I’ve talked at length about all the ways that I’ve been using rewards to get myself to get things done. Technically, the work itself is probably supposed to be enough, and sometimes it is. But most of the time you just need something extra. I tend to reward myself in monthly cycles. Define a goal that I’m striving for around the end of the previous month has really worked for me. I redefine goals as appropriate to make sure that I’m working toward the most important thing at any time.
But sometimes, just having the positive effects of finishing that goal and the fun of getting that reward are not enough. Sometimes you need to add consequences. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with building some more accountability into my habits. Below are some of the strategies that I’ve found really helpful.
I started asking my partner to check in on whether I’m doing my work sometime this spring. He’s always known generally what I’m working on but since spring I’ve been sharing my monthly planning process with him. I’ve also been asking him to check in on me every day to make sure that I’m actually doing the work that I’ve planned to do. There are also online groups for specifically this kind of interaction if you live alone and don’t have access to someone who is inherently invested in your success. Google is your friend here, and you can find so many options, depending on the kind of accountability you need.
My partner gently reminding me to work turned out not to be enough, largely because the lure of the internet is just too great. I’d decide to just “quickly check Twitter” and wind up doomscrolling for an hour or more. I’ve used the StayFocusd plugin before to great effect and decided to bring it back for another tour of my browser. I’m trying to make sure that I do creative work every day at least from 19:00 to 21:00. And StayFocusd will literally stop me from going on social media or YouTube during this time. These are my biggest hurdles to actually getting creative work done, so those are the ones that went on the list first. If I start noticing other bad habits, I’ll add those to the list as well.
BeeMinder is the most interesting tool on this list, I think. It’s basically an automated tracker that uses data from various locations to check that you are on track to accomplish your goals. If you get too far behind, it starts charging your credit card. You can set the maximum charge, and you can work ahead, you just need to make sure to keep ahead of the Akrasia Horizon. For now, I’m using it to make sure that I walk about 30 minutes each day to make sure my muscles don’t get too sore.
I haven’t been feeling too great this weekend, so I’ve been falling behind more than I like. In general, this thing has me walking much more than I’ve done in several months, which has been great for my general health and well-being. So far, BeeMinder has been a really successful experiment in general for me. I’m seriously considering expanding it to writing. really want to get a draft of a new novel in by the end of the year and it’s going to be a tough thing to do if I skip a lot of days. Even getting a couple hundred words in every day would keep me on track. But I’m not quite ready to set up that yet as I write this. I’ll have to return to this at the halfway point of the month and see where I land.
What about you, dear reader? Which methods do you use to stay on track?