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I am very curious. I can spend days on stackexchange, wikipedia, coursera, plenty of tutorials. I often start projects with very big ideas in mind, but don't really do anything concrete. There are nearly no scientific/technical subjects I can understand that I do not find very interesting.

I just can't finish anything if I'm not at work (I'm a C++ programmer). I get stressed easily. And I am highly productive when stressed. I even asked my boss to give me deadlines and to be an ass about it. While at work, I code nice things, which turn out to work fine and are easy to use enough for end users. But when I start personal projects, when I have the choice of doing something else, I can't keep very long at any task, I can't finish any project.

Any ideas or tricks?


I've tried (3) without any success with my wife. She'd rather have me chatting and snuggling with her. Other than my wife people won't care.

(1) is great, but it is easier to find someone for jogging than for doing "C++ quantitative finance" programming :)

(2) looks like a very nice idea. I take it as an answer :)

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

It sounds like you need to trick yourself into being accountable. Possible ways:

  1. Find a "buddy" to keep each other on track. (People often suggest this for exercise.)
  2. Commit to posting an update on your progress weekly on Twitter or Facebook. That way, you will feel like someone will know if you didn't do it.
  3. Ask someone to remind you. I've actually done a variant of this one. Normally, it isn't a problem for me. But a couple times (in a decade), there were things I was having trouble completing. I asked a peer to send me an email telling me to do it. Then I looked at that email which reminded me I'd be embarrassed if I didn't complete that task.
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Highly biased response here but Beeminder brilliantly incorporates all 3 of your suggestions. Even #1 if you're willing to pay for that as a premium feature (Beeminder's Beekeeper program at $200/month), but I think normally the graphs and reminders and the monetary commitment device suffice. – dreeves Jan 28 '14 at 22:34

Full-disclosure: I AM sharing a product but also have a useful hack you can use regardless:

One day, I realized that despite having 3 reminders set on my phone to “do pushups & take vitamins,” I STILL WASN’T DOING IT. So I did a little brainstorming and came up with a simple idea:

  1. I chose a goal I could do every day (e.g. push-ups, vitamins, gratitude, meditation, floss, etc...)
  2. I wore a rubber band on my right wrist to remind myself to do your goal (makes it impossible to forget since you see it all day) This gives you a daily goal to get the rubber band from your right wrist to your left wrist and the only time you're allowed to switch it is AFTER YOU DO YOUR DAILY GOAL (pushups, meditation, etc...)

This ended up being very effective for me (I've done morning push-ups for 235 days in a row, I track it in a notebook) that I became tired of wearing a rubber band every day and decided to create a nicer version of the same concept. I called it a FLIP BAND and just launched my first kickstarter for it today.

Here's a link if you're interested (the video is pretty fun I think):

If you're not interested in a product, that's fine, just try doing this with a rubber band -- I'm telling you, it sounds silly but it works. It serves as a trigger for your habit and gives you positive reinforcement which will strengthen the likeliness of sticking to your goal.

I originally had no intention of turning this into a product but after seeing how effective it was for a few of my friends (close to 20 now), I thought "heck, why not?" So here I am, launching a Kickstarter, and sharing it with you today!

If you like it, share it. If you have feedback or criticism, leave a comment and we can have a discussion.

Either way, hope this helps! Have an awesome 2015 :) And remember... a year from now, you'll wish you had started today.

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My answer would be pretty similar to yours, so I'll just leave it here. I really like your ideas about positive reinforcement and also the ability to take the flip-band everywhere. My own solution is a little bit less stylish, as I'm using a small booklet that I carry with me at all times. This sacrifices ease of carrying around (I need a bag/pocket and pen) for a more detailed course of action (I can list specific goals with deadlines etc.). I guess the optimal solution depends on what the op wants to do exactly and which implement he can manage to use better. – Godzillarissa Jan 19 '15 at 12:11

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