Growing up in China, I heard many strange stories of the ways in which students motivated themselves to study hard in order to bring honor to their families. A famous story involved a student tying a rope from the ceiling to his hair. If he got sleepy and nodded off, the rope would jerk his head back up and keep him awake so he could study more.
While this method might be just a tad extreme, extrinsic motivational techniques can be valuable–especially when the last thing you want to do is take yet another GMAT practice quiz. Luckily, the internet has made available much better tools than a rope tied to the ceiling (but you are always free to experiment with that if you wish).
One tool I have started to use is StickK.com. The site bills itself as “the smartest way to set and achieve your goals,” and it just may be right. StickK stands for “stick contract”; the site was founded by a Yale economics professor who wrote a book called “Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done“.
StickK is based on the principle that incentives and accountability are the two most important components in achieving a goal. Besides giving you the tools to write down your goals and check your own progress, StickK allows you to make a wager on yourself. So instead of asking yourself “Can I accomplish this goal?”, the question becomes “Would I bet on myself to accomplish this goal?”
To set a goal on StickK.com, there are 4 simple steps:
1. Choose a goal
Write down your goal and the time frame within which it will be accomplished.
2. Choose a wager
Pick a place for your money to go if you fail to reach the goal (optional). The data from StickK.com shows that people who choose a wager are 3 times as successful at hitting their goals as people who put no money on the line.
3. Choose a referee
Find someone to keep you honest. If at reporting time you are unsuccessful for the week, the referee has the power to “fail” you and make you lose your wager. StickK data suggests that people who choose a referee are twice as successful as people who do not.
4. Recruit supporters
Get friends to support you by reaching out to your friends on Facebook and Twitter. In this socially networked world, why do anything alone when you can do it with your friends? Compete against your friends and see who can hit the highest goals.
Once you have chosen your goal–for example, to study at least 2 hours per day for the GMAT for 10 weeks–you can choose 3 places for your money to go when you do not meet your weekly goal.
Your money will go towards a cause you do not support. So, for example, if you are pro-life, your money might go to a pro-choice charity. StickK data shows that this option is the most successful at keeping people on track.
Your money goes to a randomly selected charity.
3. Friend or Foe
Your money will either go to a friend or a foe that is making the opposite wager on you.
If your friends aren’t interested in competing with you, well, then you can compete against me.
Since I’m not taking the GMAT any time soon, I will be using StickK to stick to my health goals. My goal is to lose 18lbs in the next 18 weeks. Why don’t you start your GMAT goal today and we’ll see which one of us actually completes the goal.
… And yes, that’s a challenge. I’m not afraid of betting on myself. How about you?