This page publicly memorializes my commitments. I’m a big believer in both cognitive biases and in incentives. The first belief makes me realize that I am very likely to have goals that are important to me when thinking rationally but still fail to follow through in the moment. (This phenomenon is related to hyperbolic discounting, but also pulls in a whole family of related cognitive biases.)
The second belief—the one about incentives—provides the answer to the first problem: use incentives to make sure my short-term decisionmaking aligns with my long-term goals. Specifically, I use Beeminder—a wonderful service that employs commitment contracts to help people attain their goals. It works like this: I have made several commitments to Beeminder, and if I don’t keep those commitments, they will charge me a certain amount (starting at $5). Then, the amount I have at stake will go up, and if I fall behind again, they’ll charge me again. The amount goes up super-exponentially, so I’ll quickly find the amount that motivates me to stick to my commitments. I can set a limit on how high the values go, so it never gets to a crazy amount. If the idea of commitment contracts/willpower management/akrasia sounds at all useful to you, I strongly recommend Beeminder (and they’re not paying me to say that or anything, I just really think they’ve helped me a lot).
All my public commitments can be found on my user page. I have committed to:
- Blogging: Update this blog at least twice a week,
- Go home: Leave work no later than 11pm every day,
- Avoid distracting websites: Stay off any news/distraction websites while at work, and
- Meditate: Spend at least 15 minutes meditating every day.1
The Beeminder pages have additional details and historical data. (Note: I am explicitly not committing to all of you to always meet these goals. For example, I am not promising that I will always have two posts up every week. What I am promising to you is that I’ll keep using Beeminder, and that I’ll pay for any week where I don’t have the required number of posts up. This is about changing incentives, not making an unbreakable vow.)