Category: Goal Setting


Update: 4th day of Bribery…

Day 1 (Sunday) – Earned 1 point, for running outside (5k, as a walk-run).

Day 2 (Monday) – Earned nothing, ended up watching TV all day.

Changed the rules at the end of Monday, to add new points: 1 point for turning on Rescuetime’s distraction-blocker for the morning, and then another 2 points if I turn it on again in the afternoon.

Day 3 (Tuesday) – Earned 6.5 points total (3 for using Rescuetime in AM & PM; 1 for working on my paper <4hr; 0.5 for starting with organization).   I did a lot of “productive procrastination,” doing some housework and playing around with an idea that I have for a hobby.  Obviously, using rescuetime doesn’t automatically translate into getting work done on my paper.  But “productive procrastination” is better than watching TV online.

Day 4 (Wednesday) – So far I’ve earned 1.5 points: turning on Rescuetime in the morning and starting with organization. My goal for today is to earn the extra 2 points for rescuetime, and to earn the 5 points for 4 hours of work on my paper.   I really want to watch 2 hours of tv, and I think I’m going to let myself do that – but I’m really focusing my willpower to make it *only* the 2 shows, no more.  Unfortunately, that means I don’t get any points for avoiding tv.

 

This system is working for me.  I think it will take a little while for me to settle on a reward system, but that’s ok.  I am giving myself a week to adjust the system as needed, and then I will stick with it until I earn my first reward.  After each reward, I can tweak the system to better match my goals and abilities.

 


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Bribery

I recently gave up on my attempt to create a routine, because I didn’t have the willpower to follow the schedule that I was trying to create for myself.

So this is a new way to try and create a routine for myself – I’m approaching the problem from a different side.

The plan is to bribe myself, both for completing major project milestones and also for work I do each day.
Part of this is that I’d like to see which method works better for me.  My hypothesis is that bribery for doing the work will be better than bribery for having finished something.  But right now, I’ll try both – and just see what’s what.

Reward

I have selected a few things that I would like to buy.  They range from $7 to $50, but are all desirable.
Each reward is worth 100 points (regardless of price), and I will select only 1 reward at a time to work towards.

Points for Productive Actions

These are tasks that I can do every single day to earn points.  By repeating these tasks, I am hopefully creating a routine for myself and then strengthening it until it truly becomes “routine”.

  • 0.5 points = starting my work day with organizational activities, specifically with looking at my calendar book and writing down some microgoals (only get the points if I do this FIRST)
  • 0.5 points = planning dinner, and picking up any necessary ingredients
  • 1 point = working out on my own, for example: running outside or lifting weights.
  • 1 point =  doing some work on my paper (but less than 4 hours)
  • 1 point = turning on Rescuetime’s distraction-blocker for the morning (from when I turn on the computer, to noon).
  • 2 points = turning on Rescuetime’s distraction-blocker for the afternoon (from the end of lunch to the end of the “work day”, at least 120 minutes but ideally longer).  Note, only get 2 points if I ALSO turned it on in the morning, otherwise the afternoon is only worth 1 point.
  • 2 points = watching only 1 hour of television on a weekday (ie, my selected lunchtime show) – note that Big Bang Theory is excepted, if I watch it with my family.
  • 5 points = doing at least 4 hours of work on my paper (doesn’t have to be all at once, can be broken up into intervals).

Points for Project Milestones

Rather than just rewarding the final completion of this project, I’m breaking it up into smaller milestones.  For each milestone, I can earn two possible point totals:

  • 6 points = if the milestone is completed according to the deadline I had set for it.  This relates to my paper.
  • 3 points = if the milestone is completed, but not by the original deadline that I had set for it.  This also relates to my paper.
  • 4 points = if the milestone does not have a deadline.  This relates to my lower priority project: I’m trying to work through a book to teach myself some new skills, so that I can explore an idea that I have.

System Adjustments

I first started thinking about this system last Thursday, and I’m going to give myself till this Thursday (April 7th) to make any last adjustments to my available points.  After that, the system is fixed until I earn my first 100 points.

After each reward received, I will take some time to adjust the system.  I should be able to change the point totals to better influence my behaviours: the points should relate to my priorities.  High points available for tasks that are harder for me, and/or tasks that are more important.  And then lower points available for tasks that I will do anyways.

Eventually, if this system works to change my behaviour, I will adjust the list so that I’m still challenged.  My hope is that the easier things will become routine and I won’t need to be bribed to do them.

 

EDIT: On April 3rd, I adjusted my scale, as follows.  Added points for using Rescuetime’s distraction-blocker, and expanded my “run” points to include other solo workouts.  I also integrated my project milestones into my points-based system, rather than having a separate reward available for completing milestones.

One of my difficulties with goal setting is that the idea of breaking something down into smaller steps makes so much sense.  But even when I do this – it doesn’t necessarily make the tasks any easier.

But as I read The Procrastination Equation there was one thought that really hit home for me: if you can’t write a whole section of a paper, then just start with the headings.

The headings?  I can write headings.

And now I realize that I’ve been subdividing my tasks all wrong.  I’ve been breaking it down into sections of text.  When I should have been breaking it down by type of work.  And having each type of work build on the step before.

One of my three outstanding projects is a paper.  And I dislike writing, specifically academic writing.  So in this blog post, I’m going to rework my goal setting for this paper.

My previous system was by section: background – methods – results – discussion – conclusion – abstract.  And then I broke each section down into subsections (if applicable) and then I broke down each subsections into pieces of text.  But the problem is that these aren’t really discrete tasks.  Writing one paragraph means referring to other paragraphs, and possibly editing them etc etc.

So this is my new system:

  1. Write Headings & Subheadings: This creates sections of text, where I can itterrate the following steps:
  2. Select Paragraph Topics:  Goal is to select a topic for each paragraph in the section, that’s all.  But this will sneakily outline the section.
  3. Outline each Paragraph in Point Form:  For this step, I can use my own language with my own quirks (rather than formal academic language), because I’m the only one who needs to understand what I’m saying.  At the end of this step, I will have a very detailed outline for the section.  And it’s possible that by simply rewriting the outline to turn each point into a sentence, I can end up with a pretty good first draft.
  4. Write a first draft paragraph, marking spaces for references but not worrying about finding the refs.  Referencing bogs me down, and stresses me out.  So by taking away the references, it should make writing easier.  But if I know exactly where the reference is (ie, it’s not taking any more energy from me) then I can include it.
  5. Add in 3 References, and repeat this until the document is fully referenced. I can handle a couple references at a time.  This should be a focused-enough goal, that I can do it.
  6. Read the section aloud and edit it for flow.  Make sure I have topic sentences for the paragraphs, and good transitions between paragraphs.

That’s it for now.  I’ll have to add to this list later on…

But the list follows my usual approach to writing, but REALLY breaks it down to give me lots of micro-goals.