Akrasia survey data analysis

Fol­lowup to: Akra­sia hack survey


p(hack akra­sia|heard of hack and thought it was worth try­ing)

What are the odds of you suc­cumb­ing to “hack akra­sia”, never try­ing or not con­sis­tently ap­ply­ing a hack, given that you’d heard of it and thought it was worth try­ing?

luke­prog’s al­gorithm for beat­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion: 83%

The Po­modoro Tech­nique: 68%

Ex­er­cise for in­creased en­ergy: 60%

LeechBlock or similar: 38%

Com­ments: Hack akra­sia seems pretty darn high over­all. LeechBlock is least sus­cep­ti­ble.

p(us­ing hack prof­itably|heard of hack and thought it was worth try­ing)

The “real suc­cess rate”. What per­centage of the time does think­ing a hack is worth try­ing trans­late in to adopt­ing it and us­ing it con­sis­tently?

luke­prog’s al­gorithm for beat­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion: 02%

The Po­modoro Tech­nique: 04%

Ex­er­cise for in­creased en­ergy: 25%

LeechBlock or similar: 15%

Com­ments: Ex­er­cise is the clear win­ner. If you didn’t think ex­er­cise was worth try­ing (5% of sur­vey re­spon­dents), you might want to re­con­sider.

p(hack seems to work|tried hack)

In a world with­out hack akra­sia, what suc­cess rates would be be see­ing?

luke­prog’s al­gorithm for beat­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion: 42%

The Po­modoro Tech­nique: 58%

Ex­er­cise for in­creased en­ergy: 84%

LeechBlock or similar: 37%

Com­ments: Again, ex­er­cise is the clear win­ner. If you don’t ex­er­cise, next time you’re in an akra­sia-kil­ling mood, it seems you’d be well ad­vised to try and set up some sort of reg­u­lar ex­er­cise reg­i­men for your­self. Set­ting up a Po­modoro regime for your­self seems like a solid 2nd choice.

p(hack seemed worth try­ing|heard of hack)

luke­prog’s al­gorithm for beat­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion: 75%

The Po­modoro Tech­nique: 79%

Ex­er­cise for in­creased en­ergy: 94%

LeechBlock or similar: 60%

Com­ments: This was for com­par­i­son with ac­tual suc­cess rates. Mul­ti­ple peo­ple wrote in that they didn’t have the prob­lem LeechBlock tries to solve, so this may ac­count for its low rate. If you do have the prob­lem LeechBlock tries to solve but you did’t think it’s worth try­ing, you may wish to re­vise your opinion, as its “real suc­cess rate” is in 2nd place at 15%.

Yes, LeechBlock may be rel­a­tively easy to sub­vert. I was turned off by this ini­tially as well. But now I think that it’s not all that im­por­tant—the main thing is to dis­rupt your dis­trac­tion-seek­ing be­hav­ior, not pre­sent an im­pen­e­tra­ble bar­rier. I’d guess that if you could set up LeechBlock as a re­minder to en­gage in some non-vari­able-re­in­force­ment break ac­tivity, that’d be ideal.

By the way, does any­one have an opinion on the best LeechBlock equiv­a­lent for Google Chrome?

Graphs from Villiam Bur

More commentary

Ini­tially I’d been think­ing of “hack akra­sia” as a differ­ent type of akra­sia than the reg­u­lar akra­sia it tried to defeat. But re­cently it oc­curred to me to ques­tion this.

There are prob­a­bly a va­ri­ety of akra­sia sub­types, some of which have dis­pro­por­tionate im­pact on ex­e­cut­ing hacks vs do­ing other stuff. Akra­sia sub­types I can think of off­hand:

  • Ugh field akra­sia.

  • Near/​far akra­sia: Some­thing seems like a good idea, but you never think “oh, I should ac­tu­ally do this now” or make a plan to do it at a spe­cific time or in a spe­cific situ­a­tion.

  • For­get­ting akra­sia: You do make a plan/​re­s­olu­tion but you for­get about it.

  • Slip­pery slope akra­sia: “Just this once” and other ways to grad­u­ally ra­tio­nal­ize your way around good in­ten­tions. (My re­cent policy de­sign post offers some sug­ges­tions for this.)

  • Low morale, low en­ergy, low mo­ti­va­tion, de­pres­sion.

Any­way, given the high rate of hack akra­sia, it may make sense to con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ing hacks that are them­selves sub­stan­tially less sus­cep­ti­ble to akra­sia. For ex­am­ple, if I told you to watch funny videos on the in­ter­net when your morale is low (psy­chol­o­gists have spec­u­lated that laugh­ter helps with ego de­ple­tion—works OK for me), it seems un­likely you’d fall prey to any akra­sia sub­type ex­cept for­get­ting akra­sia. (Op­ti­mal Breaks in gen­eral seems like it might fall in this cat­e­gory, es­pe­cially if the breaks in­volve 0 setup cost.)

To fight in­con­sis­tent ap­pli­ca­tion of hacks that you know work when you use them, BeeMin­der might be use­ful.

Re­gard­ing write-ins: They were un­der 5% for ev­ery cat­e­gory and I threw them out when com­put­ing con­di­tional prob­a­bil­ities.

Con­di­tional prob­a­bil­ity calcu­la­tor here: https://​​gist.github.com/​​4238473 Hope­fully there aren’t any bugs.