Make a (Public) Commitment

I’m writing this article because I have to – I’ve set a deadline. One new article a week, no matter what. It’s a time limit that’s entirely self-imposed, but I’ve committed to it publicly, and now I have to stick to it.

Setting a deadline and sharing it with the world is the most effective strategy I’ve found to force myself to be productive. The more public the commitment, the better. If I tell everyone I’m going to write one article a week and fail, I’m going to feel pretty awful. So, I work hard to make sure I don’t have to feel that way.

It’s a strategy I’ve used in my personal life, too.

For a long time, I hated running. I tried it a few times over the years, but always gave up. I’d look at the thin people running laps around me and decide, time and time again, that running just wasn’t for me. I hated that I gave up so quickly. So this summer, when a coworker started recruiting people for a 5k, I decided to make a change.

Before I could second-guess myself, I signed up for the race and paid the registration fee. This time I would have to stick with it. Otherwise, I’d end up looking pretty bad in front of my team. I committed. To up the ante even more, I tracked my runs with Strava and posted the results to our Slack channel, along with Twitter and Instagram. Lots of people responded with words of encouragement – which felt great. But it also made me feel accountable to them.

In October, I ran my first 5k without stopping. A small distance for most of you, I’m sure. But to me, it felt like all the distance in the world. It was easily my biggest accomplishment of the year.

To become good at our work, we have to put the hours in. A deadline, announced publicly, forces you to stop being precious. It kills perfectionism and resistance to just getting shit done. The more deadlines I set, and commitments I make to other people, the more I’m able to get done.