Which Forcing Functions Do You Choose as a Catalyst to Help You Change?

During the pandemic, I chose to say, “Yes” to many speaking opportunities. Now, because I’m finishing books, it’s time for me to reconsider these requests so I can focus on the work I want to do more. (The more I speak, the less I write.) However, I’m lazy by nature. How can I choose to make myself reconsider these requests?

Forcing functions.

A forcing function is a way to align your short-term decision with your long-term goals. The function “makes” you do the work in service of a longer-term goal. Here are some examples, just for my writing:

  • Deadlines: When I have a larger effort, I use deadlines for my interim deliverables. For example, when I create a new book or workshop, I create a user journey. (That’s the first deadline.) Then I fill in the pieces (not necessarily in order), as more deadlines. For talks, I tend to do three “drafts.” Workshops take longer. Books take even longer. But I can progress every day because I have a short-term deliverable (the draft) as a deadline.
  • Timeboxes: Every day, I write for 15 minutes, no matter what else is going on. I can’t “finish” the day without writing. (When Beloved Family Members (BFM) are sick, no, I don’t write. However, I do write all other days.)
  • Data. I track my word counts daily. Over the past couple of years, I did not track my speaking counts.
  • “Public” sharing of your goals. Since I tell my husband about my writing goals, we discuss them on a regular basis. I have not yet committed to more public goals.

These forcing functions help me achieve what I want to because they work as a catalyst to help me change.

How Forcing Functions Work as a Catalyst for Me

Since I like to organize by time, the first two forcing functions: deadlines and timeboxes, work for me. I can set aside time on my calendar (and with my todo list), so I can finish work. However, notice that I also use data and goal-sharing.

I thought I was a fast and prolific writer in 2017. Then I started to track my word counts in 2018. I increased my word count by 1/3 in 2019. Then, I increased by a quarter again in 2020. I was on track to increase again in 2021, but a BFM got sick. I stayed even in 2021. Now, in 2022, I’m on track to increase my word count again.

You might think my word count is an output. Let me clarify: I track all my published words. And, I track word counts for in-progress books. I can’t always finish a chapter in one day, so tracking allows me to see where I am. Most of my word counts are outcomes.

My word counts help force me to finish books—even if I don’t add many words when finishing. (I don’t have much finishing-energy for projects. I love the starting-energy.)

My “public” goals aren’t very public. However, because I explain them to my husband, we discuss them on a regular basis. He even sometimes says, “Go write!”

Forcing Functions Act as Part of My Support System

Since I want to accomplish these changes, my forcing functions work as part of my support system. I choose which forcing function will work for me now. I create my catalyst to support my desired changes. That’s me. What about you?

That’s the question this week: Which forcing functions do you choose as a catalyst to help you change?

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