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  • Writer's pictureDillan Taylor

Give Yourself Incentives

In getting things done in an efficient way, it is crucial that we play tricks on ourselves. One of the most important tricks we can play is providing ourselves with incentives.

Last night, I was reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and finished a few chapters where they were studying and taking their O.W.L.s (the SATs but for wizards). Each scene of them stressing out in the library gave me anxiety-filled flashbacks of when I was in college cramming for an exam or pulling an Adderall-induced all-nighter to start and finish an essay.

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time given to complete it.

If you have two weeks to write an essay, it’ll take you two weeks to complete it. If you have one day to complete that same essay, it’ll take you a day. If you have four hours to complete it, and so on…

How can we apply this to everything else we do in our daily lives?

The next time you have the feeling, “I should be doing x more.” Reading. Exercising. Spending time with family. Whatever…

The next time you notice a discomfort between what you’re doing and what you should be doing, ask yourself:

What is my incentive to do this thing?

This can sound quite cold at times. Especially if you have to ask what your incentive is to spend more time with your daughter, say.

But we should be able to answer this question clearly for everything we do.

This is usually why major events can bring a family closer: a death, a kid moving out, a scary car crash. Something reminds you that you love and appreciate someone so you change your actions because you’ve been incentivized.

This is also the reasoning behind personal trainers. We have total access to exercises and workout routines, but we genuinely need a person right next to us holding us accountable and telling us what to do–i.e. incentivizing us to move through the workout.

If you feel like you aren’t doing enough. Like you’re lazy. You always quit what you pursue. Or maybe you don’t pursue any of the things you say you should…the problem might be you just haven’t given yourself enough of an incentive.

A good incentive is not, “because I really should.”

Why should you? Get specific.

If you can’t clearly define your incentive, that’s your first step.

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