You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more frequently. (Please tell me you’ve noticed I’ve been blogging more frequently.) I’d like to say this is because I’ve felt particularly inspired and productive lately, but mostly it’s because I don’t want to pay my friend Shauna five bucks every week.
Back in December, Shauna posted an entry that mentioned (in parenthesis) that she wanted to “get back on the writing wagon.” When I read that I thought, I want to get back on the writing wagon too though not literally because it would be hard to write on a wagon. That’s when I proposed the idea that we mutually extort blog entries from each other, though I think I phrased it as “being accountable to one another.” Accountability was an important part of my weight loss success when I was actually losing weight, so I hoped it might work as well with writing goals as it did with weight-loss goals. The best part is that once you’ve written something you can’t un-write it, unlike weight loss where you can gain back what you lost and then everyone acts like it didn’t count in the first place.
That’s why I went to Stickk.com, set up a commitment, named Shauna as my referee, and promised to pay her $5 any week I did not post at least one blog entry 200 words or longer for the first 8 weeks of the year. I had to enter my credit card information in case I failed, which made the stakes seem more real. Then Shauna did the same thing but assigned me as her referee. IT WAS ON!
And it worked rather well. There were some close calls, but we both got our entries online by the deadline for eight weeks straight. Even though there was money at stake, I found myself more motivated to post because I didn’t want to fail in front of Shauna. The shame of not meeting my goal would have been worse than losing five dollars, particularly on those weeks when Shauna got a post up before I did. And vice versa, I would much rather read a blog entry from Shauna each week than to receive her five dollars.
I also liked that we had a third-party service keeping us accountable. If Shauna and I had simply made a verbal agreement to each other (is email considered verbal?), it would have been easy to throw the whole thing out if we failed on the first week. For some reason when I got an email from Stickk.com on Monday morning asking me to report whether I had met my goal, it feel more real and non-negotiable than if I’d just told Shauna I was going to do it and asked her to check up on me.
That’s not to say Stickk.com is perfect. Their interface could be more intuitive than it is. It was also a bit confusing to figure out what power I had as a referee. I had to wait for Shauna to file a self-report before I could confirm that report as true or not. If Shauna had forgotten to file a report even though she’d posted a blog entry, she could have been fined $5 anyway and there would have been no way for me to report her as successful before that happened. I’m also fairly certain that the account user can override a referee’s report if they want to. So if Shauna had gotten sick of our bet she could have said “Screw this!” and reported herself as successful despite what I said as her referee. (I doubt Shauna would do anything like that though since she’s one of the most honest people I know.) Having that power kind of defeats the purpose of the site, though it probably prevents the site owners from getting nasty emails asking for refunds.
That said, the experience has been quite fulfilling….and stressful and nerve-wracking particularly on weeks when I didn’t know what to write about. I felt lucky that I happened to jet off to Punta Cana during this bet and was able to get three entries out of that experience alone. I also know that I wouldn’t have written those entries so quickly (if at all) if not for the bet because they are so time-consuming to put together. I’m glad I had that deadline hanging over me. If I don’t have deadlines it’s much harder for me to get things done. And they have to be REAL deadlines, deadlines I know I can’t negotiate or push back, because those aren’t really deadlines are they?
I also wondered if anyone would notice what was going on during those eight weeks. Shauna used to blog at The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl and I used to be PastaQueen, so we have a lot of shared readers. I imagined someone reading our blogs and thinking, “Hmmm, this is so odd. Shauna and Jennette have both started posting entries on Sundays or Mondays even though they haven’t been blogging regularly before that. Something’s going on here!” Alas, no one figured it out, or if they did they didn’t say anything.
Hopefully I will Stickk with things and continue to write blog entries regularly. It’s good for my spirit and it helps sharpen my writing skills. I don’t know if I can use Stickk.com for this forever, but it’s working well for now. Turns out it’s not as hard to write on the writing wagon as I thought!
I noticed and have been thrilled to read more posts. I didn’t say anything because I did not want to spook you.
Love this post, obviously 🙂 I am thinking I need some Stickk action for keeping my bathroom clean! But first, need to write an entry for today. It’s been so fab to get a regular dose of your writing. 14 weeks… DUDE!
@Rebecca – No worries, I’m not spooked!
@Shauna – I find the best way to force myself to clean the bathroom is to have a guest over. It’s also the best way to get me to clean the kitchen 🙂
I was just glad to see more writing from both of you! (As I think I have mentioned before, you were my very first blogger, PastaQueen.)
Daniel Reeves says
Hi Jennette, I’m really interested to see if StickK works for you longer term! I’m curious if you had considered Beeminder, which is like StickK for super lifehacky data nerds.
Danny of (you guessed it) Beeminder
I am glad you are back at least once a week!
I did notice. And one of you mentioned it was a group effort (couples effort?) so I knew why posts were popping from both of you. Enjoyed hearing from both of you regularly again. Honestly, I think you should do another 8 weeks or quarter and keep going. . .
@JenFul – me too, regular company does the trick.
I’ve been very happy to have you back in my world.
@Daniel Reeves – I’ll take a look. Thanks for the link. And thanks for being transparent about being from Beeminder.
It’s been nice to find new entries from both of you. I’ve enjoyed it and I can see the push of the challenge to keep each other on track would be a good motivator.
Thanks for your posts, it always makes my work day go more quickly when I take breaks reading fun posts.
Kathy W. says
I noticed (and you also mentioned it in the comments over at Shauny’s). Love it! Keep going!
p.s. How’s it going with Project Gemstone? That would make a good book, btw.
@Kathy W. – Project Gemstone has become Project Gemstalled. I have it listed in my notes as something to write about though, so hopefully I’ll get back on track soon.