beeminding bucket lists and the anti-resolution resolution


#1

(Direct reply to avoid hijacking the bucket list thread)

I have a handful of old, languishing todo items, while many less annoying
todos get handled promptly. Can you share you todo system on the list? Or
maybe it’s already written up on your blog? I’m especially interested in a
probably-Beeminder-backed way to force those old todos to get handled in a
reasonable time frame.

Braden

On Sun Aug 24 2014 at 8:33:11 PM Brent Yorgey wrote:

I like it! I have decided to adopt this idea, but adapted a bit. The
problem for me is that the barrier to taking some immediate action to make
it more likely to happen is still too high. At the very least that
requires stopping and putting some thought into what an appropriate
action to make it more likely to happen would be. So instead my rule is “IF
I hear myself stating a vague intention THEN I will immediately make a
ticket for it in my todo system”. This works since I already have good
processes in place for making sure that I work through my todos in a timely
way, not letting any languish for too long without working on them, etc.
So once I file a ticket I know I will be forced to work on it at some point
in the future; when I am forced to work on a ticket I am not required to
complete it but simply to—you guessed it—take some concrete action
that gets me further toward completing it.

And yes, I have already filed two “vague intention” tickets. So at some
point soon I will have to take some concrete steps towards getting back to
reading some classical Greek, and producing sets of factorization diagram
http://mathlesstraveled.com/factorization/ cards. =)

-Brent

On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 5:20 PM, Daniel Reeves wrote:

Buried in a recent thread about maniac weeks I had some advice about
beeminding bucket list items. (The answer is not “make a bucket list
and beemind ticking off one item per month.”)

There’s something related that I just said in a daily beemail and
which I’m repeating here for possible general discussion. I call it my
Anti-Resolution Resolution, which I formulated as what the Center For
Applied Rationality calls a trigger-response plan, or life recipe.
(One rationality guru has chimed in already that I’m wrong to
characterize this as a trigger-response plan since it’s not
sufficiently focused on Kahneman’s System 1. Nonetheless, it’s working
for me so I’m keen to see if others like it.) Here it is:

IF you hear yourself stating a vague intention THEN take some
immediate action to make it more likely to actually happen.

Often the immediate action can be “create a Beeminder goal”, but here
are some non-Beeminder examples:

  • “We should run a marathon sometime” --> Find one later in the season
    and email a few friends about it.
  • “Let’s be better about keeping the house clean” --> Host a weekly
    meetup that will have a side effect of shaming you into tidying.
  • “We should host a weekly meetup” --> Send an email to a relevant
    mailing list proposing it.
  • “I need to write more code” --> Solve a Project Euler problem.
  • “I should blog about X” --> Email yourself some notes or work it
    into today’s daily beemail.

I’m worried this sounds vacuous, like “just do things and be awesome”.
But the idea is to take some action, no matter how tiny, as a
conditioned response to hearing yourself state an intention. Cultivate
an aversion to saying “I should…” and then sitting there like an
idiot failing to follow through.


#2

Buried in a recent thread about maniac weeks I had some advice about beeminding bucket list items. (The answer is not “make a bucket list and beemind ticking off one item per month.”)

There’s something related that I just said in a daily beemail and which I’m repeating here for possible general discussion. I call it my Anti-Resolution Resolution, which I formulated as what the Center For Applied Rationality calls a trigger-response plan, or life recipe. (One rationality guru has chimed in already that I’m wrong to characterize this as a trigger-response plan since it’s not sufficiently focused on Kahneman’s System 1. Nonetheless, it’s working for me so I’m keen to see if others like it.) Here it is:

IF you hear yourself stating a vague intention THEN take some immediate action to make it more likely to actually happen.

Often the immediate action can be “create a Beeminder goal”, but here are some non-Beeminder examples:

  • “We should run a marathon sometime” --> Find one later in the season and email a few friends about it.
  • “Let’s be better about keeping the house clean” --> Host a weekly meetup that will have a side effect of shaming you into tidying.
  • “We should host a weekly meetup” --> Send an email to a relevant mailing list proposing it.
  • “I need to write more code” --> Solve a Project Euler problem.
  • “I should blog about X” --> Email yourself some notes or work it into today’s daily beemail.

I’m worried this sounds vacuous, like “just do things and be awesome”. But the idea is to take some action, no matter how tiny, as a conditioned response to hearing yourself state an intention. Cultivate an aversion to saying “I should…” and then sitting there like an idiot failing to follow through.


#3

Ooh! Yeah, the CFAR (http://rationality.org/) trigger-response plan involves taking a system-1 trigger and a specific action, and making an strong association between them.

“I hear myself stating a vague intention” is probably simple enough for a trigger, but the action here is “put some system-2 creative effort into creating and making an action that satisfies parameters “immediate” and “causes the intention’s goal””, and there’s nothing to help make an association.

But enough discussion of terminology. This is super ymmv-flavored: like Scott elaborates in http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/24/should-you-reverse-any-advice-you-hear/ , this is a direction in agentspace, not a goalpost - it’s good advice for exactly those people who are away from the goal in the opposite direction as this. Ask yourself questions like “What do I typically do after feeling averse to a thing I just said?” before implementing this.


#4

Is there any way to take CFAR courses if you’re not living in the States?


#5

You can probably travel to the states for a few days!

Looking at http://rationality.org/workshops/ , they’re planning on doing a workshop at “Fall 2014/Winter 2015 (Europe – exact location and date TBD)”

You should ask them about that.


#6

Nope. I don’t fly.

Will look into the Europe thing, thanks.


#7

Interesting. Can anybody here point me to a description of the “trigger-response plan” or “life recipe”?

I’d like to look into how it compares to and complements the “Tiny Habits” as defined by BJ Fogg.

This CFAR workshop sounds really awesome btw.


#8

If the “one must do task per day” doesn’t work for this (see other threads, and I’m pretty sure they made a post about it on the blog sometime in the past, too), then here’s just a thought:

If you want the items all listed on Beeminder, then start a new “do less” goal with a rate of a little over 7x your total number of goals per week. Then, use the advanced entry form to enter all of the to-do items that have been lingering with something like the following format:

^ 1 “To do item #1
^ 1 “Task #2
^ 1 “Item number 3”

After you’ve entered all of them, set your rate to a negative rate of however many of the backlogged goals you want to complete per week and then retroratchet your goal so that it’ll force you to start heading in the other direction. Then, every time you complete a task, enter a “-1” datapoint so that you can start heading towards 0.

(I’d probably also do something like put an X at the beginning of the comment of the old datapoint so that I could still tell the difference between the completed and incomplete to dos by looking at the list of datapoints. Actually, I’d probably clear the comment of the old datapoint and move the comment with the X to the -1 datapoint, so that I’d have a record of when the task was completed. But maybe that’s overkill.)

Anyway, like I said, just a thought.


#9

Oops. That should have said:
“a little over 7x your total number of TASKS AS THE RATE per week.”

i.e. if you have 100 backlogged items, set the rate to 700 (so there’s room to enter the 100 items all on the first day).


#10

“Trigger-response plan” is part of CFAR’s “Offline Habit Training” unit, which explains how habits work and what you can do to form and unform habits. I confess I had to look at my workbook to write that summary of them; I’ve been using the technique but I’m terrible at remembering what names things have.

I think “life recipe” is just how the OP described their thing?

I heard about Tiny Habits from CFAR, and it was interesting trying it, but I think it’s pretty much subsumed by Offline Habit Training.

You should ask CFAR about the workshop they’re doing in Europe too!

On Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 6:45 AM, Alexander Schwarz wrote:

Interesting. Can anybody here point me to a description of the
“trigger-response plan” or “life recipe”?

I’d like to look into how it compares to and complements the
“Tiny Habits” as defined by BJ Fogg.

This CFAR workshop sounds really awesome btw.


#11

Sure. It’s mentioned here:

The basic idea is that I have a filter set up to show me the five least recently edited tickets (I do this with FogBugz but there are lots of ways you could do something similar), and a Beeminder goal to spend a certain amount of time per week working on one of them. Once I make progress on a ticket I add a comment saying what I did, so it automatically drops off the list (and eventually cycles back around). This is all loosely based on http://markforster.squarespace.com/autofocus-system/ which is where I got the idea. In theory I could still let some tickets languish in that top five and always choose to work on other ones; in practice I do tend to eventually get around to working on even the most odious (either because four even more odious things come along, or because I eventually feel bad enough about letting it sit there).

-Brent

On Aug 25, 2014 10:35 AM, Braden Shepherdson wrote:

(Direct reply to avoid hijacking the bucket list thread)

I have a handful of old, languishing todo items, while many less annoying
todos get handled promptly. Can you share you todo system on the list? Or
maybe it’s already written up on your blog? I’m especially interested in a
probably-Beeminder-backed way to force those old todos to get handled in a
reasonable time frame.


#12

This pattern is one I use a lot in my life. However, I make an important tweak, which is to choose an immediate action that advances discovery of whether I should have made that “should” statement in the first place. My ideas and impulses about what I should do with my time vary widely in quality, and the open question is usually, “How should I fit this new initiative/plan/commitment/relationship in with the other cool things I got going on?” So, relative to whatever pleasingly difficult things I’ve accomplished so far, I’ve taken at least one significant step towards maybe 10x as many things. And I’m much more pleased with what I’ve actually done than with the things I wanted to do and the capabilities I thought it would be good to develop when I was 20.

On Friday, August 22, 2014, Daniel Reeves wrote:

Buried in a recent thread about maniac weeks I had some advice about
beeminding bucket list items. (The answer is not “make a bucket list
and beemind ticking off one item per month.”)
[…]


Typed on a device that often makes hilarious autocorrect decisions