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

Starting Anew

Is this experience familiar? You decide you need to start keeping a journal again. You open up your journal and begin writing. “It’s been too long since I last wrote,” you begin. You continue with a quick catch up of where you are in life. You comment on your desire to improve. And you commit to keeping a journal regularly.

As you finish, you leaf back through the pages to see when you last wrote. It was more than a year ago. Here’s what you said, “It’s been too long since I last wrote…,” And you closed that entry with a promise to keep a regular journal.

Journaling is a habit, and – like any habit – it takes concentrated effort to form at first. It’s a habit that I don’t have. Though, it’s a habit I’d like to establish.

I started this blog several years ago to fill a requirement in a business class. Each week, I was given a prompt to address here, in this blog. I’ve tried to bury those early posts because they no longer fully reflect who I am or what my priorities are. This being the Internet, I’m sure they’re recoverable.

As the class that prompted this blog came to its end, so did my regular upkeep of it. That’s a shame. I pay for the domain. And I think there’s some value to having a “vanity” domain to stamp something of my own mark on the Internet.

In the intervening years, I’ve tried to write here now and then. I’ve tried to establish some identity for this blog. But my efforts have been spurious at best.

The challenge, I think, is that I’ve always tried to scope the blog to some particular purpose or identity. And when I do that, I recognize two things. First, nobody really knows this blog exists. It’s public, so of course people can find it, but they’re not gonna find it unless they’re looking for it. Second, given my inconsistency, virtually any subject I might write on is almost certainly covered more thoroughly and reliably elsewhere.

But I need to create. I need a place to put my thoughts down. I want to have some identity beyond the circle of my close friends and associates. And so, against my own doubt that it will actually go anywhere, I will give this all another shot. And here’s what I plan to do.

Rather than try to tailor my site and my writing to one particular purpose, I’m going to make this more of a traditional blog or journal. In nearly every week of my life, there is at least one day, one hour, or one moment when I have a thought or opinion or experience that I think I’d like to share with others. That’s what I’ll do here. I will strive to write something every week, reflecting on my week, and capturing that opinion or experience I want to share.

Could I write more frequently? Sure. And maybe I will. But my only commitment at this point is to write once a week. Will my thoughts coalesce around a particular topic? Maybe. But that’s not my goal. My goal is simply consistency.

My hope is that, as I write consistently, there will be certain topics or ideas that become natural focuses for my writing. When, and if, there are, then I may spin those off into their own separate sections for this site, or I may redefine this site in terms of those topics. For now, though, consistent writing about my weekly thoughts and experiences is what I am committed to deliver.

Here goes nothing…

Starting Anew