Change is hard. Especially if for the last month you did nothing else but sleep 12 hours per day and browse reddit while awake. Years ago, that was the state I was in. Then, my current level of productivity would be unimaginable. This blog post is a rough sketch of how that change happened.
Realizing my brain makes mistakes
At least I had the motivation to read. Reading wikipedia I found the page on cognitive biases. Learning about things like social psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics and evolutionary psychology made me better understand how the mind works. That kind of knowledge is important if you are trying to change the way your mind works. It also made me less judgemental towards myself.
Main resource: Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Recognizing the mistakes which lead to personal problems
There are certain types of mistakes, like all-or-nothing thinking, which lead to unhappiness. The field of cognitive-behavioral therapy studies errors like this and psychologists have devised practical exercises for removing that kinds of errors from you thinking. Doing the exercises really makes the difference, just reading will not help as much.
Main resource: Feeling Good.
Habit formation and habit elimination
Some bad habits I completely eliminated were gaming addiction, reddit addiction, various web forums addiction, too much soda/coke. Good habits: stabilize your sleep pattern, eat healthier, exercise, gratitude journal. Self-improvment largely just consists just out of habit-optimization. You will fail many times. The key is getting up and trying again.
Getting things done
This is just another habit but it deserves a separate section. I don’t know how people survive without todo lists anymore. Once you write every boring thing down so you don’t need to remember it, your mind is free to do creative stuff.
Main and only resource: Getting Things Done.
Another habit which deserves a separate section because it is awesome and there are also some scientific indications it is awesome. While medidating you are practicing your mind which results in having better focus and better metacognition.
Gaining practical skills
If you learn some skill for which is subjectively worth to you $5 a day, that is over $50,000 dollars in next 30 years. One of the most important skills were touch typing and speed reading, since I type and read every day.
Gaining social skills
This may come hard for some people but the benefits are huge, as a large part of life satisfaction (or misery, if you do it wrong) comes from interaction with other people. This is still much work in progress for me.
Exploring productivity tricks and decison making tecnhiques
Aversion factoring, goal factoring, implementation intentions, non-zero days, pre-hindsight, and other techniques gathered mostly from lesswrong posts like: A “Failure to Evaluate Return-on-Time” Fallacy, Humans are not automatically strategic, Dark Arts of Rationality, Travel Through Time to Increase Your Effectiveness.
Resources: Clearer Thinking has a lot of useful exercises.
It depends where you are coming from, but self-improvement is usually hard, and it may take you 10 years. I hope this list will be useful to others.