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On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

An Unconventional Approach to Jumpstarting Your Productivity

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Vincent Nguyen, a full-time college student and passionate blogger. When he’s not distracted, he’s writing practical life advice at Self Stairway. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Productivity is a lost art. Day after day, it’s a conversation with yourself that begins with, “I should get started on X, but…”

And then come the excuses.

Slap face

Photo Credit: Vermin Inc via Compfight cc

It’s too easy to get distracted. Why be productive when I could be surfing or shopping, doing anything but working?

Maybe what we need is a way to disrupt our distractions.

The temptations

I was on vacation in California for a month and a half when something terrible happened: I stopped writing.

Naturally, I’d become too comfortable and distracted. Everywhere I looked, there were a million reasons to not write. How could I resist the beautiful sun and relaxing beaches? The delicious food?

I began to go days without touching the keyboard.

Of course, I loved writing; it’s been part of my daily routine for years. I just didn’t want it to feel like a chore. I had to find a new way to kick myself into high gear.

So I decided to try something unconventional.

The alternative

I took an idea from Maneesh Sethi, an entrepreneur, author of four books, and world traveler.

He increased his productivity by hiring someone on Craigslist to slap him every time he went off-task. This experiment was covered by The Huffington Post, Mashable, MSN, and several more well-known websites.

It wasn’t just a publicity stunt.

Maneesh claims his productivity level was at 98% during the slap experiment (he tracked all of this,) a lot higher than his usual 35-40% on most days. He even said his quality of work improved.

The idea behind this was that the fear of being slapped would keep him on task and make his work environment more fun. Of course, it always helps to have a second pair of eyes going over your work, too.

I had to get in on this, so I enlisted the help of a friend.

The job

We headed to local coffee shop and sat down for two hours of work.

I paid him eight dollars per hour, so not only was it fear of being physically harmed that motivated me but I had to get my money’s worth. It also helped that I could bounce ideas off him when needed — he even gave great direction for an article I was working on.

The only rule was I wasn’t allowed to go on Facebook, Reddit, Feedly, or anything else not related to writing. I managed to stay slap-free with the bonus of completing several articles.

The fear of the slap worked.

The cost of this experiment came out at around $20, because I had bought myself a drink plus the $16 I paid my friend. That’s not bad, considering the work I got done was worth around $105, work I wouldn’t have finished had I not spent the $20.

The aftereffects

The best part is that even after the experiment ended, my productivity continued.

On vacation, I had a taste of what it felt like to be truly productive, and it hasn’t slowed down since. Even today, months after the experience, my productivity level has been consistent.

I’m back to writing every day.

The beauty of this kind of experiment is it can be very laid back if you’re casual about it. It sure beats working alone or being distracted by a friend who sits there without contributing anything.

If you feel like you’re losing the consistency of a daily habit, try using unconventional methods. You may end up being the most productive you’ve been in months and having a great time in the process.

What weird ways have you gotten back on track with your habits? Share in the comments.

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About Vincent Nguyen

Vincent is a full-time college student and passionate blogger. When he’s not distracted, he's writing practical life advice at Self Stairway. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

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  • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

    Love it! Though, if I asked any of my friends to do this, I bet I would get more volunteers than I am comfortable with…LOL!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      hah! maybe they pay you? ;)

      • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

        probably and thanks for the belly laugh you just gave me. I needed it!

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Haha! That’s exactly what happened to me. I shot up a Facebook status with this offer and got a lot of people who wanted to be put on the waiting list.

      I told someone that we can meet up on November 3, 2033 at 11am and he can slap me as hard as he can. The reason behind that is because I haven’t gotten the chance to hire him to slap me “professionally” yet. It’s only fair, right? :)

  • Marymargret

    This is why I have an assistant.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Aha! I think we all need dedicated slapper-assistants.

  • http://awriteradolescentmuse.wordpress.com/ Carrie Ann Golden

    I love this idea! I’m almost crazy enough to try it ;)

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      You should! Let me know how it goes if you do. :)

  • http://stacyclaflin.com/ Stacy

    That’s definitely a unique idea! I’ve seen people use a rubber band on their wrist similarly.

    It’s not strange (I don’t think) but I use self-imposed deadlines to keep myself on track. For instance, in mid-September I started writing a holiday-themed novel and knew that if I was going to have it ready for publication in time for the holidays, I would have to write it in four weeks. My deadlines have kept me on track through the writing and editing process.

    Another thing that works is using the NaNoWriMo widget this month. I hate seeing the red box (for not having written anything that day) so it’s a good motivator to get the green box (getting the writing goal). Speaking of that, I’d better get writing! :)

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Ah, I’ve heard of the rubber band technique too. I don’t think that would work for me if I fall into another deep productivity slump though. The fear of the slap is more powerful and painful than a rubber band that I can control.

      Get to writing, Stacy!

  • Sue Neal

    What a great idea – I guess if you found a real sadist, they might do it for free ;)

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      I think I exposed a lot of sadists in my friends judging by how eager they were!

  • http://www.startgainingmomentum.com/ Ludvig Sunström

    Very interesting post Vincent, I’m going to put this on my to-do list as a fellow fiend in pursuit of productivity. I’ve got quite a few friends who are up to this task I reckon.

    I’m actually a pretty big believer in “self-punishment” when failing to deliver, meaning that I think every action conditions us into becoming more likely to do continue to do the same thing again. So If I fail to execute on something I’ve promised myself to do I will usually force myself to do twice the work the day after.

    If I miss writing a post, I force myself to write two posts. If I miss a gym session I will lift to the point of crying the next time, and so on.

    Regards,
    Ludvig

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Shoot a status up on Facebook announcing your slapper search. You’ll find TONS of people eager to do it. :)

      That’s an excellent way of forcing yourself into productivity. That definitely takes a lot of self-motivation and I don’t know if I have the will for that!

  • http://www.MavenDiary.com Wendy Maynard

    Programs like “Cold Turkey” work too with less pain.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Here’s the link Wendy is referring to for anyone interested: http://getcoldturkey.com/

      Note, it only runs on Windows.

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Vincent. I thought this was unbelievable. And I did laugh out loud. Pretty unconventional to be sure, but I loved the post. I am curious. What if you would have picked someone who would have slapped you for the fun of it??

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      I’m pretty sure everyone who wanted to volunteer wasn’t exactly concerned about my actual productivity output. Getting the chance to slap your friend (because he asked) is definitely exciting. :P

  • http://www.heartofkadi.com/ Kadi @ heartofkadi

    This is brilliant and funny! Definitely won’t try it :) but need to figure out a way to be more productive… thanks for sharing!

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Hey, maybe this is exactly what you need. Give it a shot! It’s genuinely fun when you do this with a friend.

  • http://dailyemilie.blogspot.com/ Emilie Bordeleau-Laroche

    Interesting… I would definitely try this with an alternative, like giving them $10 every time I do something not writing-related.
    Great article!

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Stickk.com might be a great website for the whole keep me accountable by taking my money sort of thing!

  • http://www.youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/ Chihuahua Zero

    This article reminds me of the webapp Write or Die: http://writeordie.com/

    It’s a program where you write to a goal, but every time you stop writing for a set amount of time, a consequence kicks in. The kindest consequences are a pop-up reminder and annoying noises.

    With its Kamikaze Mode, if you wait too long, the program begins to untype your words. Ruthless, eh?

    It doesn’t have the accountability of having to pay someone, but there’s a paid version.

    Now time to write.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Whoa! I’ve never heard of that before. That’s a great idea and I’m going to check it out. Hope it works for Mac!

  • Bernice

    Now this is drastic! However, it sounds as if it works. I wonder who I could pay to slap me? I might be shocked to find out that people would be standing in line. Great article and I commend you for wanting to live your purpose so much that you would do drastic things to be sure you got there. You are going to go a long way.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Drastic, indeed! It’s actually really fun though! The boosted productivity is the icing on the cake. :)

  • Di

    I’d love to be paid $8 to “motivate” someone like that! It’s more than what I get paid at my job now!!

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      If you find yourself in the Philippines anytime from now until May 2014 then let me know! We can set something up. :P

      • Kholoud Hashem

        Hello Vincent amazing method, having a negative motive, I haven’t actually tried it yet I may presume no one would want to slap me anyway cause I am a lady. I like your writing :) Cheers from Egypt

        • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

          You never know! Some of your friends might be willing to help a friend out!

  • http://www.parafriv.net/ Para Friv

    Thank you very much! Interesting… I would definitely try this with an alternative, like
    giving them $10 every time I do something not writing-related.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Without the slap? That’s half the fun!

  • http://wideeyedconcepts.com/ Sean Roulston

    Hi Vincent!

    Thanks for the article, man! I also discovered a dry spell about a month before my wedding. My wife and I made a mutual decision to spend an afternoon of our honeymoon on our cruise balcony setting goals. We both soaked in the views of the rippling ocean, and the ever approaching sunset. It was incredibly productive. Now, that we’re back, my writing has continued to flow, and I am more motivated than ever.

    While I haven’t needed the fear of slapping to help me be productive, it still would be a great experiment to try! Thanks for helping us think outside the box!

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Glad to hear you’re back on productivity mode with your writing! Hope it lasts forever. Also, congratulations on the wedding! :)

  • http://proeditingservices.ca/ Rhonda Kronyk

    Drastic, funny, and just crazy enough to work!

    My adult son is staying with me right now and my productivity has plunged. He would jump at the chance to try this :) But then he’d feel so guilty for slapping his mom that I’d end up laughing too hard to get to work.

    Point taken, though: be willing to think outside the box.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      I could just imagine you going off task and glaring at your son for not slapping you. :P

  • Nancy Bouwens

    Vincent- great post! I find I am most focused when I have “white noise” around me… working in a coffee shop or he library … somewhere, anywhere but at my home where I see everything everywhere needing to be done.

    Thanks for reminding me I need to set a date with myself again- to get the work done!
    Nancy Bouwens
    http://www.simplyabundantlife.com

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Although not white noise, I absolutely love using http://comfytube.com

      It triples as a fireplace, rain maker, and smooth jazz!

  • http://www.gahe.co/ Gahe

    Glad to visit your blog. Thanks for this great post that you share to us.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Jeff’s content on his blog is AMAZING. Definitely check out as much as you can. :)

  • http://www.jugarjugar.net/ Jugar Jugar

    Actually, I agree with your comments. It really made ​​me think about the simplest things can become a major problem in your work.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Definitely. I think we secretly hope something interesting will catch our eye so we don’t have to work, even if for a minute.

  • http://www.wordnerd.co.uk/ Sally Mayor

    I haven’t gone as far as to pay someone to slap me (though I’m sure there would be takers), I’m finding that just imagining being slapped every time my mind starts to wander form the task in-hand is enough to keep me focused. Thanks for the tip!! ; )

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      No problem, Sally! That fear is exactly what got me going.

  • http://tangiblefreedom.com/ Ragnar

    Hi there Vincent, I think this exercise works two-fold. Because you’re paying someone you feel an obligation to be productive not just the fear of getting slapped. Negative cash incentives have been proven to be much stronger than positive ones.. (at least that’s how I remember it.) Maybe that’s why stickk.com works so well for some people.

    The weirdest thing I’ve done to get back to productivity is open the window during winter and dress down so it was physically uncomfortable because I heard that increased productivity. At least it kept me awake.. don’t really remember if it worked other than that.

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      Exactly! The -$20 to my wallet definitely felt like it would have gone to waste if I didn’t use my time wisely.

  • Irwin Lagman

    This is something I could definitely use. Though I’m sure I’d end up paying a lot. LOL. I find it weird but I become more productive when I write in public places, like a coffee shop (even with all the noise) or the gym than when I’m alone at home.
    Thanks for the tip :)

    • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

      I’m the same way actually! Working on coffee shops get me really going. Although I never tried working in a gym before. But I do work out in one if that counts. :)

      • http://www.i-writes.com/ Irwin Lagman

        Coffee shops, despite all the white noise, are surprisingly good places to write. I discovered I get more done when in one. The good thing about writing at the gym is you also get your fingers worked out. Haha.

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