ISTOCKPHOTOAs the editor of Health.coms Sleep Journey, Im constantly checking out products that claim to help us relax, rest, and wake up refreshed. A few months ago, I was delighted to find an alarm clock that all but guaranteed to get you up and moving: Every time you hit the snooze button, $10 was donated to a charity of your choice—preferably a cause you don't support (the NRA for anti-gun advocates, for example)—via a Wi-Fi connection to your bank account. Sadly, I later found out that this clock is just a brilliant joke and not really for sale. I actually tried to buy one; I hate early morning workouts!
But this morning I stumbled upon something just as good—a website that uses the same idea to motivate people to achieve all kinds of goals, from quitting smoking to studying for the GREs to running a marathon.
Stickk.com uses the fear of losing money (and of public embarrassment, notes Thats Fit) as incentive for its users to stick with their proposed plans. When you sign up for the free service, you allocate money toward a person or a charitable organization of your liking—or, for extra motivation, to your disliking (the George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton presidential libraries are both on the list of accepted “anti-charities”). Then you create a contract where you commit to a goal—say, exercising five days a week for 12 weeks.
To make sure youre not slacking—or lying to the computer—Stickk asks you to then name your “referee,” a friend whos agreed to keep you motivated and chart your progress along the way. You can also provide email addresses of supporters, who will get updates about your accomplishments and can post on your online commitment diary. If you fail to keep up your end of the bargain any given week, your friends all hear about it and your money gets whisked away; you cant even claim a tax deduction—for your own good, of course.
Theres also a social-networking aspect to Stickk. You can make friends with similar goals, read and learn from others online diaries, and cheer on one another. In fact, your online buddies may turn out to be your best supporters—frankly, I know that most of my real-life friends are tired of hearing whether I worked out when I said I would.
If this all sounds a little extreme, it should be noted that the referee and even the money allocation are totally optional. But Stickk was created by Yale economists who know their stuff: The higher the stakes in a commitment contract, the more likely youll be to follow through with it.
As much as I like working out, Im constantly in need of a goal to keep me going. And in the midst of this heartbreaking financial crisis, it seems like there has never been a more appropriate time to put my money on the line and make it work for me. Hey, its probably a better investment than the stock market!