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I've recently asked how people have become more hard-working. I compiled the answers across the EA Forum and LessWrong (and some private messages) in a list for myself to make it easier for me to experiment with the suggestions. I thought I'd share the list here in case it's useful for anyone else. I also list the things that people said didn't work and a couple of other things.

This wasn't done to be "proper", so the list is sloppy in many ways: I liberally paraphrased what people said; often I could have easily counted something two people said as the same or two different things, which would change the way I counted how often something was mentioned; I very roughly grouped the things that were said into categories but easily could have categorised many things differently.

Notable points

Individual points that were mentioned the most: 

  • (Soft) accountability (deadlines, beeminder, accountability buddy, posting about your goals, boss as a service, promising friends) (9)
  • Working on interesting problems/enjoyable work (and in an enjoyable work environment) (8)
  • Focusmate/Coworking (often poms) (7)

Some things that weren't mentioned a lot but that I found interesting:

  • Identifying (or being thought of) as hard-working (3)
  • Categorising work as "not work" and instead as something enjoyable, adjusting work environment accordingly (1)

Other things

  • Age at the time of the shift in hard-workingnesswas usually not mentioned, but when it was mentioned, it was between 20-30
  • Some people managed to become permanently more hard-working after experiencing one period of working hard, even when they switched to less enjoyable or just very different work. That initial period would either be induced by external pressure or by working hard on something they didn't consider work. (3)

Full list of what made people more hard-working

Here is the full list, ordered by how often things in a category were named. (Note that often the same person would list multiple things in the category, so the sums aren't summing over people)

Thing that workedHow many people mentioned
Social 
Focusmate/Coworking (often poms)8
(Regular) contact with other people to talk about work, debug, check-in etc.4
Identifying (or being thought of) as hard-working3
Surrounding yourself with ~hard-working people in life in general3
Supportive work environment2
Having a manager1
 21
What kind of work 
Working on interesting problems/enjoyable work (and in an enjoyable work environment)8
Feeling like you're good at what you're doing, getting positive feedback4
Working on things you consider important3
More clear tasks, feedback, endpoints etc.2
Less pressuring work1
Autonomy1
Making work more fun1
At least one (work) thing you like per day1
 21
External pressure 
(Soft) accountability (deadlines, beeminder, accountability buddy, posting about your goals, boss as a service, promising friends)9
Children/poverty: External motivation to do work2
Almost being fired1
 12
Learning more about yourself and your goals 
Figure out which work hours are most useful, schedule different kinds of work for different times to work more efficiently3
Thinking about what you want to do with life and what (work) motivates you3
Experimenting with what actually makes you (less) productive e.g. via tracking and realising that productivity advice is very personal2
Repeated experience of joy from achieving big things1
Deciding how many hours you endorse working1
 10
Misc. specific techniques 
Productivity books2
Productivity systems2
Having policies for ways of making time productive when there are trade-offs e.g. with money1
Physical Kanban boards1
Walking meetings with yourself1
Leverage momentum: Start the day with a small experience of success and let that spiral1
Work diary (to spur ambition)1
Notes in the evening to get back into it the next day1
 10
Stimulants and distractions 
ADHD meds3
Good App-blockers or other removing distractions3
Meditation1
 7
Being emotionally in tune with work 
Not forcing yourself to do (certain) work when not feeling like it and doubling down when feeling productive2
Noticing when you haven't actually decided and committed to work and then doing that2
Not feeling guilty about too little or too much work-life balance1
Categorising work as "not work" and instead as something enjoyable, adjusting work environment accordingly1
 6
Life-things 
Dealing with mental health problems2
Sleep1
Being strict about at least one day off1
Do enjoyable things to recover instead of resting1
 5

 

List of what failed to make people more hard-working

Some people mentioned what didn't work for them. Note that I didn't ask for it, so very few people did this.

Thing that didn't workMentioned
Productivity hacks4
Rewards2
Self-set "fake" accountability1
Pomodoros1
Internal work2
Exercise, diet, sleep1
Taking more breaks1
Switching roles1
Meds1

Thanks for everyone who offered their stories and advice. I really appreciate it :)

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