March 19, 2016

An Experiment In Morning Blues

Hello friends!

If you're curious what I get up to with my time, observe! I ran this little self-study over the past couple of weeks. This post reports it using a hodgepodge style somewhere between personal notes and a scientific paper.

If you want to encourage the norm of testing everyday ideas empirically, or just do me a solid favor, please be my mini peer-review and take a moment to comment.


When I have a bad morning, the rest of the day's productivity seems to get shot and that feels bad. I set out to do something about it.

Question: What are the key factors in having a pleasant morning?

Hypothesis: Happiness will correlate with getting dressed and eating food and getting sunlight. I expect I can manage those things more easily when I'm in a good mood.

Method: For 15 mornings, I recorded when I did one of a set of things on the whiteboard. Collected "Happy, get sunlight, get dressed, get water, eat food, noise control". Looked for visual correlations. Checked straight predictive accuracy.


sorry blind people i'm lazy

Dashes in the first image mark a wholly blank day.

The second image is some summary data of the first.
Counts: True positive, false negatives, false positives, true negatives for each column.
Below that: Accuracy, precision, sensitivity (recall) for each column


  • Noise control may help a bit. Nothing else looked like an especially accurate predictor of mood.
  • Eating in the morning may anti-predict feeling good.
  • Getting a drink might be a sensitive enough mood test to use as a Trigger Action for exploiting them.
Sanity checks:
(This is a new section in my notes, added to encourage me to notice whether my ideas could be wrong in a way that would have take embarrassingly little effort to find out. If you can facilitate one of these sanity checks, please let me know!)

  • Ask someone who can Real Science(tm) to calculate my result's p-values.
    • Common sense-wise, I had 5 happy mornings recorded to work with. All of my conclusions are based on, like, a difference of 1 data point.
  • Check correlations between the variables themselves.
  • Take a mood test with one of's tools at several different times before 11am. If I get a wide variance and/or the empirical-ish results differ from my overall self-report then my results are probably bogus.
  • Search google scholar for studies about morning routines and read the abstracts
  • Test whether I get carb crashes. Food does have a plausible mechanism for causing a negative effect.
  • Ask autistic tumblr how they tweak their morning routines to prevent overload.
Potential Follow-ups:

  • Try this again when I'm not sick
  • Trigger Action Plan: With a drink in my hand, free associate thoughts about stuff I need to do.
  • Practice making/importing data into R
  • Spend a week or two collecting a more representative sample of things I do in the morning, run another self-study with those.

1 comment:

  1. I hate mornings. I have to wake up in like 6 hours, so I'm even less likely to be in good shape in the morning. However, tomorrow is the first day of a new semester, full of hope and optimism--therefore, I'm nearly certain I'll have a good morning. I also have the benefit of a friendly roommate that will nudge me if my mostly asleep brain decides to mount a mutiny.
    A thought about the experiment--it's difficult to determine causation without control of the variables. A happier mental state could lead to going outside, eating, etc.
    Overall, I like the blog. I find typical self improvement stuff awfully soft-science and floofy, so it's nice to see an aggressively objective approach. Admittedly, I didn't have much time to fully digest this, perhaps you could compose lighter articles with advice based on personal evidence, then link to longer articles (here and elsewhere).


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