19th September, 2022
In the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the French author had promised his publisher a new book. But instead of writing, he spent that year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work. Frustrated, Hugo’s publisher responded by setting a deadline less than six months away. The book had to be finished by February 1831.
Hugo concocted a strange plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes and asked an assistant to lock them away in a large chest. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, he remained in his study and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.
Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard. If you find yourself continually struggling to follow through on your plans, then you can take a page from Victor Hugo and make your bad habits more difficult by creating what psychologists call a commitment device.
A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It is a way to lock in future behaviour, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones. When Victor Hugo shut his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating a commitment device.
There are many ways to create a commitment device. You can reduce overeating by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in bulk size. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online poker sites to prevent future gambling sprees. Athletes who have to “make weight” for a competition choose to leave their wallets at home during the week before weigh-in so they won’t be tempted to buy fast food.
As another example, a friend purchased an outlet timer, which is an adapter that he plugged in between his internet router and the power outlet. At 10 p.m. each night, the outlet timer cuts off the power to the router. When the internet goes off, everyone knows it is time to go to bed.
Commitment devices are useful because they enable you to take advantage of good intentions before you can fall victim to temptation.
Adopt a Commitment Device today for better habit and stay blessed forever.
(Extract from ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear)