Hammertime Day 2: Yoda Timers

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This is part 2 of 30 in the Ham­mer­time Se­quence. Click here for the in­tro.

No! Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.

There’s a copy of Bar­ney St­in­son in my head who pops up ev­ery so of­ten to say: “Challenged Ac­cepted!” When Eliezer wrote about the biggest mis­takes in the Se­quences, my in­ner Bar­ney started bounc­ing off the walls. Ham­mer­time is a se­quence de­signed to cor­rect the three top mis­takes by:

  1. Creat­ing a pro­gram to ac­tu­ally prac­tice ra­tio­nal­ity.

  2. Em­pha­siz­ing do­ing bet­ter in ev­ery­day life.

  3. Fo­cus­ing on ra­tio­nal ac­tion in­stead of ra­tio­nal be­lief.

This is go­ing to be legen … wait for it … dary!

Day 2: Yoda Timers

Look, you don’t un­der­stand hu­man na­ture. Peo­ple wouldn’t try for five min­utes be­fore giv­ing up if the fate of hu­man­ity were at stake.
Use the Try Harder, Luke

The Yoda Timer (CFAR calls it a Re­solve Cy­cle) has three sim­ple steps:

  1. Pick a bug.

  2. Set a timer for 5 min­utes.

  3. Solve the bug.


Be­fore we be­gin, I want to call at­ten­tion to two ways to make the most of Yoda Timers.

1. The One Inch Punch

Pick some­thing you’re afraid of do­ing. Sup­pose I told you, “Try!” Try as hard as you can. What does that feel like?

Now sup­pose I told you, “Just do it!” Ac­tu­ally go and get it done. What does that feel like?

To me, try­ing feels like push­ing hard against my own re­sis­tance. Do­ing feels like push­ing hard against re­al­ity. The Yoda Timer is de­signed to teach (or re­mind) you to no­tice what push­ing against re­al­ity feels like.

Bruce Lee was fa­mous for his One Inch Punch, which had such ex­plo­sive power be­cause ev­ery mus­cle in his body al­igned into the punch:

The one-inch punch is a skill which uses fa jin (trans­lated as ex­plo­sive power) to gen­er­ate tremen­dous amounts of im­pact force at ex­tremely close dis­tances. This “burst” effect had been com­mon in Neijia forms. When perform­ing this one-inch punch the prac­ti­tioner stands with his fist very close to the tar­get (the dis­tance de­pends on the skill of the prac­ti­tioner, usu­ally from 0–6 inches, or 0-15 cen­time­tres). Mul­ti­ple ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles con­tribute to the punch­ing power while be­ing im­per­cep­ti­ble to the at­tacker. It is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that “one-inch punches” uti­lize a snap­ping of the wrist. The tar­get in such demon­stra­tions vary, some­times it is a fel­low prac­ti­tioner hold­ing a phone book on the chest, some­times wooden boards can be bro­ken.

When you’re in do­ing mode in­stead of try­ing mode, the in­ner con­flicts fall away and you can prac­tice punch­ing re­al­ity with your whole soul. Imag­ine how far you’ll go if ev­ery move you make car­ries the en­tire weight of your be­ing.

2. Lat­eral Thinking

It’s easy to get tun­nel vi­sion and freeze up with only 5 min­utes to go. To get max­i­mal effect out of Yoda Timers, how­ever, you’ll need to get more cre­ative, not less. If you had to fix the bug in five min­utes to save the world, what rules might you break?

To get you started, here are a few clas­sic ap­proaches: How much money will make the prob­lem go away? What email or phone call could you make? What ex­ter­nal re­ward, pun­ish­ment, or com­mit­ment can you set up in five min­utes that will guaran­tee the thing gets done? What al­ter­na­tive course of ac­tion would achieve the same de­sired effect?

3. Per­mis­sion to Try

If there’s some­thing you can do in five min­utes to im­prove your life, as a fel­low hu­man be­ing I grant you per­mis­sion to do it.

Five for Five

Pick your 5 eas­iest bugs from yes­ter­day’s Bug List.

WARNING: There only one valid rea­son to skip a bug—if you’re un­cer­tain whether you ac­tu­ally want to fix it. Later on, we will prac­tice tech­niques for re­solv­ing in­ner con­flicts. Difficulty is not a valid ex­cuse to skip.

For each one, set a Yoda timer for five min­utes and do it. That’s it. Just do it.

If it helps, imag­ine that Yoda is watch­ing. Yoda doesn’t care how hard you try.

Daily Challenge

Share your most suc­cess­ful Yoda Timer bug-fixes.

Here are seven things I did in the past cou­ple days with Yoda Timers:

  1. Move fur­ni­ture around and store un­used junk to dou­ble effec­tive floor space.

  2. Train my­self to place my glasses on one fixed coun­ter­top in the apart­ment.

  3. Prac­tice key­board short­cuts for archiv­ing emails and Chrome tab man­age­ment.

  4. Send all the emails and mes­sages I plan to (and already can) send in the next week.

  5. Order a white noise ma­chine on Ama­zon and open the blinds to let in sun­light in the morn­ing to op­ti­mize sleep sched­ule.

  6. Prac­tice keep­ing a pen in my pocket at all times so I can pen­spin in­stead of pick­ing my face.

  7. Plan and out­line Ham­mer­time.

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