How to Blackmail Yourself

This last month, I had a big paper to write for one of my classes. The syllabus required us to write a 12-page paper on the “Affirmation of Life: A Philosophy of Existence.” It took me seven different drafts to finally arrive at a paper that I actually felt I could turn in.

As the deadline grew closer, my motivation waned rapidly. I was sick and tired of discarding hours of work each time I realized a draft wasn’t going anywhere. Each day I lost more and more motivation, and I feared I would not finish the paper.

The solution? Blackmail.

I went across the dorm hallway to a friend and told him, “Hey, it’s Friday now, and I really want to have a draft by Sunday.” (This would give me a whole week to revise the new draft.) “If I am not finished by Sunday at 11:00 P.M., I will give you $10.”

It wasn’t a lot of money, but I didn’t want to lose it. That Saturday night, I procrastinated on a personal project. I worked on my paper a little more on Sunday morning, but again found myself unmotivated after lunch. By about 5:00, I realized that if I didn’t get to work on the paper, I would lose the $10 in six hours.

I have never worked harder on something that I didn’t want to do so much in my life. The strategy was effective, and I finished the draft in time.

I got the idea to blackmail myself on a blog by Joel Runyon. He suggests larger monetary amounts, like a month’s rent. The more it hurts, the more the motivation. I agree that would be effective, but I found that even $10 works for me.

Not only does $10 work for me, I’ve seen it work for others. The RA’s and the Deans at the dorm where I work use “Hamilton’s” as a motivator. If someone forgets to submit a form on time, $10. If somebody is late for a meeting, $10. And when the Hamilton fund has grown to a sufficient size, we throw a pizza party, and give a round of applause to all the “sponsors” who funded the party.

It works. We haven’t had a pizza party yet.

This is the principle that powers an online app called “Beeminder.” Any goal whose progress can be quantified is plotted, and if you fall outside the grace zone at any time, Beeminder charges $5 to your credit card. No questions. No excuses. Just Abraham Lincoln. It hurts the first few times, but eventually you learn how to stick true to a habit, because somebody else is blackmailing you.

So if you have something you can’t motivate yourself to do, whether a personal goal or a project you want to make progress in before a due date, give this method a try. Worst case scenario, you’ll make somebody else’s day brighter because they’ll get a free lunch.

If you want to read Joel’s original post on this subject, here’s the link: You can see a video summary of Beeminder here:

November Resolutions

Here’s the problem with New Years resolution: momentum. Momentum is mass times velocity, and coming into a New Year, you simply do not have the time to build up speed on such massive projects. Therefore 2015 is getting a head start.

Since I returned from Lebanon, I have had a stack of items on my todo list I keep in Todoist that I just couldn’t clear. Just as I would finish everything I had to do for a given day, new scheduled tasks and projects would roll onto my list. However, I watched as the number of items started at 25 at the beginning of September, to about 10 a month later, and as of yesterday afternoon I am finally the proud owner (temporarily) of a clear todo list.

This November I’m aiming to achieve what is called a “perfect week” which is to finish every day’s tasks for a given week as well as any weekly goals.

This includes standards of cleanliness, personal goals like exercise, journaling, and blogging, as well as staying on top of studies and such.

Why do I believe this is achievable? Because up to this point, what I have been doing hasn’t been working out and its time for a change. Yes,any of these things I do already, but it isn’t 100% consistent. I’ve got a clean slate here at the beginning of November and I don’t want to let this opportunity pass by without making the most of it. With 60 days left in the year I hopefully will be in the swing of things fully by the time the new year starts, but I want to get at least one perfect week in before this month is out.

So my goals for November are:

Perfect day:


  • Read for Scripture reading schedule (New Testament in a month)

  • Make bed and clean room
  • Complete a lesson in Duolingo German
  • Memorize four verses in Scripture Typer and review 12+ verses
  • Spend 30 minutes on app for MENA
  • Exercise (running, pushups, swimming, etc…)
  • No overdue/incomplete homework
  • Drink 3 liters of water
  • Write in daily journal

And a perfect week consists of

  • 7 perfect days starting on Sunday
  • A blog post
  • 45+ minutes of dorm visitation prayer ministry
  • Not forgetting to call my parents

What goals do you have? Leave your feedback below.