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Before and After: Using and a Referee to Create a Habit of Productivity.

Before and After: Using and a Referee to Create a Habit of Productivity.

I'm writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits--an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I'll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you'd like to share your story, contact me here.

This week's story comes from Marissa Postler:

I'll be honest, I'm not 100% changed quite yet, but I wanted to share a tool that is currently helping me considerably. I've explained your character index to several friends of mine and elaborated on why I consider myself an Obliger and why that's a problem when I want to get things done that aren't enforced.

A friend of mine found and suggested we give it a try. is basically a website all about helping "Obligers" stick to resolutions. You set a goal (mine was to spend at least an hour each day doing something productive - studying, cleaning, practicing music, exercising, etc.) and determine the rules/time frame of it first. Then you're given the option to automatically charge your credit card an amount of your choice whenever you fail to report a successful week. The money can either go to a good charity or an "anti" charity, which might motivate you even more to not fail!

The part I've found most helpful though is the "referee" aspect of the site. My friend and I are each other's "referees" so whenever one of us submits a successful report, the other has to confirm the validity of it. There is also a spot on each of our profiles for comments, much like a Facebook wall. We use that to keep tabs on each other's progress throughout the week and encourage one another. I haven't been doing this long enough to really claim that I've changed, but so far it's been going really well and I highly recommend it to all the Obligers out there!

As Marissa points out, for Obligers, the secret to building a habit is to create a system of external accountability. She's using and her friend to give her double accountability. Brilliant!

By the way, if you're wondering what an Obliger is, read here.

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