Clever commitment contracts for personal life
October 30, 2017 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes I need a little shove to do things, especially things that require awkward conversations. For example, if I haven't had Important Feelings Conversation with Boyfriend by 11:59pm tomorrow, I've promised my best friend that I'll make a $100 donation to a reprehensible charity. What other commitment devices can I use to kick my own ass into gear?
posted by schroedingersgirl to Human Relations (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What you have described is basically a punishment for inaction.

You might also consider rewarding yourself for doing the action, either via positive reinforcement (you get a cupcake) or negative reinforcement (you don’t have to do some other chore that day).

YMMV, generally positive and negative reinforcement work better at generating a desired behavior than punishment. Or at least so my college psych teachers said.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:33 AM on October 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Remove distractions and don't do _other_ things until you do the _important_ thing.
posted by amtho at 11:38 AM on October 30, 2017

Remove distractions and don't do _other_ things until you do the _important_ thing.

Not going to threadsit, but it was this simple for me, I wouldn't be asking this question.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:39 AM on October 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

I’ve had success with

You set up a binding agreement with yourself and you can choose to put money on it, that can go to either a charity you support or one you loathe (my choice- very effective for me!)

You can also choose to have a friend be a referee if you like being accountable to someone.

I set up a contract for 8 weeks to change a bad habit and it was the push I needed to make a longer-term change.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Are you looking for a shove for one-time items, or building ongoing habits? If ongoing habits then Beeminder might be useful to you.
posted by dttocs at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are you looking for a shove for one-time items, or building ongoing habits?

Both are welcome, thanks!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:58 AM on October 30, 2017

Do you love recordkeeping? There is a lot about this type of thing in bullet journal lore. For my own purposes, I use a modified version of the X Effect. Basically, take a card (or a corner of paper, or a post-it, or a page in your journal, or whatevs), dedicate it to a habit you're trying to stick to, and make a grid for the number of days you're going for. I think the standard is 28 days/1 month. Then draw a very bright and visible X over the day's square when you do the thing. You want a card full of bright marks, no gaps, or minimal gaps. Then you reward yourself.

I've made my own system week by week. And it's kind of complex and percentage-based, e.g. if I fill more than 85% of my squares for the week, I treat myself to a Small Goals reward (pair of socks, $15 in art supplies, a book). If I attain one of the Medium Goals I'm aiming for--e.g. fill in 100% of the squares, pay off a smallish debt, reach a milestone in a work project--then I get a Medium Goal reward, which is more expensive. Things like shoes, fancy skincare, a good haircut.

The Large Goals are the big big ones, like finishing a massive, ongoing project at work that is mostly self-directed (so I really need a system to keep me going) or running a race that requires lots of training, or finishing a large creative project in my personal time. There are no rewards for the Large Goals other than the pleasure of completing the thing. This part of my system is useful for keeping my motivation clear for wanting to track this behavior in the first place. Like if I'm trying to draw an X every day for some drudgery, it helps to remember that the drudgery adds up to the thing I really, really want.
posted by witchen at 4:37 PM on October 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Looks like some people are discussing accountability partnerships in this MetaTalk thread.
posted by delight at 5:44 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're open to reward rather than punishment, as SaltySalticid suggests, I recommend the basic mechanism described in The Power of Habit (flowchart), which is basically:

* cue
* routine
* reward

I've recently experimented with using this method to cut down on wasting time reading stuff on the internet, and it was surprisingly effective - after the first two weeks, I really didn't even feel the craving anymore.
posted by kristi at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2017

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