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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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)

No Mul­ti­task­ing: Aver­age +6.0 (3 re­views) (SD 2.0); note variants

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)

Free­dom (Mac)

Me­la­tonin: Aver­age +4.0 (5 re­views) (SD 5.4); works well for some, oth­ers feel groggy the next day; might help to vary the dosage

Ex­e­cute by De­fault: Aver­age +3.7 (7 re­views) (SD 2.4); all sorts of var­i­ants; uni­ver­sally helpful, not typ­i­cally a life-changer.

Po­modoro Tech­nique: Aver­age +3.3 (3 re­views) (SD 4.2); math­e­ma­ji­cian sug­gests a 45-minute variant

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:

Fire and Motion

Stare at the Wall


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!