A Cheater’s Guide to Self Improvement: Addendum

As a followup to my previous post, I’m going to try and elaborate more on the individual techniques I use for tricking my brain into acting like the focused productivity machine that it certainly isn’t. Here are a selection of tools and tricks I’ve used to good effect when trying to keep my productivity up and my wasted time down. Some of them work incredibly well with me. Some of them are tricks of last resort I use when I can’t seem to get focused any other way. Your mileage may vary.

Continue reading

A Cheater’s Guide to Self Improvement

So, guilt is a powerful motivating force in my life. I’m pretty adept at performing complex mental ninjutsu on myself to weasel my way out of things I should be doing, that are good for me, but I’ve got no burning desire to do. Take flossing, for example. It’s a trivial task that has a pretty substantial benefit in terms of reducing the guilt I feel about generally boycotting my teeth after losing my retainer some time towards the end of high school, and reducing the number of days per week brushing a bit too hard yields slasher fiction levels of upsetting sink imagery. Yet, there’s a routine I’ve developed to work myself around and out of the desire to floss. It’s like taking a mental detour around my sense of duty and pragmatism which usually arrives at the junction of dorking around on the internet and checking my email.

This is why I create structures outside of myself for enforcing the things I want to nail down, and shunning the stuff I want to get rid of. The way I see it, the distance between an action you want to perform and the final result is a kind of switchboard. Some of the terminals are in your brain, some are in the outside world. Your own willpower is one of many factors influencing what can actually get done, and it’s a fragile, fallible, and prone to fatigue, as one famously counter intuitive study proved. Relying on it alone is a mug’s game.

Continue reading