Some tasks are difficult or unpleasant. For that purpose, I believe in the power of social accountability, which can take one of many forms, some more radical (hence effective) than others. In this post I list a few strategies that come to mind, some of which I have successfully employed in the past.
- Announce socially and post progress to stay accountable. Either promise to perform some deed in the event of failure or simply accept to look foolish and unreliable.
- Create a contract with another party to deliver the idea or be liable to forfeit a predetermined sum of money. Preferably a respectable sum.
- Similarly, devise a contract to be penalized by other means, such as forced labor, extortion, extradition, public humiliation, destructive nutrition, committing to performance art that challenges your masculinity/femininity, carrying out other less savory experiments, etc.
I find negative reinforcement a more powerful agent, but you can also find ways to bind positive rewards to the timely realization of your experiment. This can involve a financial reward, equity, or service from another party, all in addition to the gratification you already experience from carrying out the task. You can also combine positive and negative reinforcement.
A US-based service DietBet features some of the ideas discussed here in the domain of dieting.
To venture a step further, you can convert your task into a sort of financial product for others to invest in, bet for or against analogous to options trading, and speculate on, if that stimulates your taste. If this idea were to mutate into a financial product, I don’t suppose any rationale could inhibit these products in being packaged into more compound instruments, analogous to hedge funds or CDOs in the financial market. The notion, however, entirely digresses beyond the scope of this post.
Depending on the nature of your contract with a particular party or your entire community, you may need a mechanism to serve as a proof of your deed. This could limit itself to an honor system if established strictly between you and friends or family, or could involve craftier verification method clarified in the initial terms. It may involve photographic or video evidence or even witness corroboration. Whatever it entails, both you and the parties involved should clearly understand the nature of your agreement as well as the risk.
If you limit your agreement to between you and a close friend, I encourage you to consider the possibility of your friend really holding you accountable. In some of my experiences involving financial penalties for not carrying out either small milestones or an entire task, the friend demonstrates sympathy, either forgiving or relaxing the obligation. In such cases it may help involving a less familiar party in the arrangement, an arbitrator, or better yet, a broader community.
My intent is of strictly motivational nature in proposing these ideas. None of the ideas are novel, but I nonetheless witness many struggling in the realm of accountability when one of the strategies could provide the needed catalyst. This has worked for me on a number of occasions. On the other hand, my intent in contrasting the ideas with financial instruments is purely academic and beyond the initially envisioned scope. Lastly, enjoy the process of delivering on your promises. It feels spectacular.