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It’s 2014 and I’m still alive. Thought you should know.

I’ve decided not to stop blogging, but I’ll probably blog less in the time to come than I have in the past.

Consider this the first Open Thread of the new year. I’ll probably post a few posts soon with some actual content.

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January 1, 2014 - Posted by | Open Thread

7 Comments »

  1. Was the non-blogging a test to see how much – if at all – you’ld miss blogging? Or how it affected your well-being?

    Comment by Stefan | January 1, 2014 | Reply

    • No, it was not.

      It was (also) an attempt to remove a major distraction from my life, so that I would be more productive and would not fail an exam which is coming up soon. (‘also’ because part of my motivation for this hiatus, and in particular the situational context in which the decision was made, relates to stuff I’m not willing to go into here).

      It should be fairly obvious from my latest post that I read a lot of stuff I should not be reading. That stuff crowds out work you’re actually supposed to do as a student, and without that work you fail your exams; you don’t get extra points during an economics exam for having read a few medical textbooks on the side during the semester. I figured if I committed to not blogging the stuff I read I’d also spend less time ‘doing unproductive stuff’ and more time working on exam-relevant stuff. The experiment was less successful than I’d hoped, but there were some major confounders as well (I had a terrible Christmas) so I’m not really sure yet what to conclude from the experience.

      I did miss blogging, and I knew beforehand that I would miss it – there was no need to test this.

      Comment by US | January 1, 2014 | Reply

      • @ “It was (also) an attempt to remove a major distraction from my life, so that I would be more productive and would not fail an exam which is coming up soon.”

        Yeah, exam-related procrastination. Haven’t solved that problem either. Perhaps if I could hire an old man with a shotgun to shoot me if shirking …

        Anyway, happy new year!

        Comment by Stefan | January 1, 2014

      • Regarding ways to counter procrastination, I have had some success experimenting with LeechBlock. At least it cuts off access to one major time-sink; i.e. internet stuff I choose to block. If you disable/remove all other browsers it’s very effective, if you can commit to using it systematically. I have had some problems with this last part during the last week, but a few weeks ago things went very well, and I am planning on reverting to a rather severe blocking schedule again tomorrow and in the days to come. This will also mean, incidentally, that I’ll not be able to access my blog for an extended period of time – I tend to use near-universal blocking algorithms, allowing access to only a couple of specific non-work-related sites which I know I can’t spend much time on but which do provide the opportunity for a brief break occasionally. This is also a way of saying that if I don’t respond to comments as fast in the future as I’ve done in the past, you (and other readers reading along here) should assume it’s because I’m taking steps to improve productivity and get some work done – don’t assume I’m deliberately ignoring you because I don’t like you or something along those lines..

        Comment by US | January 2, 2014

      • @ Leechblock: I like the delay-page-before-loading feature, which gives you a chance to resist the websurf-impulse. If you locate the file delayed.html, you can even customize the message.

        Other than that I find having a study-buddy who’s doing the same course + “work hours” every day to be the most effective antiprocrastination-technique.

        Comment by Stefan | January 2, 2014

      • I should perhaps note that I have actually experimented this semester with implementing an incentive scheme involving pecuniary incentives; I have arranged for a friend to hold some of my savings – I’ll lose that money if I don’t pass a specific exam (the friend does not get to keep the money; it will be paid out to a third party I’d rather did not get a single penny from me). It’s a little more involved than that, but not much; the optimal such scheme is a scheme that is as simple as possible while still being reasonably hard to game – I’ve done course-work on such contract theory stuff in the past, so I have a little bit of experience with how to optimally design such contracts.

        I should note that I have not felt that this has made a big difference in terms of motivation, even though the amount at stake is quite substantial (the amounts involved were deliberately chosen by me to be high enough to cause some pain, because they should be high enough to impact behaviour).

        Social pressure is probably a better motivator overall, but I also have mixed results from these types of schemes.

        Comment by US | January 3, 2014

      • I’ve used beeminder a lot (which is kinda like your stickk-like arrangement), but found that I don’t respond well to punishment-schemes. Trying to prevent myself from doing something or dishing out punishment if I fail just turns my brain into weasel-overdrive-mode to avoid the negative consequences.

        Being in a setting where other people are working (like the library study hall or via videoconferencing) and other reward-when-doing-righ + don’t-react-when-doing-wrong seems to work (which is also the basis of common animal training techniques, I think).

        Comment by Stefan | January 4, 2014


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