Exercises for Overcoming Akrasia and Procrastination

In or­der to en­ter the “Ra­tion­al­ity Ex­er­cises” com­pe­ti­tion, I’ve de­cided to cre­ate this cliffnotes ver­sion of my up­com­ing se­quence on over­com­ing akra­sia and pro­cras­ti­na­tion.

Please en­ter any meta com­ments, or com­ments not per­tain­ing to a par­tic­u­lar ex­er­cise here.

The struc­ture of the se­quence is a set of ex­er­cises and men­tal mod­els that help you notice

  1. Trig­gers that lead to Akra­sia,

  2. Men­tal Moves (a se­ries of men­tal steps) you can do with those trig­gers to get your­self an a more in­ten­tional state..

To­gether these Trig­gers and men­tal move­ments make up **Men­tal Reflexes. **Th­ese men­tal re­flexes then com­bine to­gether into Cog­ni­tive Strate­gies, which are groups of men­tal re­flexes that help you with differ­ent ar­eas of Akra­sia.

Each cog­ni­tive strat­egy is its’ own com­ment, so they can be voted on and dis­cussed sep­a­rately.

The epistemic sta­tus of all these ex­er­cises is still highly ex­per­i­men­tal. I am con­fi­dent that some of them will help some peo­ple, but ex­pect them to evolve sig­nifi­cantly over time. I also won’t be giv­ing sources, mo­ti­va­tion, or in­spira­tion for these tech­niques in the post, so if you no­tice some­thing that feels like it came from some­where else, just know that in the even­tual se­quence I’ll do my best to make my sources clear.

I’m also skip­ping over all the pre­req­ui­site ma­te­rial on how to no­tice trig­gers, cog­ni­tively re­hearse items, etc.

The proper thing to choose what ex­er­cises will help you is to look at the Symp­toms for each cog­ni­tive strat­egy. Find the symp­toms that seem to match your symp­toms for Akra­sia, and then go through the ex­er­cises for that strat­egy.


I had origi­nally planned to in­clude all 10 cog­ni­tive strate­gies in this post, but then my com­puter died and I got ac­cepted last minute to a 10 day silent re­treat, so I’m pub­lish­ing as is with only 3 of the cog­ni­tive strate­gies com­plete. I’ll likely up­date this post with new strate­gies as the se­quence gets pub­lished, and may add a cou­ple more over the com­ing days be­fore the dead­line.