Nuclear options: what are yours? 💥

At the end of MPU #480 with Michael Hyatt, @MacSparky describes his end-of-day shutdown procedure. In particular, he explains a Keyboard Maestro automation that literally quits every open app and displays a message that says “Time to shut down.”

I find something about these kinds of radical workflows or automations compelling. Like David’s situation, there are a number of good habits which I know I should do but skip or avoid because of any one of an infinite number of excuses good reasons. These destructive tools force short term-biased brains into engaging in better practices through threats of sacrifice—or, sometimes, actual sacrifice. I’m reminded of the Most Dangerous Writing App, which deletes what you’ve written if you stop writing.

I’ve been thinking about a two-tier radical solution to keeping my email inbox clean. The concept goes something like this:

  • At 3am, send every remaining email item to my OmniFocus inbox; and
  • At 2am, delete every item in my OmniFocus inbox.

As a result, I have to get my inbox current and clear every day, lest I lose potentially important items. The idea is to force myself to organize all the cruft that leads my inbox to becoming an avoidable place.

This led me to wonder: does anyone else use these kinds of radical, potentially-destructive automations in any way? Howso? Do they ever backfire?

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Whoa. This is intense. And I like it.

I also have some concerns: (1) Seems like it creates more stress than less (stress accumulates and adds up!). Also, (2) could it be a solution to a symptom rather than the cause? Shouldn’t our work be more appealing in its own right? Rather than threatening annihilation if not done, might we focus our energies on making it more appealing to do? (I dunno if there’s a KM shortcut for this.)


Well, if you don’t want to lose potentially valuable data, you could motivate yourself by losing money using Beeminder. You pledge some amount to guarantee you’ll do something. If that doesn’t happen, Beeminder charges you.

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@beck Indeed, this kind of thinking might just be compounding the issue. For an easy-to-imagine scenario: if I were David and some urgent issue were to mount at 4:15pm, only to have the computer try to shut me down fifteen minutes later, I’d be more flustered. The more rigid the option, the harder it’ll be to adapt it in times of chaos. (PS: I’ve got a page of yours on Tinderbox bookmarked somewhere… nice to run into you elsewhere on the web!)

@JohnAtl I like the idea of Beeminder, but as a perma-student I don’t have the cash to risk at the moment. The Pavlok is another—more physical, and perhaps more vicious—idea in this theme.


Sounds like it should be really effective, then! :wink:


Nope, wouldn’t even consider using that sort of system. The constant stress of knowing that if sheep happened I could lose something important would be horrific. Far better to work on your systems so that you are doing what you need to do in an appropriate way.

What I see with MacSparky’s shutdown is that he can choose to keep going. It’s more of a reminder that it’s now time to stop for the day. No important data are lost or at risk though. For someone who might get too engrossed in a task and forget what time it is that can be helpful. I know that I can get so involved tracking down and trying to fix a bug that I forget to eat or drink or even move or get up. I can be working and then realize 3 hours later that I’m cramped, thirsty and tired. But during the work I do not recognize any of my body signals to get up and stretch. I can also get so involved in reading a good book that I look up when it’s done to realize that I stayed up until midnight or later finishing it.

Fortunately those things happen rarely enough that I figure it’s not worth doing something about.

I do this too. It’s particularly bad when I fall into doing something on, say, a smartphone—a couple hours later I’m basically a knot and I could’ve done the work in half the time had I gotten up and gone to a desk and a proper set of tools.

To this end I’ve been playing with nudge notifications. I use a Shortcut to generate a set of random notifications throughout the days’ interstitial time. These prompt me with a check-in, asking if I could approach whatever I’m doing differently (or if I’m even doing the right thing). Trick is, it’s effortless to ignore them—and I often do!

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I am sorry but i don’t get this… at all. It seems you felt you need help with a bad habit but the way you have set up help is penalizing oriented, not improvement oriented.

It seems to me you need to have a frank conversation with yourself about what habit to change and how important it is to do so. Then you need to internalize this decision (in a variety of ways, computer could possibly help) with the focus to change yourself so this is no longer a bad habit in the future.

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Sooooo vicious (and intriguing at the same time)!

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Ha—you’re not going to send me an invoice for this therapy session, are ya? :grin:

I think I’ve failed to properly frame this discussion. I’m wondering if others do any kind of forceful automations that try to guide good behaviour, like David Sparks’ shutdown Keyboard Maestro thing. Another example is declaring email bankruptcy. Another is blocking distracting websites/apps (e.g., with Focus on macOS or Forest on iOS).

Although it’s appreciated, I don’t need any personal coaching on this subject! I was just looking for inspiration from others’ ideas—and to kick off a discussion about whether it’s a good approach (…which I guess I’ve done, and the consensus is “no” thus far!)

No worries - is freebie :smiley:

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I set Freedom to run automatically from 7-10 (am and pm). I can’t check various fora or Twitter during that time and in the pm version, I can’t check certain apps either, like Reeder, Slack, Email, etc. I’ve taken to completely shutting down my computer because it’s just really uninteresting.

I’ve removed Safari, Mail, and all other interesting apps (all socials and anything basically that has a “stream” of information) from my phone. My iPad only has three screens: drawing apps, writing apps, and reading apps (also no Safari, mail, or social), otherwise I’d have Freedom control them, too. I’ve also set it so that I can’t quit Freedom while it’s running, not even via the activity monitor.

When I lived alone, I had a timer on my router so the internet would shut off between 7-10a/pm.


I have a km macro called „writing routine“ which turns off all programs except Scrivener (and a few other writing related like Aeon Timeline), then puts Scrivener into full screen mode. (Only problem: if it is in full screen already, this will do the opposite). I activate that in the evening before I go to bed. Then, when I get up at 5:00 to sit at my desk, no email, safari or whatever is there, I just start writing.

I also use the app Flowstate from time to time, which also deletes the text if you stop writing. I use this for brainstorming or rough drafts mainly.

A problem occurs when I have to research something in the web. I usually don’t open Safari while I’m writing, I don’t need Freedom, it’s enough if the app is quit. BUT: if I have to open it to research something, the magic breaks and I tend to start looking in Facebook etc. I think I need something that allows me only a short google search. Or block specific pages in the morning hours? Is there a way to do that with KM?


I actually tend to avoid radical things like this but in this case I felt like an exception was warranted. Planning the next day at the end of the current day always pays massive dividends for me and yet I find it really hard to stop and make time for it. Extreme measures were required.

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I’ve used a app called called Quitter by Marco Arment. It has been mentioned before on MPU. It allows you to automatically quit or hide apps after a configurable set of inactivity. It doesn’t force certain behavior but I’ve found it helps me guide my behavior by quitting apps that I may stumble back upon and be tempted to continue to use, i.e. YouTube

“Sheep happened”, I love it.