03 March 2015 12:49:35PM 0 points [-]

Unreliable memory.. but here's a less opinionated, and closer to original sounding one.. although the source is dodgy.

And she felt hungry. And that also made no sense. The stomach was a bag for digesting food. It wasn't supposed to issue commands. The Auditors could survive quite well by exchanging molecules with their surroundings and making use of any local source of energy. That was a fact.

Try telling that to the stomach. She could feel it. It was sitting there, grumbling. She was being harassed by her internal organs. Why the ... why the. . why had they copied internal organs? Yuerkkk.

Frome here.

Comment author: alasarod 25 April 2010 11:07:10PM *  4 points [-]

I recently did this for "career" specifically and I'd like to share it. It's not well written but that's not a problem. If I applied a critical lens I'd lose a lot. My next domain is friendships: What kind of friend do I want to be?

Anyone else care to share their equivalent for work? I find it does help me to hear how others phrase their values and understand meaning in their life.

  1. I want my work to be important and the things I do on a daily basis to contribute to a goal. I want to work for a business that I respect and that is a positive contribution to society. I want work that is intellectually stimulating.

  2. a. I want to work in an environment that rewards hard work and where there is room to grow, both personally and professionally. I would like to work in a job where continued education and learning pays off.

  3. b I would like to work in a place that treats its employees fairly and like adults, values results, and doesn’t breathe down my neck.

  4. I would like to work in a cooperative environment. I want to learn from my coworkers. I want to be respectful and professional when needed but share parts of my life with my coworkers.

  5. At work I would like to do my fair share as well as help others when they need it. I want to be reliable. I want to be willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake so accomplishing goals is the highest priority. I want to take pride in my work and work efficiently. I want work that is something that I am good at.

Comment author: Eneasz 23 April 2010 05:19:54PM 3 points [-]
  • how you want your life to affect you and other people -

What if your primary problem is that you have no answer to this?

Comment author: Morendil 24 April 2010 10:55:32AM 12 points [-]

At the risk of sounding harsh, this sounds like an excuse rather than a problem.

The exercise suggested in the OP is quite straightforward: take a pen and paper, or bring up an empty text file in Notepad or TextEdit or whatever. Also take a kitchen timer. Set the timer to ten minutes.

At the top, write these words: "How do I want my life to affect me and other people?"

Start the timer. Spend the next ten minutes writing, not stopping to cross out or edit. That is the important part. Write, whatever happens. If you can't think of a sincere answer, write an insincere one. Write something that you reject entirely for the first five minutes, then draw a horizontal line and spend the next five writing about what's wrong with this insincere answer.

Do this exercise. Seriously. It will cost you only ten minutes and you will learn a lot from it. Also, you will have material that you can bring back to LW for further discussion.

Comment author: Academian 24 April 2010 05:28:23PM 1 point [-]

Hear, hear!

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 24 April 2010 03:25:05PM 1 point [-]

I have this problem, too (and it doesn't feel like an excuse to me, though I don't as much class it as a problem as a fact about me, at this point), and this sounds like an interesting approach.

My answer would start with 'For the most part I honestly don't care, but...'.

Comment author: Academian 24 April 2010 05:41:55PM 6 points [-]

You might have a "convince yourself that life is pointless" bias...

Something else that might help is to rephrase the question and ask what you would do.

If there was a button to safely stop a happy, healthy, responsible mother from getting hit by a car, would you push it? Or maybe, would you have pushed it in the past? Not do you care but would you push it?

If there were two buttons, one to make the tasty food in your house disappear, and one to make the garbage disappear, and you could only push one, which one would it be? Not do you care, but which one?

You could take your choices as evidence that some part of your brain might care. If you're going to do these things anyway, and they don't seem common-sensically-morally wrong, then why not try to care more about doing them?

You can do that by making a decision that your choices will follow a system. Being aware of the system, over time, the effect of cognitive dissonance resolution might just be that your emotions get more involved and you actually start caring more.

It happened to me, for reals :)

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 24 April 2010 06:44:13PM *  2 points [-]

You might have a "convince yourself that life is pointless" bias...

I'd expect to be having trouble with general apathy and/or depression if that were the case, and I'm not. (I do experience a fair bit of apathy, but it's the comfortable 'hey, not my problem' kind of apathy: not troublesome, actually very close to contentment.)

If there was a button to safely stop a happy, healthy, responsible mother from getting hit by a car, would you push it?

If it were convenient, sure. I wouldn't go especially far out of my way to, though, in practice.

If there were two buttons, one to make the tasty food in your house disappear, and one to make the garbage disappear, and you could only push one, which one would it be? Not do you care, but which one?

This comes under 'basic maintenance', in my book. I'd be willing to devote as much energy to pushing the 'remove garbage' button as I'd be willing to put into cleaning my house the normal way (which is, um, not actually very much), and perhaps a little more for the novelty value.

You could take your choices as evidence that some part of your brain might care. If you're going to do these things anyway, and they don't seem common-sensically-morally wrong, then why not try to care more about doing them?

Why should I value 'caring more'? I'm quite satisfied with my life as it is now.

(It might be useful to note for context that I appear to be a satisficing consequentialist by nature. 'Good enough' makes lots of sense to me, and most of the bits of the world that I seem most likely to be able to change are already good enough. The bits that aren't good enough, I do put effort into fixing, including long-term effort. But the idea of having some sort of intentional long-term effect on things mostly just makes me go o.O)

Comment author: Academian 24 April 2010 07:29:11PM *  0 points [-]

I'm quite satisfied with my life as it is now.

Ah, I got the impression when you said

I have this problem, too

that you viewed this as a problem, but I guess now that you were just continuing the already-established word choice.

ETA: Something to note... you seem to be distinguishing yourself by your aversion to effort:

"hey, not my problem" ... "I wouldn't go especially far out of my way to, though, in practice." "as much energy ... as I'd be willing to put into cleaning my house the normal way (which is, um, not actually very much)"

That doesn't mean you care or feel strongly about avoiding effort moreso than the people your description aims to distinguish you from, but simply that you assign more negative utility to it.

Comment author: Morendil 24 April 2010 07:18:45PM 3 points [-]

Good start. Next time, keep going for ten minutes. (It's OK if you decide to keep the result to yourself instead of posting it as a comment.)

Comment author: Academian 23 April 2010 06:59:41PM *  3 points [-]

Well, first lets think about what you want for yourself. My main suggestion is to consider the possibility that you want to feel a certain way... maybe feel happy, healthy, intellectually stimulated, loved...

When I first did this, I accepted that the answer was mine to give, and I could decide randomly if I wanted to (or didn't want not to). For lack of a better idea, I made a list of small decision trends I exhibited that seemed instinctively desirable to me, like "going swimming", or "eating oranges". I made a "line of best fit" and concluded that I wanted my life to be intellectually and emotionally stimulating, when integrated over time. Then I gradually modified my disposition a little, to make this approximation more accurate.

I later realized that certain emotions like happiness were physically healthier and conflicted less with intellectual functioning, thus being instrumental to a) achieving a balance between emotional and intellectual stimuli, and b) living longer to experience more stimuli. It took longer to start realizing what I wanted for others, because that involves what they want, which is often more complicated and something I can't measure directly. Nonetheless, I've found myself compelled in thought experiments to help others even when it wouldn't result in positive experiences or memories for me, so some of my morals are definitely terminal (not in place just to serve my other values).

This was a very qualitative description, but nonetheless, it gave me some structure to build on and explore.

You might try a similar approach to finding what you want for yourself: extrapolate from trends you like, or maybe away from trends you don't. Don't worry about how "fundamental" this makes your choice... it's your choice, you can make it however you want to, or don't want not to ;)

I'd strongly encourage you to consider being happy and thoughtful as things you might want for yourself. Maybe look at this pyramid.

While you're focussed on yourself like this in order to get started, do keep in mind an intention to examine morals in due time as well. They're harder to figure out, but I'd say they're worth it!

Comment author: Zachary_Kurtz 23 April 2010 07:37:54PM 2 points [-]

Applying optimal foraging theory to rationality is something we've been discussing at the NYC-LW meetup group for a few months now. I think this is related to this post.


Comment author: Vladimir_Golovin 24 April 2010 02:59:41PM *  2 points [-]

Sounds promising. What kind of rationality did you discuss in relation to OFT -- epistemic or instrumental? Or, in other words, what quantity did you substitute for the energy to be maximized -- improvement of one's map of reality or progress towards one's goals? Did you attempt to quantify these?

Comment author: Zachary_Kurtz 26 April 2010 04:38:48PM 4 points [-]

Both really. How much time should we dedicate to making our map fit the territory before we start sacrificing optimality? Spend too long trying to improve epistemic rationality and you begin to sacrifice your ability to get to work on actual goal seeking.

On the other end, if you don't spend long enough to improve your map, you may be inefficiently or ineffectively trying to reach your goals.

We're still thinking of ways to be able to quantify these. Largely it depends on the specific goal and map/territory as well as the person.

Anybody else have some ideas?

Comment author: apophenia 07 August 2011 08:15:56AM 1 point [-]

In AI, this is known as the exploration/exploitation problem. You could try Googling "Multi-armed bandit" for an extremely theoretical view.

My biggest recommendation is to do a breadth-first search, using fermi calculations for value-of-information. If people would be interested, I could maybe write a guide on how to do this more concretely?

Comment author: olimay 28 April 2010 04:26:00AM 1 point [-]

First, understand the domain of the problem so you can identify poential downsides. Is this area Black Swan prone? Does this resemble Newcomb's problem at all? What do (I think) the shape of risk is here?

For most things people need to do in daily life, we might just consider the cost of further optimization against cost of remaining ignorant and being wrong as a result of that ignorance. It can ne good to be aware of the biases that Prospect Theory talks about--am I putting off reasonably winning big because I'm so afraid of losing pennies?

Comment author: XiXiDu 23 April 2010 06:48:30PM 2 points [-]

If someone asks you what you want for yourself in life, do you have the answer ready at hand?

Yeah: To gather knowledge, to learn and understand everything.

Everything is covered by the above. Everything.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2010 02:48:37AM 2 points [-]

Everything is covered by the above. Everything.

Whoops! Computronium. There goes the cosmic commons again.

Comment author: Document 24 April 2010 03:03:48AM 0 points [-]

Does he care about that if he is the computronium? But I think we just had a similar thread here.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2010 08:29:32AM -1 points [-]

Does he care about that if he is the computronium?

No. That's the problem.

Comment author: Document 28 October 2010 08:02:41PM 1 point [-]

No. That's the problem.

I interpreted your first post as pointing out to XiXiDu's that his goals were problematic for people who weren't him (they'd be killed or at best forcibly merged with him). I replied to note that if his goals were as stated, that observation wouldn't be of interest to him. I'm not sure how to interpret your reply, which in my framing becomes "Yes. That's why it would.".

Comment author: Airedale 23 April 2010 02:06:36AM 4 points [-]

Well-written post.

But given the relatively high numbers of upvotes received by many of the recent posts in this vein (including yours and the posts you link), it’s not at all clear to me that the particular intellectuals who read Less Wrong are really engaging in “sub-optimal levels of careful introspection.” It’s also possible to go too far in the introspection direction.

Comment author: radical_negative_one 23 April 2010 02:42:21AM 8 points [-]

I thought it sounded like it's meant as an introduction to LessWrong. Especially with those recommended links toward the end. People who already read this site aren't the target audience.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 April 2010 03:44:04AM 5 points [-]

And it could also be a compendium of arguments for LW readers to use to convince non-LW readers to try checking in on quality of life.

Comment author: Academian 23 April 2010 06:59:37AM *  4 points [-]

sqrt(-1) and Nancy got my intentions :)

I especially want to attract people in academia and positions of intellectual leadership to being actively and morally rational, since their attitudes spread to their students and apprentices. When you have an intelligent mentor who isn't using her intelligence to directly analyze and improve her own life, you're unconsciously less convinced it's a fruitful pursuit. When the opposite happens, it can really start a cascade.

Provided such a cascade preserves peoples' sense of morality, which requires some serious care to ensure, it can be a great thing for them and the people around them.

Comment author: jimrandomh 23 April 2010 03:43:43PM *  3 points [-]

Data point: I have definitely been engaged in "sub-optimal levels of careful introspection" for most of my life. Articles on Less Wrong prompted me to introspect more, and the benefits I've gained from doing so have definitely been greater than the expected benefit from anyb obvious alternative use of that time would have been.

I'm not sure whether the current amount of resources I spend introspecting (after LW's effect) is greater or less than optimal, but overshooting a little is probably better than undershooting and missing insights.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 23 April 2010 04:25:29PM 2 points [-]

Yes, that was my thought too. I need less thought and more action.

Comment author: Academian 24 April 2010 05:45:28PM *  4 points [-]

Phil, that's why I included "Introspect carefully, not constantly" and "Re-evaluate on an appropriate time-scale." I've also experienced over-inactivity due to planning/introspection, so I worked to make my introspection events more efficient and more punctual. Then I felt better about doing them, and got more actual living done.

Comment author: NaomiLong 19 December 2011 02:58:00AM 1 point [-]

I've been reading Less Wrong for about four months now and I haven't really made the effort to optimize my introspection levels. Alicorn's series and this post, plus some other outside influences, have placed doing that higher on my list of priorities. I'm not necessarily the average Less Wrong reader, however.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 23 April 2010 06:12:24PM 1 point [-]

do you want the useful signal answer or the real answer? real: I want to acquire resources to make myself more attractive to the opposite sex. I want to extend my possibilities for mating as far into the future as I can. signal: i want to make the world a better place or something.

Comment author: Academian 23 April 2010 07:23:47PM *  8 points [-]

Have you read Thou Art Godshatter?

I agree with Eliezer that my values are an ad-hoc assembly of things that happened to increase the genetic fitness of my ancestors, and that this ad-hoc-ness is why I do not solely value my own genetic fitness. If natural selection were smarter, I would. But naturally, I'm satisfied with the values I got instead :)

From the perspective of a hypothetical, evolution-personified designer who "created" me, my morals might just be signals. So I'm careful that I might be running on hostile hardware that might try overtaking my conscious values to, say, become a corrupt and promiscuous political leader with many offspring. But I don't identify with this hostility as "my values", and will make much conscious effort to prevent such corruption.

ETA: You might really have those values; I just want to draw attention to them not being an inevitable consequence of evolution or "realizing one's true purpose". Thankfully, used as such "true purpose" doesn't have to mean anything non-subjective, nor in particular equate to "temporally earlier in-some-sense-implicitly-conceived purpose".

Comment author: Divide 24 April 2010 09:00:06AM 1 point [-]

I'm not quite sure that's what the parent meant. I understood it literally and it does make sense as well.

Comment author: Academian 24 April 2010 09:11:14AM *  1 point [-]

I never talked about what nazgulnarsil's values meant, but my own ;) This was intentional. S/he really might have those values consciously; I only provided a foil to that possibility. So I just ETA'd to clarify that; sometimes I sincerely forget that consistent pronouns aren't explicit enough to convey intention.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 26 April 2010 04:49:28PM 0 points [-]

I was being fairly literal. no one says as much because it is a very low status thing to say.

natural selection wasn't smart enough to keep me from getting a vasectomy. happiness: 1, genetic utility: -infinity

Comment author: Academian 26 April 2010 05:32:47PM 6 points [-]

Wait a minute... Do you think status is the main reason people don't say they only value reproduction? It's not, say, because they don't only value reproduction?

Or are you just saying that among the few people who really only have that terminal value, few say so because of the status it signals?

That may be true. But more importantly (since it's so easy to observe what people say), I bet that even among the people who would say they value only reproduction, most respond to real-life in a way that reflects otherwise.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 27 April 2010 05:31:43PM 1 point [-]

for natural selection reproduction is a terminal value and mating is an instrumental value. for me mating is the terminal value. to me it seems like males have mating as a terminal value and females have reproduction with a high status male as a terminal value. their signals seem to reflect this pretty accurately.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 27 April 2010 05:48:40PM 1 point [-]

Why have you split your claim between genders? Are these values are naturally different between genders or that the differences are learned? In a society with large gender differences such as ours (or at least mine) it's hard to separate the differences in values due to gender (if there even are any) from the learned behaviour of members of the different sexes.

Comment author: mattnewport 27 April 2010 06:18:33PM *  1 point [-]

Their are straightforward evolutionary reasons for different mating strategies between males and females. It would be very surprising if there were not natural differences given the different selection pressures at work.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 27 April 2010 07:26:22PM 1 point [-]

Fair enough. But those particular differences?

Comment author: generic 22 December 2011 04:04:58PM 0 points [-]

"for me mating is the terminal value." You mean that you act close to as if it was?

I think that you get pleasure from many other things too, and even if you would loose the interest in mating, you would go on getting pleasure from many of those other things.

I rationally think that I value the happiness of myself and others as a terminal value. I also get pleasure of it. To some extent this increases my mating chances but some of it decreases. The same seems to be true to people similar to you, although to a smaller extent: you are in between these two positions.

What is a" value"? Is it what I think as my value and try to achieve, or is it the thing towards which my genes (and memes?) are optimized? I think that it is closed to the former, but in my case neither of them is exactly mating, although I am a male.

Comment author: dlthomas 22 December 2011 04:49:24PM 2 points [-]

I'd say that basic English pragmatics lead us to interpret it as "the terminal value relevant to this situation" rather than "the only terminal value I have". The relevant question would thus be not, "don't you enjoy other things unrelated to mating?" but rather, "If you stopped deriving pleasure/interpersonal connection/etc from mating, would you still be interested in doing it?"

Comment author: [deleted] 22 December 2011 06:11:57PM 0 points [-]

Define mating so that “you stopped deriving pleasure/interpersonal connection/etc from mating” is a possible future state of the world. :-)

Comment author: sclark 29 April 2010 07:40:39PM 1 point [-]

I remember coming across some comments on a LessWrong post (which I haven't been able to find again) where people were discussing software they use to 'organize' their thoughts and help brainstorm - relating to this blog post because it's a great way to help become better at your life (it's way too easy to lose profound realizations in the back of your mind). Does anybody have software they recommend? - Google turns up a lot of sub-par programs.

Comment author: beoShaffer 04 March 2013 03:27:14AM 1 point [-]

I have a lot of friends who use workflowy, and personally I used project maps and goal-factoring with [yED]{www.yworks.com}.

Comment author: mattnewport 29 April 2010 08:08:49PM 1 point [-]

Not sure if it is quite what you are looking for but I find Evernote very useful as a kind of digital memory extension. I use it to note down thoughts, ideas, links, quotes, book titles etc. for later review and organization. Not exactly organizing thoughts or a brainstorming aid but more a tool for offloading and organizing memory.

Comment author: Flextechmgmt 03 March 2015 10:46:38PM 0 points [-]

great post, Acadamian! Thanks for sharing.

Comment author: Bound_up 03 March 2015 10:03:42AM 0 points [-]

Very well, I accept.

I shall return on the morrow having done so, using this public commitment to assist this decision's entrance into my subconscious desires. Results shall be posted tomorrow. Wish me luck, saluuud

Comment author: cousin_it 21 December 2011 11:03:05PM *  0 points [-]

Don't interrupt your work every 20 minutes to wonder whether it's your true purpose in life. Respect that question as something that requires concentration, note-taking, and solid blocks of scheduled time.

Note-taking could be bad advice. Here's an article that echoes my thoughts: Epiphany Addiction.

Comment author: malthrin 20 December 2011 06:06:22AM 0 points [-]

So, I missed my goal of scoring 100% in the Stanford AI class. Time to do better - to do what others can't, or just haven't thought of yet.

Comment author: MartinB 22 April 2010 04:55:34PM 0 points [-]

GTD 40.000 and 50.000 feet. Godda love it, when I get around to it.

Comment author: taw 23 April 2010 06:53:55AM 0 points [-]

90% of GTD material is about next actions and project levels. How did you learn to do this kind of high level analysis?

Comment author: Divide 24 April 2010 09:03:21AM 0 points [-]

That's the remaining 10%. You know, the part which isn't covered in 'teach yourself GTD in one hour' audiobooks.

But seriously, there's much stuff about higher levels of planning in GTD. See 'someday maybe' lists, monthly review, putting analysis tasks on monthly lists, analysing farther horizons periodically, etc.

Comment author: MartinB 23 April 2010 12:38:54PM 0 points [-]

I actually read the book, which covers all levels. Most people who get into GTD have problems with the lower levels, thats why so much is written on them. But David Allen does alot to cover the highler spheres too, both in his lectures and his writing.