I’ve been thinking more about conscientiousness recently. Part of it was
this Gwern essay, Conscientiousness
and Online Education. (Gwern is one of my favorite internet writers; if you
haven’t checked out his stuff, it’s highly recommended.)
Gwern observes that conscientiousness is loaded chock-full of positive life
correlates, including lifetime earnings, education, happiness, longevity, and so
on. He also hints at ways to increase it – “there is weak evidence that
Conscientiousness can be improved by trying harder tasks. (There is an irony
here - it’s hard tedious work to develop the ability to do hard tedious work, so
how does one start?)”
Well, I have a few ideas on how to start. They are presented in the form of a
Oh well -- you're reading this so I'll let you follow along anyway.
How much money and time are you willing to put into trying a new method of (maybe) becoming more conscientious?
dollars and minutes.
OK, if you put less than 5 dollars and 10 minutes, then I cannot help you, and you should probably leave now. (Also, you need to be willing to give your email and credit card number to an organization I use, trust and recommend -- if not, leave now.) Otherwise, mentally commit to spending that much time and money, and click here:
Create a new "Do More" goal. Name it "meditation". Choose a weekly rate of 30. Do not start with a week of safety buffer. (If you already meditate every day, this guide is probably not for you... regardless, choose a different goal that you don't already do and takes less than five minutes, like "tidy one thing in my house".)
Pledge $5 on this goal. You'll have to input your credit card number.
Check the email Beeminder sent you and verify your email address.
Set a timer, e.g., this online timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and sit quietly, motionless.
When the timer goes off, enter "^ 5" in the Beeminder data entry box for your "meditation" goal. (This records the fact that you meditated today for five minutes.)
Ok, you're done. Now, you've spent less than 10 minutes, and zero dollars so far. A hopefully-slightly-more-conscientious you gets to decide whether this experiment is worth continuing! If you think this is stupid, just let your Beeminder goal derail, and pay the $5 penalty. If you do want to continue, then just keep meditating for 5 minutes a day and recording it. Beeminder won't let you forget. I expect you to gain more conscientiousness from the second path, obviously, but you always have an out.
Why I Think This Will Work
The main reason is that usage of Beeminder gives me power, and I expect it to work for most of my readers also. It enables me to rely on myself to execute simple daily habits. Essentially, even for pledges of $0, I value "never going off the road" and so will execute these habits. I suspect that for some people, not wanting to lose pledged money has an effect on them also, which is why I included that step. Please try Beeminding other goals in your life!
The second reason is that I suspect meditation itself has a conscientiousness-increasing effect, mainly from making you allocate five minutes a day out of your time, but also because I think the relaxation might help in nonspecific ways.
The third reason is that I suspect the "choose-your-own-adventure" precommitment and then following the directions also work to increase conscientiousness (while reading the article, at least). I am getting you to "buy in" (precommit) to doing what I tell you to do, and then following the steps is allowing you to experience the feeling of being conscientious in hopes that you can tap into that feeling later on.
Please email me (lincoln / techhouse.org) if this was helpful, or especially if it didn't work :)
Note: I get nothing (except joy) from referring people to Beeminder. I'm just a happy user. I've corresponded with the founders and they seem like genuinely excellent folks.