Forcing Functions

I’m glad I committed to write weekly on this blog. During the week, I don’t think about it much, if at all. I might ask myself whether some experience or thought I’ve had is worth blogging about, but that’s the extent of it. When the weekend comes, though, the knowledge of my commitment drives me to write something, anything to keep the commitment.

This is a “forcing function.” It’s a constraint I’ve put in place that compels me to act in a certain way. I’ve also committed to being positive on this blog. That forces me to filter my activities and thoughts during the week through a lens of positivity. This is useful because it’s easy to fall into a pattern of negativity when I’m surrounded by it in the news and on the Internet.

In journaling this morning, I thought more about forcing functions. What other forcing functions could I introduce in my life? I don’t think they need to be huge. I’ve noticed, for example, that there are things I avoid doing at work because they would be forcing functions that might drive me in ways I don’t want to go, or steal away some of my “freedom.”

For example, at work, I try to avoid saying what I’m going to do. Instead, I do it, and report it later. This is a way to avoid committing to something I’ll later be held accountable to deliver. It seemed like a good idea when I developed this habit, and it may have merit in some situations. But I think it has downsides, too.

Stating my intent to do something is like making a little promise. And because I value my status amongst my peers, that little promise becomes a forcing function that drives me to action. Add to that a deadline and it will drive me to deliver faster. It doesn’t have to be a big bold statement. A simple statement like, “Let me take a look at that and get back to you later today,” is enough to do the trick.

This is a habit that can be tremendously useful in helping me achieve my goals. I don’t need to state my intent about everything I’m planning to do. If I save those statements for actions that will push me in the direction of goals, then they will have the advantage of compelling me to move in the direction I want to go.

That’ll be a focus for me in the weeks ahead at work, and maybe even outside work, too. Making this statement here is a perfect example. Having made it, I’ve made a commitment, and I already feel compelled to act on it. Here’s hoping it pays off…

Forcing Functions

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