A Conspiracy of Accomplishment

Into the Crucible

Another new section? You can bet your sweet biffy, or you could if I hadn’t traded it for those magic beans. What’s a biffy, anyway? Into the Crucible posts will outline and evaluate ideas often in little pieces over time. The inaugural idea comes from me, something I kicked off just over a week ago. We’re currently testing the theory to see how well it works for people. It is, in essence, a conspiracy of accomplishment. 

Do you ever have trouble getting thigns done? Not because they’re difficult, but because you lose focus? You’ve got so much on the go that you can’t manage to keep things straight, or you just keep falling behind? Maybe it’s that story you’ve always wanted to write, or that you should really write more blog posts, or just your sticking workout schedule, which is where I tend to fall behind. Me too. With enough free time, I return to my state of nature, which involves junk food, video games, and a lot of sitting around in my pyjamas. This isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes I really want to get some side projects done, and I can’t always find the motivation. The deadlines are my own, and nothing’s really on the line but my free time.

I don’t like that. It gives me this regret, I call it being “Halfway there”, and I’ll talk about it later. This Christmas, I’d had enough. I mapped out an idea and found nine like-minded people to help me out. We created the first Conspiracy of Accomplishment. The conspiracy works by providing three different layers of accountability and motivation to get things done. We create a space where you’re encouraged, and people are interested in your goals, which helps you remember why they’re important, and why you want to see them become reality.

Sir, this is a no smoking conspiracy...

Sir, this is a no smoking conspiracy…

It operates in cycles, with each cycle being two weeks. At the beginning of the first week, you’re assigned two agents. After writing down a list of your goals for the cycle, you contact your agents, and let them know what your goals are, and what the best way to get in contact with you is. You know the best way to reach you, which isn’t always the most convenient way, but the way that you listen to. Some people pay strict attention to their email, while others ignore it in favour of phone calls and text messages. Your agents will respond to you, confirming that they got your message, and that they know how to contact you. You’re also an agent for two people, so you’ll be contacted by them, and expected to respond to them as your agents do to you.

At the end of the first week, your agents contact you, go over your goals, and check in to see how you’re doing. They might ask about your plan to accomplish these goals. What they don’t do is offer criticism, constructive or otherwise, unless you explicitly ask for it. Your goals are your goals, and you know what you can do. Everyone is different, after all. Similarly, you’re responsible for contacting the people for whom you’re an agent, and reviewing their goals.

At the end of the second week, also the end of the cycle, your agents contact you again. They go over your goals again, and ask whether you accomplished them. They congratulate you on what you managed to get done, and are understanding about what you didn’t. They also remind you to settle up, because for every goal you don’t accomplish, you owe the conspiracy a dollar. You do the same for your two people. I don’t know what we’re going to do with the money yet, though I’ve heard a few great ideas.

The next day, the cycle starts all over again, and you get two new agents. That’s how it works. Why it works is a little more complicated, but basically it involves three layers of motivation.

  1. You’re writing your goals down. This is proven to improve your odds of accomplishing them. And you have to write them down in a way that makes them intelligible to two other human beings, to boot. 
  2. People will check on you. There are at least two people who are interested enough to check your work and see how you’re doing. You know it. They want you to get this stuff done.
  3. There’s money on the line. A dollar per goal isn’t a lot, but you know it will add up over time. It’s a teaching amount. If you’re losing five dollars a cycle, you might be setting the bar too high. But if you’re always getting everything done, you can afford to gamble a dollar to see if you can go farther.

There’s no restrictions on the kinds of goals you can set. Above I used the example of writing or exercise, but maybe your goal is to spend more time with your family, or walk more places instead of driving, or even just to steal moments away from your busy life to relax. All of those work just fine, too.

What do you think of the conspiracy? Would it work for you? If not, why not? Next week I’ll discuss some of the challenges we’re already facing, and what we’re learning from them. All in all though, I feel like I’m getting more done, and maybe that’s what I was really chasing.

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