Welcome to Be Better Now Mind.

Much of our success depends on our mental outlook. It’s often the very difference of knowing what to do and doing it. You might know you should save money or skip the french fries, but do you do it?

If you are new to Be Better Now Mind, I recommend you start off reading about the importance of Mind and Psychology.

When we learn about the mind, we understanding how our willpower works, how we build habits, and how we motivate ourselves. We become successful, because it gives us the power to improve our lives. If knowing is half the battle, applying what we know about psychology is the other half.

Related Subtopics:  > Motivation > Happiness

Summary: Depression is literally no laughing matter. Use these tricks to beat depression once and for all. (Tweet This!)

Today, January 25th, is often called Blue Monday, a day that some consider the most depressing day of the year. It's not a real holiday. I wouldn't even call it pseudoscience.

While that science behind determining whether it is really the most depressing day is in question, the factors that go into the calculation all makes sense. The weather is historically bad, the days are short, new year resolutions start to fail, debt from the holidays comes due, and most importantly fans of 30 football teams have seen their season in depressing fashion. (Yesterday, the Patriots

Technically Blue Monday was last Monday, January 18th, but I reject it. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. day which gives us a reason to celebrate one man's great fight for racial equality. I find that inspirational, not depressing. There were a group of government workers who had 3-day weekends... not exactly a recipe for depression either.

Whether Blue Monday is legit science or a marketing gimmick to get people to buy vacations isn't important... depression is real.

Today's article is the most serious I've ever posted on Be Better Now. It might be the most serious, I've written in my life. As always, remember that I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist and this is certainly not a substitute for their years of expertise. Depression is best treated with professional help.

While depression is literally no laughing matter, as a Red Sox fan, I have to share this 15-second clip from Saturday Night Live:

Even a fake David Ortiz makes me laugh.

All jokes aside, this sadly is how most people react to depression. They simple tell people to just snap out of it. It reminds of these two comics I saw on Twitter.

If you know someone who is depressed it is important to exercise a little understanding and sympathy. If it was so easy to snap out of depression, it wouldn't be an issue. We'd cure it just like shutting an open window if it is too drafty in your house.

Beat Depression

Beat Depression!

  • Exercise - This WebMD article runs down some of the benefits. Improved self-esteem, reduced stress, improved sleep... hey sign me up, right? Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which make you feel good. Since any exercise will do, why not kill two birds with one stone by doing some house or yard work? You'll get the feeling of accomplishment as well. This Forbes article suggests that group workouts can help too. Maybe you'll make a friend after a post-exercise Jamba Juice.
  • Shed Some Light on the Subject - With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in full effect during the winter season, sunlight has been shown to help others. Since going outside on a 25 degree day is a depressing thought in itself, a good second option is a light therapy lamp. Look for lamps that state their are 10,000 lux, a measure of light. Here's one with awesome reviews on Amazon.
  • Talk Therapy - That's a fancy term for getting a shrink. It can be either a psychiatrist or a psychologist. You can get talk therapy from more than just psychiatrists and psychologists... social workers and counselors would qualify too.
  • Antidepressant Medications - This one should be pretty obvious and may be a natural follow-up to the talk therapy step above.
  • Limit the Alcohol - You've probably heard that alcohol is a depressant. You don't beat depression by adding a depressant to your life.
  • Consider a Multi Vitamin - It looks like a there may a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. That makes sense considering Seasonal Affective Disorder comes at a time when people naturally stay inside more, thus getting less vitamin D from the sun. For around $12 a year these Kirkland Multi Vitamins & Minerals Tablets give you plenty of vitamin D and a bunch of other vitamins too.
  • Other Supplements - I'm always a little skeptical about supplements because it seems like more an more information is coming to light showing that they don't help. However, for completeness, this LA Times article covers a variety of other supplements that are thought to help with depression. The only one that seemed promising to me is the Omega 3s. Like the multi-vitamins above, Kirkland fish oil pills will set you back about $12 a year, which isn't bad. Might be a good place put some of that money you've been saving on this site.

I mention the two suggestions of multivitamins and supplements with the usual caveat of understanding health studies. Don't let snake oil salesmen convince you that some vitamins are crap and not digested and that their brand is a depression cure. Don't fall for the "it gives your body what it needs to heal." I only mention them because at their minimal cost, there is little downside even though there is a little credible evidence they help.

So what's the best way to cure depression? I think building a house with Habitat for Humanity would be ideal. You get outside with some group exercise, while accomplishing something and giving back to the community. However, if you live in a cold weather climate, they probably aren't building houses in snow.

You know what usually works for me. This may sound crazy, but The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun:

Maybe you have a happy song or movie that will help boost your mood?

I realize that some of these suggestions may be temporary mood boosters and they may not cure the underlying cause of the depression. Before you be too mean to me in the comments, please go back and read the introduction about this article not being intended to replace professional help.

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Mind

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Summary: When things get difficult, make it easier by just focusing on what matters: Do Your Job! (Tweet This!)

Those three words is the slogan of the New England Patriots. In their run to becoming World Champions this year, those words became got an awful lot of wear. There's a whole clothing line with the phrase.

If you are familiar with the phrase as it applies to the New England Patriots, you probably thought it was something new for this year. Nope. It's been plastered for seasons as the last thing that players see when they head onto the field. Back in 2003, Bill Belichick even worked it into an article in the NY Times.*

do your job

Even the ducks in Boston know to do their job.

Those are 9 powerful letters. Whenever things get difficult, I think back them and things get a lot easier. All I have to do is what I've always done, what I know how to do. There's no rocket science behind to it.

Recently, I invested in a "Do Your Job!" shirt myself. I call it an investment, because when I'm wearing the shirt, I'm unstoppable. You simply do not want to mess with me with frivolous crap. I'm a locomotive and nothing is going to derail me.

About the Last Few Weeks Here...

You have probably noticed a few tumbleweeds around this blog. A case could be made that I haven't been doing my job. If this blog were my job, it would be a strong case.

I have a number of other jobs. I have another business that is exploding, unprecedented growth in last 10 years. I'm the family CFO and one of our big projects was to get solar power installed. In addition, a huge stomach bug went through the family leaving me as a nurse or patient for the better part of a week.

All of these things are my job. I think most everyone would put family and money-earning high up on their priority list.

Things are starting to calm down. The solar power is installed and running. The stomach bug has left the family. My other business is still growing, but I've become accustomed to the new workflow.

There will always be more interruptions coming around the corner, but hopefully things will return to the pace at the beginning of the year when this website launched.

* As a Patriots fan, this phrase in that article still hurts: "Maybe next season you'll finish tied for first place in the division, but you'll go home anyway because you lost the third tie-breaker."

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Summary: Perhaps nothing will save you more time than avoiding projects you don't want to do. Let's learn how to say "no."

how-to-say-no

No, no, no...

I say yes to everything.

Someone needs help moving, I'm there. There's a fly in my soup, well that's extra protein. I certainly wouldn't bother someone to go to the trouble of getting me new soup. And now that I have two very young boys, I've got a lot more things that require me to say "Yes."

Today I write about a skill that I really want to work on. My hope is that by doing research and putting my thoughts in writing, I will have a start. At a minimum it gives me something to refer back to as I try to make it a habit.

And if all else fails, I'm going to ask my two-year old how he does it. "No" seems to be his favorite word.

Why You Need to Say No

James Altucher relates a story about "how the power of no saved his life" on his Facebook page:

I started saying "No" to people who weren't right for me. I started saying "No" to everything I didn't want to do.

I started saying "No" to mindless meetings, mindless events, mindless people who were bad for me, mindless food or alcohol, mindless anger and regret. Mindless TV and news.

I started saying "No" to colonoscopies and other things related to painful medical experiments. I listed all the things I could say "No" to and I still do.

...

I had been saying YES to the wrong things for 20 years.

The whole story takes many twists and turns and in my opinion goes far off topic, but here it is if you want to waste spend your time that way. Instead, I'll give you the powerful conclusion:

"When you start just saying 'No' to the bad things, the 'Yes' compounds every day. It compounds automatically, the way interest does in a non-US bank."

How To Say "No!"

As I said in the outset, I'm still learning this, but here are some things that I've found interesting.

Say No With a Form Letter

Writer Tim Walker has a brilliantly-worded letter saying no. Here's a sampling of a couple of my favorite quotes in the quick read:

"See, I’m a family man with a beautiful wife, wonderful children, a fun but demanding job, a lifelong goal of writing books, and a firm commitment to achieving tip-top physical condition. Something has to give - many somethings, actually - and unfortunately your project is one of them.
...
But please believe me, it’s not meant to be rude. It’s only done because this life is finite, and when it’s over I’ll be dead a long, long time... Unfortunately, your thing - awesome though it promises to be or already is - just isn’t my thing. And experience tells me that, if I don’t focus on my thing, I’ll go crazy."

I feel like I should steal that first paragraph word-for-word. When you read the whole letter one thing becomes obvious... he lays the compliments so thick that it doesn't seem like he's saying no at all.

Why We Can't Say No

There is a great article on Zen Habits about saying no. It cites 6 reasons for why it is hard to say no. I'm going to generalize them into 3 reasons:

  1. Yes People are Awesome - I want to help you and I want everyone to know how awesome I am for helping you. Plus, I avoid looking rude.
  2. I Don't Want to Hurt You - I don't want to reject you. I might actually like you and rejection hurts.
  3. I Want to Keep my Foot in the Door - If I say no to this, perhaps I miss out an opportunity. Perhaps you don't ask me the next time and it is something that I really want to help with.

The article also has 7 suggestions on How to Say No. I'll boil them down to these 3 responses:

  1. Just Say No - Simple and easy. You may soften the blow by playing the busy card.
  2. Deflect it to a Different Time - It might be easier to put it off and hope that it gets forgotten. Chances are the person asking you is busy as well (we all are, right?). You can either suggest a definitive time in the future or just leave it open by suggesting that you need to think about it.
  3. Pass the Buck to Someone Else - Often, I'm really not the best fit, so if I can offer better person, I might be doing more of a service in suggestion them.

Overall, I can't say I'm excited by these options, which may be why I find it so hard to say no. I feel like I might be throwing someone under the bus in passing the buck to them.

Can you help me learn to say no? I'd love to read your suggestions in the comments.

Further Reading:

You may have noticed that I referenced James Altucher a bit in this article. That's because he literally wrote the book on The Power of No - The subtitle of the book says it all: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness. That's a message I can get behind. You know what else I can get behind? The 264 reviewers who gave it a rating of 4.4.

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Summary: Want to create a lasting change? Build habits by taking baby steps. (Tweet This!)
Baby steps:  Start small - keep improving

Baby steps: Start small... keep improving

For the last two and a half months, I've been trying to subtly nudge you in the direction of "being better." You may have noticed it in my monthly goal reports. If that was a little subtle, you might have also noticed it in such places as the website's name and logo.

If it wasn't completely obvious in either of those places, I'd like to formally write about it today. Many times people make grand, sweeping changes and expect them to stick. Yet, we know that most New Year's resolutions fail. We know that fad diets don't stick.

What does work? Baby steps

Here's a story from James Altucher's Newsletter about Tony Robbins training members of the military to shoot better:

"Specifically, for every student he had them bring the target only a few feet away. Everyone shot bullseyes. Then he moved the target back a foot. Bullseyes. Then another foot. And so on.

This is true for everything in life. I look at the example Mark Cuban told me. He didn't just start Broadcast.com and make a billion. First he started a bar. Then he started a computer business. Then a hedge fund."

For years, I would joke around that I'd simply just get rich picking up a baseball and throwing a knuckleball like Tim Wakefield. Throwing a knuckleball doesn't require one to be in the physical condition of a top athlete. Obviously, I couldn't just pick up a ball and throw a knuckleball like Tim Wakefield. It took him years of practice. It took him years of study from a previous generation of knuckleballers.

I should have started with baby steps. In reality, I had other priorities and didn't see devoting years of my life to throwing a knuckleball as a risk worth taking.

Baby steps often mean going back to making SMART Goals. You want to break them down and make them attainable. As you achieve success, make it a little more difficult, do something a little bigger. Suddenly you are buying up NBA teams and financing businesses on Shark Tank.

Stanford University research BJ Fogg is one of the world's leading experts on taking baby steps. He likes to call them "tiny habits." A few years back, he had a TED talk that covered how to make lasting change. The concept starts with... you guessed it... baby steps. However, he goes further than just baby steps:

As you can see he covers developing habits, the role of motivation, and triggering change in general. These are all things I'll cover in other articles.

This website itself is an experiment in baby steps. Each day, I'm trying to capture a little bit of knowledge and share it with people. The idea is that in just 5-10 minutes a day, you can learn something. Each day I get a little better at writing. Each day, I go back and rework some piece of writing that I've done in the past to try to make it better. Over time and many iterations, the quality of the website improves. This improvement means it can help more people.

Everything gets a little better... one small step at a time.

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Summary: Parkinson's Law prevents you from being productive. Here's how to fight back. (Tweet This!)

Parkinson's Law

In a couple of days, I'll be doing the math on this website's traffic to add up the money I'll be donating to Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. However, today, I'd like to bring up the topic of a Parkinson's that you probably never heard of... Parkinson's Law. Wikipedia's definition is very brief: Parkinson's Law is the adage that "work expands to fill the time available."

Three Ways I've Been Impacted by Parkinson's Law

If you read a little more into the Wikipedia definition, you'll see that a more general definition is "the demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource." I've found this to be true of nearly every project I've tried to accomplish in life. Specifically it applies to at least three areas, work, space, and money.

Parkinson's Law of Work/Time

This was the base case mentioned from the outset. Have you ever had that book report that you put off until the last minute? I always choked it up to procrastination, but maybe it was Parkinson's Law. In my years as a software engineer, I've rarely seen a project finish under the projected time allotted for the work. (This is theme that's prevalent in Frederick Brook's The Mythical Man-Month.) It almost always takes until the end.

Sadly, I find that this continues with my writing today. In fact, it's several times worse, because I have some long term projects that have no definitive due date on them. When there is no due date, the work expands indefinitely.

One idea I'm thinking of is enlisting my wife as a project manager. I'd explain to her each week what I'm looking to accomplish. At the end of the week, we'd go through and make sure that I have it - instant accountability! If she's not interested in such a thing, perhaps I could make commitment contracts to motivate me to get it done. I'm also setting monthly goals, which help me get things done.

Parkinson's Law of Space

Sometimes, I think if I only had more space, I'd be free of clutter forever. I've come to realize that Parkinson's Law applies here as well. My clutter expands to fill the space. When I lived in homes with small kitchens the counters were crowded. Now that I live in a kitchen with a big kitchen... guess what? The counters are crowded.

Parkinson's Law of Money

Have you ever gotten a tax refund or raise? Was your first thought to run out to buy a pair of Christian Louboutin? I hope not, because that's the perfect opportunity to save money for financial freedom.

Too many people don't think to save this money. Instead, they buy nice things and create what many call "lifestyle inflation." If you make more money, the demand for your money rises. Take this story on a banker not being able to live on a million dollars. Here is a juicy quote:

And I don’t mean to sound like a snob or anything but I do have a housekeeper, babysitters, gym memberships, therapists for me and my wife, plus our couples therapist.

How to Fight Parkinson's Law

Here are a few of the things that I've found help me kick Parkinson's Law to the curb:

Like many things, defeating Parkinson's Law is a work in progress. I find that as I get older and wiser, I have more knowledge.

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Summary: The most powerful weapon for beating the clutter monster is right between your ears: your mind - (Tweet This!)

This article would have been published hours ago if I only I acted on the title. My desk has so much clutter on it, that I can't effectively use it to write. Instead I sit on the couch, with poor posture and not in a good working environment.

It's not just my desk. It's my computer's desktop as well. Icons stretch far off the windows screen. I have folders, but they are so many that they stretch off the screen.

It's time to clean the clutter.

Why We Need to Declutter

Basketball in a suit of armor

Intimidating, but not effective.

Clutter saps my focus. Instead of doing what I need to do, I'm thinking about the mound of mess. I can forget about finding the business card from last year's conference... which means lost opportunities.

These things may not seem like much, but they add up and they have a "mental weight" for me. It's like trying to play basketball in a suit of armor. You can't play your best game.

Causes of Clutter

I can think of three main causes of clutter:

  1. Not enough time to put the clutter away
  2. Not enough space for one's physical "clutter" requirement
  3. A mental block with throwing stuff away

I find myself with dealing with #1 and #3 on a regular basis. The problem with time is that there's never enough of it. I'm getting there with all the productivity tips that I'm learning. Also, since clutter costs me time, it is a vicious circle. If I can clear off the time to clean it, it will save me even more time in the future.

The mental block is tougher to deal with. It sometimes hurts me to throw stuff away. These are thinks that I think:

What if I need that again? It cost me money to buy it, so I'm throwing away money. It must have value to someone, so I just need to find that person. If I find that person, I'll be helping save the environment by giving this thing another life.

It's not like I'm saving pizza boxes from 1987 like you might see in an episode of hoarders. However, you get the idea that I'm not much of a minimalist.

Mind Over Clutter

Finally, there's the idea that you might not have enough for your "clutter." In this scenario, I put "clutter" in quotes, because the items may not be clutter in the traditional sense. They could be very useful and even necessary items, but the lack of a designated space or "home" for the items could create the issue.

Get Your Mind into Declutter

So what do you do if it hurts to get rid of things? You do it slowly, taking a few baby steps each day. This way you build a resistance to those questions. You make throwing away a few things habit.

Alternatively, you could designate a few items to go to charity or a yard sale. Simply have a couple boxes appropriately marked in any storage space you do have. Then when you find yourself saying "This must gave value to someone", you have an answer. You don't have to feel bad about harming the environment as you might if you throw it away.

It gets even better. You might even get a tax deduction and save money by getting rid of the item.

Further Reading

If you are looking for more actionable tips, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by nearly a thousand reviewers on Amazon. That's a lot of value for under $10.

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Summary: Knowing is half the battle, doing is the other half. These motivation tips will help with the "doing." (Tweet This!)

There's always been a wide gap between knowing what to do and actually going out and doing it. When I was a young tike, I had G.I. Joe reminding me every day that knowing is half the battle. Whose with me for a 6-second trip down memory lane:

This website, and all the information on the internet in general, can help you win the "knowing" half of the battle.

The problem is usually the "doing" half of the battle. There's limited time, energy, and even willpower to get it all done.

I think half of the "doing" half of the battle is simply to get yourself motivated. If you are mentally engaged to go and know what you want to do, you almost have it done.

To help get and keep me motivated, I've compiled some motivation tips. This way, whenever I need a boost, I can come back here. This is one of the articles on Be Better Now that will get updated over time as I learn new motivation tips and tricks.

Stay Hungry

If you have to work hard every day to put food on the table, you have built-in motivation. On the other hand, if you have $3 million dollars in a trust fund that your Daddy set up for you, perhaps you'd be a little more tempted to kick up your heals and relax a bit.

One way to stay hungry is to...

Make Yourself the Underdog (Even If You Aren't)

Former New England Patriot Rodney Harrison is famous for playing the "no respect" card. It kept him and the defense motivated even as the Patriots dominated opponents for years.

They'd use any and every media sound bite from the other team's locker room to twist it into, "They don't respect us. We'll show them how wrong they are!" When they focused on that, it took attention away from the fact that sometimes the opponents were terrible teams. This prevented any kind of let down.

Motivating Media

I always like to keep a bunch of motivation media around. Here are some of the movies and music and scenes that got me motivated.

Find an Inspirational Speaker

It kills me to write this. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has put together some great motivational speeches. Here’s an example of one such speech:

(As a side note, I think Ray Lewis is a nut based on some of things he’s said as a broadcaster and his checkered history.)

In a future post we'll get into both music and movies that are inspiring. For now, I'll leave you with Rocky, which is a rare motivating movie with motivating music.

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Summary: Exercise your brain with these tips on how to remember numbers. (Tweet This!)

I've always had a knack for remembering numbers. Names on the other hand... I've got a lot of work to do there. If you don't have a mind for numbers, this is your lucky day. I'm going to show you how to be at least a little better.

Research shows that most people can really only remember 5-8 numbers at a time. However, with the following tips you may be able to remember a lot more.

How To Remember Numbers

Was that 13 or 24?

  1. Chunk the numbers into groups - Memory experts recommend that one of the best ways to remember numbers is to chunk them into groups. For example, it is easier to remember 27 than it is to remember a 2 and a 7. You may be find that 3 or even 4 digit chunks work for you.
  2. Associate the numbers with something familiar - If you a football fan, you may already do this. For me, as a big Patriots fan, I associate the number 54 with Tedy Bruschi. Number 12 is Tom Brady. For a long time I thought that filling my head with Roman Phifer's number 95 was just junk. Turns out that it can be useful.
  3. Ask the person to repeat the number - Some people are auditory learners, which means that hearing the number helps trigger their memory.
  4. Repeat the number yourself - This helps me more with names than numbers, but I've heard others swear by this trick.
  5. Visualize the number - Picture the number in your head. Another trick people use is to associate the shapes of the letters with an image (like a doughnut for zero or a stick for one). I haven't had any luck with it though.
  6. Write the number down - Okay, so this last tip flies in the face of "remembering the number"... not entirely though. When you write the number you use your sense of touch and physical motor skills. This helps many sensory people. There is no guarantee you won't lose the number, and this is a lot safer than mailing it to yourself.

I realize that some of these tips aren't exactly ground-breaking. I realize that some of the articles here are quite complex. I'm trying to remember to keep it simple sometimes.

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Mind

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Summary: When you turn a chore into a game, it becomes fun. What if you did it for everything important in your life? (Tweet This!)

We've all been there. We've struggled with our productivity. I've been there. Let me tell you, when you build a website around a central tenant of being more productive this qualifies as "A Very Bad Thing."

When this happens, I realize that I have two choices. I could go through the list of the list of excuses or man up. Admittedly, I usually do both, go through the list of excuses and then man up.

Living the Video Game Life

Living the Video Game Life

It's one thing to know that I have to be more productive. Doing it is a horse of a different color. I need a way to stay motivated and accountable. The first thought that came to my mind is that I should take a commitment contract out against myself. This would help ensure that I stick to my plan. I was in the process of doing just that when I realized that would have to quantify my productivity. Remember that "Measurable" from our SMART Goals?

Fortunately, I happen to have a handy tool to quantify my productivity. I can simply refer to my prioritized to-do list. Each day, I will keep track how many points I've completed in a spreadsheet. I could even run some statistics on the data and create some graphs. The possibilities are endless.

Rate My Life

All problems are solved, right? Well not exactly. As we all known life intervenes with work sometimes. Last week, we had two feet of snow. Between shoveling and taking care of the kids, I didn't get nearly as much work done as I hoped. On my conventional business to-do list, this would have scored low. On my, "I'd like to not slip, fall, and spend a month in traction" to-do list, it ranked very high.

I have a lot of items like this. Walking my dog comes to mind immediately. I don't get any work done, but we both get exercise and he gets a fun trip. There are the times where I take some extra time make a healthy meal. This lowers my "work" productivity, but it is also a worthwhile trade off.

The last thing that I want to do is to become a slave to my productivity charts and graphs. I needed to do a little tweak. I created a spreadsheet for several areas that I want to be better in. I'd love to share it with you, but it really is far too rough, right now.

The categories were ones that were just off the top of my head - most of them pulled from the goals of this site: Money, Health, Productivity, Social good, and Family / Fun. The idea here is to rate myself each day on this criteria. If I eat tons of fast food and don't exercise, I'm going to get a low health score. If go crazy and buy a bunch of tablets for every room in the house, I'm going to get a low score in the money category (and perhaps an increased score in the "likelihood of getting divorced" column).

Currently, I have a Max Score, Today's Rating, and Today's Score column. As I've explained it thus far, I could just put a number from 1 to 10 for each day of the month, and have the same result.

My Life as a Video Game

My spreadsheet attempts to break down categories into specific tasks. So walking the dog gets points in both family/fun and health. I have exercise and diet tasks in the health category. If I have the best workout, I can earn 10 points there. If I have an excellent diet, that's another 10 points. I often forget to floss, so I'm giving myself an extra point. What I have now is a Health Category with a Max Score of 21. If I put in above average workout (6) with above average diet (6) and floss (1), I will earn 13 of 21 possible points. When I skip the gym, I likely won't get out of the single digits.

This is where living your life as a video game comes in. I want to score as many points as I can. In general, the more points I've score, the more productive my day is. There's even a word for it, Gamification.

As long as I keep the system in balance, this has been a great way to stay motivated throughout the day. Scoring points allows me to set measurable goals.

Perhaps best of all, I can put a reward system in place. Maybe scoring so many points earns me a beer or scotch at night. Maybe scoring so many points a month earns me $100 to buy some kind of technology toy. This is the next natural step, but I'm not there yet. We'll save that for another post for another day.

Photo Credit: Raja Nicholas Fletcher

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Summary: Have a project that just never gets done? Use a strongly enforced commitment contract to keep motivated (Tweet This)

On one of my favorite blogs, I recently read the following quote:

commitment-contract-referee

Get a Referee to Enforce the Commitment Contract

"If I read this post in December 2014 and it is not done – then future Evan – you owe The Wife $200+ Shoes" - My Journey to Millions

The author, Evan, had written a set of goals for the year. Like most goals set at the beginning of the year he has varying levels of success with them.

Do you think Evan completed this goal? Of course he did. (Hopefully his wife wasn't counting on the shoes.)

If you read the tips in my article last week, SMART Goals: Goal Setting Made Easy, I mentioned the concept of making a commitment contract with yourself to achieve your goal.

The idea is that you make a deal that if you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. In that case, you are denying yourself of a reward.

However, it can work with the threat of doing something that you really don't want to do. Maybe you pledge that you'll donate money to the political party that opposes your views. Or if you are a Red Sox fan, you threaten to buy a Yankees hat and put the picture of you in it all over Instagram. The idea is to pick something that hurts a bit...

Make Your Commitment Contract Accountable

Ray Romano's character on Men of a Certain Age makes what he calls "mind bets." He'll bet himself that if he doesn't accomplish his goal (usually related to his performance in his golf game), he'll go without television or something else he was looking forward to. Making a mind bet has its problems. Do you have the discipline to follow through with it? His character occasionally found loopholes in his bets. A commitment contract where the commitment can be broken and the contract isn't binding may not be very effective.

If mind bets aren't every good, what's better? How about a website - StickK.com. StickK (yes there is an extra "K" in there) was created by a pair of Yale professors. The idea is that you pick a set a goal and sign a legally binding contract to send money to other people or organizations if you don't reach it.

One common trick is to donate money towards an organization that you don't believe in. That way you'll work extra hard to keep your money out of their hands. You also want assign a referee. According to a Wikipedia citation of Stickk, "... users who put money on the line and have a referee tend to do best. 78% of these users achieve their goals, as compared to only 35% who put no money down." (The source is premium content available to Boston Globe subscribers).

Another website looking to capitalize on the concept of a commitment contract is Healthy Wage. The idea here is very similar to StickK, but it's focused entirely on those looking to lose weight. Healthy Wage it is more strict with its requirements, which makes it tougher (well nearly impossible) to cheat. Unlike StickK where you can avoid the referee, Healthy Wage users are required to have their physician call in the results of their weigh-ins.

What can you take away from this? A commitment contract is powerful motivation, but it is only as good as the enforcement you create. Have you set up a commitment contract? If not, what are you waiting for? Let me know in the comments.

Further Reading:

Photo Credit: Pure Costumes

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