How many times a day do you flip productivity the bird and follow the Internet white rabbit, only to emerge several hours later with nothing to show for it but dead-eyes and comprehensive knowledge of Wikipedia's list of animals with fraudulent diplomas? If that hit a little too close to home, don't worry, there's hope for you yet! Precommitment, a growing movement to take back your wasted online youth, is having its moment in the self-help sun, and it's about to slap your internet addiction across the face and make you get back to work.
Precommitment is the idea that you should do everything possible in the present to set your future self up for success. So, if you know that you'll need to eat two donuts while writing an article about precommitment, you make sure there is no way that those donuts won't waiting for you on your laptop, even if that means locking your adorable dog out of your office. That's basically how it works, give or take. The idea is to take away the temptation to do anything but get your shit done, even if it means kicking your own ass, or hiring someone else to do it for you. Precommitment is huge with data nerd types who loved 4-Hour Work Week and the like, because those fools are always trying to outsmart working, no matter what physical, personel, or financial costs.
Leave it to a productivity hacker blogger in San Francisco to take the idea to the next level. After noticing that he was spending a fair amount of time online doing absolutely nothing, Maneesh Sethi of Hack the System (naturally) recently took to Craigslist to hire someone to slap him every time he deviated from his work. No pain, no gain. His advert read:
Title:(domestic gigs) Slap me if I get off task…
I'm looking for someone who can work next to me at a defined location (my house or a mission cafe) and will make sure to watch what is happening on my screen. When I am wasting time, you'll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me.
You can do your own work at the same time. Looking for help asap, in mission, near 16th mission BART.
Compensation: $8 / hour, and you can do your own work from your computer at the same time.
$8/hour? Dude, the slapper's gonna have to work a few double shifts before they can afford a cup of coffee in San Francisco. Despite the lilliputian wage, Sethi claims he received 20 responses in less than an hour. Times are tough, my friends. Of course, the person he chose to slap him silly was a girl, and I'm guessing that's because even an enlightened Bay Area brogrammer doesn't want to be seen in public getting swatted around by another man. I'm not the most uncomfortable with the fact that he chose a woman, but it does add a bit of a weird sexual humilation angle to it. And no, there's not much in the article that states (or even alludes) to her sex being important, but the headline, "Why I Hired A Girl On Craigslist to Slap Me In The Face - And How It Quadrupled My Productivity" gave me a slight case of the heebie jeebies.
Sex of the slapper aside, the end results were apparently very positive in terms of Sethi's productivity, which he claims skyrocketed by 98 percent:
Honestly, the fear of the slap wasn't the productivity driver. That just made it fun. The real reason why Kara made me more productive is because she added a social element to writing. When I was drafting the outline, I asked for her feedback. When I couldn't think of the right way to phrase a sentence, she was there to help. Instead of it being a chore, Kara made it fun to write.
I'm all for accountability, and it's great to have other people to bounce ideas off, but I'm guessing as soon as the novelty fades away and there's no camera trained on them, this probably isn't a business arrangement that's gonna last. I know the point of the whole exercise was to illustrate that we should think of "hacks" to make our jobs more enjoyable, but all of these little tricks don't seem like real solutions. Probably the main thing that helps you have fun at work is actually enjoying the work. So, ladies, if you can, follow your dreams, even if that dream is slapping rando strangers for cash. Now, please excuse me, I'm all out of donuts and my RSS is piling up with pictures of cats hugging dogs hugging pigs.