Akrasia Tactics Review
I recently had occasion to review some of the akrasia tricks I’ve found on Less Wrong, and it occurred to me that there’s probably quite a lot of others who’ve tried them as well. Perhaps it’s a good idea to organize the experiences of a couple dozen procrastinating rationalists?
Therefore, I’ll aggregate any such data you provide in the comments, according to the following scheme:
Note which trick you’ve tried. If it’s something that’s not yet on the list below, please provide a link and I’ll add it; if there’s not a link for it anywhere, you can describe it in your comment and I’ll link that.
Give your experience with it a score from −10 to +10 (0 if it didn’t change the status quo, 10 if it ended your akrasia problems forever with no side effects, negative scores if it actually made your life worse, −10 if it nearly killed you); if you don’t do so, I’ll suggest a score for you based on what else you say.
Describe your experience with it, including any significant side effects.
Every so often, I’ll combine all the data back into the main post, listing average scores, sample size and common effects for each technique. Ready?
Here’s the list of specific akrasia tactics I’ve found around LW (and also in outside links from here); again, if I’m missing one, let me know and I’ll add it. Special thanks to Vladimir Golovin for the Share Your Anti-Akrasia Tricks post.
Without further ado, here are the results so far as I’ve recorded them, with average score, number of reviews, standard deviation and recurring comments.
3 or More Reviews:
Collaboration with Others: Average +7.7 (3 reviews) (SD 0.6)
P.J. Eby’s Motivation Trilogy: Average +5.8 (6 reviews) (SD 3.3)
Monoidealism: Average +8.0 (3 reviews) (SD 2.0)
“Just Do It”: Average +4 (2 reviews) (SD 4.2)
Irresistible Instant Motivation: +3 (1 review)
Getting Things Done: Average +4.9 (7 reviews) (SD 2.6)
Regular Exercise: Average +4.4 (5 reviews) (SD 2.3)
Cripple your Internet: Average +4.2 (11 reviews) (SD 3.0)
LeechBlock: Average +5.4 (5 reviews) (SD 2.9); basically everyone who’s tried has found it helpful.
PageAddict: +3 (1 review)
Execute by Default: Average +3.7 (7 reviews) (SD 2.4); all sorts of variants; universally helpful, not typically a life-changer.
Being Watched: Average +3.2 (6 reviews) (SD 4.1); variations like co-working seem more effective; see “collaboration” below
Utility Function Experiment: Average +2.8 (4 reviews) (SD 2.8)
Meditation: Average +2.8 (5 reviews) (SD 2.8)
Modafinil and Equivalents: Average −0.8 (5 reviews) (SD 8.5); fantastic for some, terrible for others. Seriously, look at that standard deviation!
Structured Procrastination: Average −1.0 (3 reviews) (SD 4.4); polarized opinion
Resolutions (Applied Picoeconomics): Average −3.2 (5 reviews) (SD 3.3); easy to fail & get even more demotivated
1 or 2 Reviews:
Dual n-back: Average +6.5 (2 reviews) (SD 2.1)
Think It, Do It: Average +6 (2 reviews) (SD 1.4)
Self-Affirmation: Average +4 (2 reviews) (SD 2.8)
Create Trivial Inconveniences to Procrastination
Close the Dang Browser: Average +3.5 (2 reviews) (SD 3.5)
Get More Sleep: Average +3 (2 reviews) (SD 1.4)
Every Other Day Off: Average +0.5 (2 reviews) (SD 0.7)
Strict Scheduling: Average −9 (2 reviews) (SD 1.4)
Elimination (80/20 Rule): +8 (1 review)
Methylphenidate: +8 (1 review)
Begin Now: +8 (1 review)
Learning to Say No: +8 (1 review)
Caffeine Nap: +8 (1 review)
Write While Doing: +8 (1 review)
Leave Some Tasty Bits: +7 (1 review)
Preserve the Mental State: +6 (1 review)
Acedia and Me: +5 (1 review)
Third Person Perspective: +5 (1 review)
Watching Others: +5 (1 review)
Multiple Selves Theory: +5 (1 review)
Getting Back to the Music: +5 (1 review)
Remove Trivial Inconveniences: +4 (1 review)
Accountability: +2 (1 review)
Scheduling Aggressively...: +2 (1 review)
Autofocus: 0 (1 review)
Take Every Other 20 to 40 Minutes Off: −4 (1 review)
Not Yet Reviewed:
Thanks for your data!
EDIT: People seem to enjoy throwing really low scores out there for things that just didn’t work, had some negative side effects and annoyed them. I added “-10 if it nearly killed you” to give a sense of perspective on this bounded scale… although, looking at the comments, it looks like the −10 and −8 were pretty much justified after all. Anyway, here’s your anchor for the negative side!