Should Considered Harmful

  • The word “should” puts us in direct and unnecessary conflict with ourselves
  • Saying “should” immediately removes the direct motivation for a task and turns it into an obligation
  • If you start to fail at a task that you “should” be succeeding at, you panic, and that only makes the failure worse
  • Think through every alternative branch, even the ones where you fail
    • You don’t have to convince yourself that failure is okay
    • Thinking about failures makes scenarios concrete
    • Concrete scenarios are easier to reason about and guard against
  • Keep a tally of whenever you use the word “should”
  • Restate your obligations without the word “should”

Not Because You “Should”

  • Stop doing things because you “should”
  • “Should” is not a basis for motivation
  • Find the real reasons for performing actions
  • If you can’t find a reason beyond “should”, maybe you don’t need to perform the action
  • The best way to become an altruist is to have a genuine desire to help, not a “should”-based moral obligation

Your “Shoulds” Are Not A Duty

  • Objection: If we put our wants on the same scale as our moral obligations, we might make the “wrong” choice
  • If it’s possible for your wants to override your moral obligations, then maybe they’re not really your moral obligations
  • There is not external authority telling you that you should do things
    • “Should” comes from within
  • A real moral commitment doesn’t even feel like a choice - the right thing to do is “obvious” and you go do it

Working Yourself Ragged Is Not A Virtue

  • There is a pernicious belief that it is unvirtuous to stop working if you’re physically able to continue
  • Your goal is to maximize the integral of productivity, not the derivative
    • Slowing down can be helpful if it allows you to work for longer
  • Your body and mind are limited resources; they need to be used as wisely as anything else

Rest in Motion

  • The work that needs to be done is not a finite list of tasks, it is a neverending stream
  • The goal is to move through the work, to do things
  • Inaction is boring - the ground state for most people is an active one, not a passive one
  • The actual reward state for most people isn’t one where you’re doing nothing, it’s one where you’re doing the things that you want to do, rather than things you have to do
  • Rest when you need to rest, not when you’ve run out of work to do (hint: you’ll never run out of work to do)
  • Instead of thinking of your work in terms of lists (which are finite), think about your work in terms of streams (which are not)
  • Divide your work up into streams (rest is a stream too) and consume tasks from each stream at the rate that you can do them
  • Do what needs doing at a sustainable pace