Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to some life-saving tools I have discovered recently and have been transforming my life.
Eight weeks ago today, I started a Stickk commitment to spend 60 minutes per day, Monday through Friday working on original music.
The catch is, if I failed, I would have to pay $200 to an anti-environmental charity.
Why on earth would I do that?
Because it really works.
Stickk is an entirely free service created by Yale Behaviroal scientists that allows you to set a goal, either ‘reoccurring’ or ‘one-shot.’ Reoccurring is something where you will check in weekly and report if you were successful. The one-shot is to get something done by a date you set. I have been using reoccurring goals.
I find it’s best structured with clear defining metrics. I see some goals on here that just say “no wasting time.” I find that it would be tough to measure.
My goals were specifically 60 minutes per day Monday through Friday. This can be measured very easily.
Stickk is great because I can’t argue with it. I know my goals and values but still tend to avoid doing the actions out of anxiety. Now I just decided once what and how long I would do these actions, and I just have to do it. It turns the ‘deciding everyday’ mental energy into ‘when will I do this’?
I feel my goal also worked because it had clear days off.
An hour may not feel like much, but on days where I was literally moving across the country producing on my laptop in the stacks of boxes, or in the passenger seat on the highway, it was plenty.
Sure, you can do more than an hour, and some days I did. It’s the consistency that matters.
You hear it all the time, and it’s so much better to do an hour every day than 8 hours one day and ignore it for the rest of the month.
This goal was a tremendous mental shift for me, too, because no longer could I measure my success with my music on ‘how good it is.’ I could only measure my success based on the time I spent working on it. This was incredibly liberating as a chronic ‘perfectionist.’
I tended not to make a lot of new ideas and generally had an easy time finishing music. New ideas scared me. Not anymore. I had to do it because I chose to.
Stickk is also set up to allow you to set the stakes. It’s proven by science that humans are more motivated by the fear of loss than of rationally doing what’s good for them. I first saw this concept introduced by the YouTuber BoyInABand who was battling depression for a long time until he set up a schedule to be reviewed by his sister, and if he failed, he had to donate $10,000 to the Church of Scientology.
The threat of an ‘anti-charity’ donation is another powerful motivator, which in turn gives you endless more reasons to show up for yourself every day.
To start, you create the goal and define your metrics for success. You can then set the stakes. I say if you really are committed to change, don’t put $5 down or $10, I went for $200 at stake per week, totaling $1,600 on the line over 8 weeks. Plus, there’s no reason to worry about losing that money, because if it’s that high, you will do everything in your power to be successful. Set it up with your debit card instead of a credit card for even more of a fun time. 🙂
Once you’re done with the contract to your future self, you pick a referee.
This is somebody who will review your work every week on the reporting days. Pick someone who won’t let you sway them with excuses. I picked someone who didn’t live with me. Admittedly, this person was a bit stressed to wake up one morning and see this out of the blue. They were worried, “don’t you think this will place a strain on our relationship?”. I said no, I wouldn’t let that happen because I wasn’t going to fail.
Stickk has a nice community built-in enabling people to become supporters of other’s goals. You also get a Commitment journal to write down your progress, thoughts, feelings, frustrations, successes, failures, etc. You can make it public or private, but I made mine public and told everyone about it. I just discovered they have a nice smartphone app too.
Why did this work?
I have been battling for years to get consistent about certain things. You tend to see advice saying just to tell people your goals, and that suddenly you will feel accountable. I don’t find that to be true.
Just telling people your goals is just talk. You almost feel like you’re relieved of the work because somebody already knows about it. You need to feel accountable to yourself first, and that is very hard when so many of us have to be self-motivated in this new economy.
How did I track my work?
I found this app right around the same time. I had long been a fan of the Pomodoro technique, but the only tool I used was the browser Mariana Timer. The problem was when it was in a separate tab; the bell never went off.
What is the Pomodoro technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a style of working where you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one task. Then a bell goes off, and you take a break for 5 minutes. After three rounds, your break becomes 20 minutes. Then repeat.
You could also modify this however you like, say, work for 50 minutes and break for 10.
The Pomodone app is magical because it’s a real application on your computer instead of a browser tab, so it has stronger admin access to let that bell ring regardless of what you’re doing on your computer.
Even better, it lets you sync Trello to it.
Trello is a task organizer that you can create different boards for different projects. It is lovely on its own and even better with Pomodone app because you can select a task, work for 25 minutes, and see it recorded on a graph.
Soon enough, you can look at all the work you did over an entire month, broken up into neat little charts.
Here you can see my work for the last month, and how pitifully little I focused on this blog.
That’s all about to change with my new Stickk goals.
Today I set 4 more goals for meditating, learning, working on this website, and practicing musical instruments.
The best way out is always through.