Thoughts as open tabs
I work better at night. At around midnight, I’m more prone to entering a state of relaxed focus, my mind making more lateral connections when reading or coming up with ideas that will likely have great positive impact on my personal life and work.
This happens after a hard workout too, or after having a stimulating discussion with a trusted, unbiased, and driven friend.
The conflict comes every day I wake up in the morning, and it’s as if the open tabs of useful thoughts in my mind have closed, refreshed, but with no Command+Shift+Tab to reopen them exactly the way they were. I feel different in the morning; without the vision and subjective “charged” state I felt the night before, my mind doesn’t give me a clear path to execute on the useful thoughts from yesterday. I don’t have full access to that action-taking state.
It’s logical that the subjective impact of thought and motivation changes from day-to-day. I wouldn’t want to remember and feel the embarrassment from a social faux pas I made last week, every day. I just want to be able to capture and feel more of the good stuff from the day or week before. To feel the same emotional impact as when I first came across particular insights, so that I’ll follow through on that with fervor and persistence.
Is there a way of hacking the brain to get the upside, without incurring the downside?
It’s almost as if I existed in two states: one which thinks that it has done enough and deserves surface pleasures and rest—akrasia, and its opposite, non-akrasia—buzzing with quiet energy, working towards fulfillment, constantly alert to ideas that I can implement.
I know that being in a state of non-akrasia for sustained periods of time is possible. There are the Elon Musks of the world, those who work 80 hour work weeks towards their very specific cause of choice. I choose to believe that they were not so much genetically predisposed to do so, as they had something to protect as well as systems that ruthlessly reduced friction and distraction and ritualized the state of Flow.
The importance of colonizing mars and reversing climate change are likely kept as open tabs at the forefront of Musk’s mind, thoughts with deep significance to him, that has guided every business or engineering decision he has made.
Given the limitations of working memory, how do I keep my useful thoughts as open tabs after a night’s sleep, or at least be able to access the full “History” and restore them? I’d imagine that if I was able to hack my brain to access the long-term-thinking, fulfilment-driven mode of non-akrasian thoughts, there will be exponential gains in the areas of my life that matter—no more instinctive checking, mindless scrolling of social media as distraction to fulfilling work, no more superstimuli foods to damage physical and mental health.
The cost of giving into temptation will be greater than the short-term benefits precisely because the open tabs show me that I’m forgoing a much greater physique or career impact if I take the easy path.
More importantly, it will give me the confidence to follow through on all of those thoughts in the exact way I intended to. Being able to remember the full rationale and potential impact of these thoughts, I will be able to execute them without second-guessing myself. Finding a system or trigger to access these thoughts from my subconscious, in order to act with conviction and consistency with my long-term goals—that is my priority at this point of time.