Some sleep thoughts very roughly

My current model: falling asleep depend on three things happening. If these three things happen, then you will be asleep:

  1. Relaxed body
  2. Lowered pulse (around 50 bpm)
  3. Mind clear of thoughts (or leaning into visual imagery)

But actually, most of the action is in the prerequisite 0th step: disengaging from whatever is interesting, so that your attention can actually be to relax and fall asleep.

How to do that?

Some ideas:

  • IDC with the thoughts
  • Physically remove the felt senses from the body
  • Meditate?
  • Distract yourself
    • By drawing
    • By reading fiction
    • By trying to get absorbed in some thoughts?
  • “Leaning out” from the thoughts?
  • By jotting down everything that you’re excited about?
  • By scheduling specific time in the morning to try and boot up those motivating considerations / making reminders of everything important.
    • The main thing, might be the sense of time scarcity or urgency which is salient at the time.



Modes, not traits, and decoupling cognitive energy from intentionality

[Epistemic status: speculation from single n of 1 experiences that I’m excited about]

I had a really effective second half of my day today, and right now I’m going to speculate about some of the mechanics of that.

Modes, not traits

Some relevant background to this is a thought that I had two weeks ago:

“I shouldn’t think of terms in terms of ways that I should be or things that I should do, but rather __modes__ that I could get into that are useful sometimes. Even if I want to be in those modes most days, I should still think of them as separate modes and not as default states.”

This is important because a lot of ways that I want to be consume some resource, so I can’t actually maintain them perpetually. I might want to be habitually hyper-productive, but since I probably can’t be hyper-productive for literally all of my waking hours (I need rest and stuff), if I try to always be hyper productive, I’ll fail, and never really build the habit. Instead, I should have a hyper-productive mode and build the habit of  getting into that mode regularly.

This is maybe obvious to a lot of you, but it seems like a useful insight to me. (I wonder if I’m on the verge of reinventng “work/life balance” in the same way that I reinvented “its good to have a room.”)

I think this goes pretty deep, and there are a number of different not-necessarily mutually exclusive modes at various levels of subtlety. (For one thing, I have a mode for syncing with Anna: our natures tend to clash by default, but these days she either meets me in something like my way of being, or I meet her at something like her way of being.)

But here are three high level, high granularity modes / ways of being / high-level intentions that it seems like I would want to operate from on a regular basis.

  • Rest
  • Executing intentions mindset / committed engagement [manager time]
  • Slow thinking / deep work / mono-focus [maker time]

The rest of this post will be about holding the Executing intentions mindset.

Maintaining taughtness

My current sense of how to do the Executing Intentions mode well, involves maintaining “taughtness” / “tension” across the whole period that you’re in that mode. That’s a phenomenological description: it feels like there’s a sort of tension that I can let go slack. It has something to do with remembering the executing intentions meta-intention? Or having the context of the tasks that I’m doing loaded up and available?

One reason why this worked well today, I think, was that I decided that I was going to stop listening to audio-books for the time being. I might usually listen to an audiobook as I walk somewhere, but this tends to take me out of the EI mindset, what was taught becomes slack.

Other ways that I can fall out of it:

  • Looking at my phone in the bathroom.
  • Making food and eating, and especially listening to audio while making food.

Each of these have a character of “I’m doing this mundane thing right now, I might as well occupy my mind with something entertaining or informative.” It might be that that engagement with that material kicks out the EI meta-intention, because my mind is filled with other content. But it feels more like all of those behaviors have a kind of lackadaisical attitude, like “its fine to slow down and spend time here”, instead of the momentum of one thing after another.

I did take breaks today, but they had a different character than most breaks I take. They were more intentional: more circumscribed, less distracted. I intentionally decided how long each one was going to be, and set a timer, but more importantly than the timer, there was a part of me that didn’t turn off during the break, I was still geared up to take the next thing coming at me. I’m confident this is less restful than other kinds of breaks, and thus it is crucial that this is only a mode and that one also have a rest mode, when you release all the tension and taughtness.

Decoupling energy levels from intentionality

Another thing that happened today is that at the end of my session, I was feeling cognitively drained. I think that usually, that would cause me to disengage from the EI mindset and release my conscious hold on my intentionality. But this time, I was more like “I notice that I am cognitively drained. My job in this time-slice is to recover cognitive energy.” and I went to go strength train.

I think there’s something important here: I was decoupling how tried I felt from how intentional I was going to be.

This seems important on a number of counts

  • For one thing it caused me to strength train during my work day, which sometimes gets skipped.
  • Additionally, this sort of rolling with the punches enabled me to maintain the taughtness, instead of abandoning the attitude whenever I loose cognitive resources.

Remember, this really depends on having high quality rest.