It is by daily routines alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Modafinil that thoughts acquire speed, the hands acquire shakes. The shakes become a warning. It is by daily routines alone I set my mind in motion.
I'm pretty bad at focusing. I have ADHD, and even if I'm doing something I like, I'll find myself getting distracted often.
The obvious solution when you have this problem is to take Adderall. But Adderall makes me very paranoid and I find it very hard to sleep no matter when I take it – the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Modafinil is much better, but I'm afraid of developing a tolerance to it if I use it regularly.
Eventually, hours of reading LessWrong paid off and I realized I should actually think about the problem for 5 minutes instead of just assuming it'd be an unsolvable curse that would follow me forever.
I came up with a lot of insane ideas, like "make a machine that would randomly give myself electric shocks to distract the part of my mind that tends to get distracted". But one or two of them were actually decent.
  1. Hire some guy to watch me work and yell at me if I get distracted.
    This actually works pretty well, but it's expensive. Luckily, my job pays well so I can afford it, but it wouldn't have worked for me in college.
    At work, when possible, I try to do pair programming. It's a much more potent version of this strategy.
    Unfortunately, most people don't like pair programming. Also, you have to work on your coworker's schedule. This works poorly for me, because I like working a bit later in the day.
    Also, pair programming triggers my imposter syndrome and I get insecure. And it's much more draining, because I feel bad about taking breaks.
    So, hiring some guy to yell at me seems like the sweet spot right now.
  2. "Microdose" 2.5mg Adderall twice a week. The benefits are small, but the sides are managable for me at this dose.
  3. Take a Modafinil once per week. This is probably infrequent enough that I don't need to worry about tolerance.
  4. Get really serious about todo lists. I use the website complice.co.
    In particular, if I make a list the day before, it prevents me from getting caught in the "I don't know what I have to do today so I won't feel bad about procrastinating a bit" cycle. My rule is that I have to have one high-impact thing that I already know how to do on the top of my todo list for the next day.
    Putting things that I don't know how to do on my todo list is next to pointless – I have no motivation to start a task if I don't already know how to start. Luckily, this is hackable. If tomorrow I need to do X but don't know how, I just put "spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to do X" on my todo list.
  5. Daily routines are awesome. I have five dailies in complice that I automatically add to my todo list every workday. Once I get those knocked out in the morning, I feel like I have some momentum for the rest of the day.
  6. Install "one sec" on my phone. This is one of those apps that makes you wait 5 seconds before opening Twitter or TikTok.
    I've tried apps that completely block distracting websites during work hours, but they don't work for me. They're always trivial to circumvent, and eventually I get frustrated, disable them, and then don't feel like turning them back on.
    Apps like one sec are perfect, because it's faster to wait 5 seconds to open tiktok than it is to go delete the app, so short-term me never has the incentive to. And waiting 5 seconds is a surprisingly big disincentive to short-term me.
    There are equivalent chrome extensions for your browser too, but they all annoy me.
  7. Exercise in the morning.
    Unfortunately, the same laziness that makes not feel like working also makes me not feel like exercising. I want to start flipping a coin to determine whether I exercise, and see if I notice a difference.
  8. Get an office.
    I find it easier to focus from an office, instead of working from home. Unfortunately, since moving to chicago I haven't been able to get an office since they're so expensive compared to Lansing. The price of a decent office is actually comparable to the price of a studio apartment, lol.
  9. Neurofeedback.
    At some point I realized that my problem is focusing, and I've never actually practiced focusing.
    After doing some digging I discovered something called neurofeedback. The basic idea is that they hook your head up to some electrodes to try to get an idea for how much you're focusing, and make you practice focusing for about an hour a week. The electrodes are useful because they mean that you can be notified as soon as your focus slips.
    It sounds a bit like pseudoscience, but a meta-analysis found that it does have an effect, although a smaller one than medication.
    I haven't done it much yet, so I can't speak to the results, but I'm cautiously optimistic.
I hope something here can be useful to someone else.