Category: Scheduling


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.

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My “Unschedule”

This technique comes directly out of The Procrastination Equation, by Piers Steel.

It’s simple: by making time for leisure, it should help me control my impulsiveness (ie – it should help me avoid distractions).

My big vice is online TV.  So I am unscheduling my favorite shows, and allowing myself to watch them as I eat lunch.

  • Monday: The Amazing Race
  • Tuesday: United States of Tara
  • Wednesday: Parenthood (’till it’s over, then I can choose a new one)
  • Thursday: Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior
  • Friday: Community

There are more shows that I really like, and I will need to find a way to unschedule them too.  But I’m starting with these ones.

The other thing I have in my “unschedule” is my weekly social commitments.

  • Tuesday Evenings: A weekly dinner with a few friends.
  • Thursday Evenings: My sports team.

I’ll continue to add to this “unschedule”, but this is what I have for now.

The plan was simple: do work every day at 10am.

At first I was both discouraged and encouraged about how the system was working.

And now…  I am pulling the plug!

This tiny system didn’t work for me, full stop.  I didn’t have the will power to follow through with it on a daily basis, and then I just felt guilty.  So this plan is over.  And I’m going back to the drawing board.

Creating my own deadlines

Everyone always suggests that time management is a simple system of breaking big tasks down into little tasks and then spreading out those little tasks over the time you have.

Sounds easy.  Sounds logical.  Sounds painless.

Except that I’ve never been able to do that.  I just don’t get those little tasks done according to the timeline that I had set for myself.   And then I feel like I have to “catch-up”.  And then I fail at the catching-up.  The stress just snowballs.  The end result is invariably the same as if I hadn’t set up the plan in the first place: at the last minute, I come up with a bare minimum plan and then I systematically complete each section as best as I can.

Recently I tried to do this again with one of the projects that I need to complete.  And it played out exactly as I’m used to.  My good intentions were for naught.

So then, this past week, I changed the rules.  I sent out emails to a bunch of friends asking for help.  My friends are going to be my deadlines.  They are my external clock.  This is how it works:

  • I create the schedule, I break up my project into smaller pieces and I set deadlines for each smaller piece.
  • For each deadline, I pick a friend to send my work to.
  • The friend looks over the work and gives me some feedback.  Not a ton, because I don’t want this to be a huge amount of work for them.  Just something simple that keeps me thinking.
  • The rule for me is that I MUST meet that deadline.  If the work isn’t finished, then I must send it anyways and deal with being embarrassed.  Once I select the timeframe, it is unmovable.

So far, I’ve set and met one deadline.  (Success!)  And I have another deadline coming up next Tuesday.  I’m trying to keep them pretty frequent, but I’m also trying to plan around other activities so that I don’t feel guilty for going to a family dinner or doing other non-work things.

I’m also not planning all of the deadlines up front.  I want to have enough pressure to keep me thinking of the next deadline, but not too much pressure that I feel “paralyzed” by all the deadlines that are looming.  It’s a slightly lighter load than I think I can handle, but I think that slowly building success is the most important thing for me right now.

Two weeks ago I gave myself a plan: at 10am each morning, I would open word and start working on one of three projects that I need to do.  The idea behind this was to start creating a routine for myself.

Update:

At first I thought that this was a total failure.  I just couldn’t get myself to do it.  And then I felt guilty and stupid for setting myself up.

But on the Friday of the first week, I changed my definition of “work”.  I let myself count emails as work – specifically: productive emails.  At first I was a bit annoyed at myself for this: it seemed like cheating.  But then I decided that it was an ok change.  After writing productive emails, I found it easier to start working on my actual work.  So yes, emails aren’t as productive as my actual work, but they were like a ramp for me: making it easier to be productive.

So this last week I’ve been playing by the new rules.  I just need to be doing work at 10am.  It doesn’t matter what type of work.  But after doing easier work, I then need to open word and do work on one of the three projects that I have outstanding.

This is a system that I can do.  And I think that this is system that I can build on.  If this is my wall push-up, then I think that after I while I could turn it into a knee push-up: making it a little harder.  But first, I will focus on the wall push-ups.

Establishing a Routine

Establishing a routine was suggested to me as part of my survey results from  procrastinus.com.  It makes sense – I’ve tried to establish a routine for other things, like exercising, but I’ve been resistant to it for getting work done.

If I’m honest with myself, the reason I’ve been resistant to setting a routine is that it will stand in the way of my favorite procrastination activities, like tv and facebook and surfing my favorite sites.

The reason it would stand in my way is that I would never prioritize these activities, so I would never include them in my routine.  Which scares me.

So I’m going to keep these fears in mind, because I want to be successful.  And I think that I will set myself up for failure if I come up with an “ideal” routine that I couldn’t stick to.  I need to recognize where I’m at, if I want to improve.

Once upon a time I couldn’t do a push-up.  And the way I got better wasn’t by trying to do oodles of push-ups.  It was by starting small, and increasing my challenge in nice achievable steps.  I’m going to apply those lessons to this, and start with a small routine that I can expand on later.

Step 1: A smidgeon of a routine

The equivalent of a wall push-up, something that I can definitely do, I just need to commit to doing it.

Every morning, at 10am.  I will do something productive: I will open Word and work on one of the three projects that I have outstanding.  It doesn’t matter how long I work on it, but I can’t just “fake it” by opening it and then going back to procrastinating.  I need to actually do some work.