How To Write 4x More Words Than You Ever Have Before (or, why I Paypaled Leo Babauta $50)


in Make Money, Productivity

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If you’re a follower of my blog, you know that i struggle with productivity and ADHD—that’s why I hire someone to slap me or spend time living in a cave.

So last week, I sat down with Leo Babauta from ZenHabits and told him of my struggles. In our talk, Leo asked me what strategies I had used in the past that had been successful.

“Well, I’ve used the Bet Switch Mechanism as a successful strategy for losing weight. Actually, I’ve used it to write as well—when I was writing my guest post for ZenHabits for example, I owed my friend $500 if I didn’t finish it on time.”

“If it worked, why stop doing it?” Leo asked.

“Crap,” I thought. My whiteboard literally has that printed in big black letters: “If it works, keep doing it.” Underneath is printed the tactics I’ve used successfully—namely, The Bet Switch Mechanism, Hiring a Slapper, and Extreme Isolation.

“I know what you’re about to say Leo.”

“I bet you do. For the next week, at 9am, every morning, you will write for 30 minutes. And if you don’t you owe me $50.”

“Fine, you’ve got a deal.”

It’s truly amazing the power that the Bet-Switch Mechanism has. Every single day for this past week, I’ve woken up by 9am and started writing, immediately. I’ve written more words this week than I have in several months, and it’s all thanks to Leo’s advice.

Leo’s an amazing teacher as well. I woke up to extremely motivational emails from him, coming in just before I was scheduled to write. Here are a couple of the most influential emails I received from Leo.

From: Leo Babauta
Subject: tips for this morning’s writing session

1. Notice your resistance to starting. Let it go, and focus on just getting started. All you need to do is write the first few words — don’t worry about writing more than that.

2. Imagine you’re talking to a specific friend when you start writing — what would you say to that friend about this blog topic?

3. Notice the tightness you feel as you start. It’s tension, not wanting to do this, wanting to do something else. Let it go, relax, enjoy the writing.

4. Watch the urge to go do something else. Watch, don’t act. Let it arise, then go away. Now go back to writing.

Good luck my friend! Looking forward to hearing from you by 10!

And this one

From: Leo Babauta
Subject: lazy sunday writing

Just take it easy this morning, start writing at 9 a.m., enjoy it, do it for the pleasure of the writing, not for the productivity.

You got this.

Among the week, I managed to write every single day for at least 30 minutes. On Tuesday, I started late, checked Facebook, and wasn’t fully involved—so I paid up. I didn’t feel like I had really passed the test.

How can you implement this?

So, what does this mean for you? Do you, reader, have some recurring goal in your life that you want to achieve—but just can’t seem to complete? Would a bet help motivate you?

I’ve run the Bet-Switch Mechanism with several friends. One female friend of mine wasn’t motivated by money, so she opted to bet her favorite pieces of clothing—if she failed she had to donate it to charity. That got her in gear.

If you are interested in a trial run of the Bet-Switch Mechanism, first, decide on a specific, measurable goal. An example of an excellent goal follows the SMART Paradigm (which I talk about in my Minimalist Guide to Hacking Your Habits) Quick primer: a SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. “Get in shape” is vague and unattainable. Instead, a better goal would be “Do my preplanned exercise, every morning, at 10am, for 30 minutes.”

Decide on a goal, and then ask a friend to be the moderator. Believe me, there is no shortage of people willing to take your money if you fail! But, if you really have no one around you, head over to Stickk, where you can find someone who will moderate for you.

In other words, if there is some consistent habit you want to build, there is no harm in trying it out for a week. And, if you’re unwilling to put up the $50/day—well, you’re not that serious about the bet, are you?

Here are some good examples of habits that you could use the Bet Switch Mechanism for:

1) Flossing
2) Daily (or 3x/week) Exercise
3) Eating healthy (every time you eat garbage, you owe $50/item)
4) Reading / studying
5) Quitting TV (every time you watch TV, you owe $50)
6) Quitting smoking

And lots more. There are lots of possibilities.

Are you going to try the Bet-Switch Mechanism? Let me know in the comments what your bet is—and how you’ll go about doing it. I’m glad to take your money if you can’t find anyone else 🙂

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hier klicken June 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Unquestionably imagine that that you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the web the easiest factor to take into account of. I say to you, I definitely get irked at the same time as folks consider concerns that they just do not understand about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out the entire thing with no need side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you


Max Turner April 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Normally I only skim through posts, normally I just run right through it like I’ve seen it a million times even if I hadn’t – but I absolutely love your writing style and how laid back and easy it is to read.

I am definitely going to try and do this… wait no I am actually setting myself up for failure if I say it like that so let me try that again. I am going to do this bet switch method.

Thanks again.


Tim Williams December 20, 2012 at 7:42 am

Anti-Charities are a fantastic way to keep you motivated. I use which works perfectly.

Basically what I do is hire someone off Odesk and give her my password to and if I dont hit my milestones (which are lose 1lb a week, and send 30 emails to biz leads for freelance) she fails me for the week.

The stakes:
If I fail, my account gets docked $100 (since there is two, it’s a possible $200 a week) and it goes to a charity I HATE. Its a anti-gay charity.

Also, she will look for articles about what the charity is doing and send to me (which pisses me off) to add more fire in me to get shit done.

Lastly, I have an Atomic Bomb mode. If I fail to reach my 12 week goals then my odesk assistant, who has access to all my mail contacts who are clients and friends (some in the Gay community) will send them a email documenting my donations to the anti-charity.

Putting a gun to your heads makes you do amazing things.


Zoe April 15, 2014 at 1:50 am

OMG I love this idea – I’m not overly motivated by money – but this anti-charity thing definitely gets my emotions going which is always a good driver. Thanks.


swalia December 13, 2012 at 3:22 am

loved the bet-switch mechanism….will use it to be regular in exercising….thanks for sharing!
Also loved leo’s advice….short,simple and sweet yet very effective 🙂


Erin December 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Sayan- Love the anti-charity idea! Extra motivation!


Caleb Galaraga December 9, 2012 at 5:49 am

Incredibly motivational…especially now that I need to start working on my own blog. I’ll have to bet my favorite books…which is what will definitely get me started!

Thanks for sharing this, Maneesh.


Sayan December 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

Nice! I’m starting to see this trend of great content on this site. No wonder I keep coming back.

I used a similar plan when I was first getting in shape. This was October 2012, and I was about 70 pounds overweight. I could never get myself to workout consistently so I enlisted the help of a friend (he went to the gym 5x a week religiously).

The bet? I wrote out a check for $1,000 and said “If I miss one day at the gym with you, cash this check. Take half for yourself and donate half to the GOP (“anti-charity”).

The results? My life is freakin’ awesome. I love working, I love nutrition, and am overall ridiculously healthy these days. Also, I’ve lost those 70 pounds and then some!

This stuff works!!

My next one is using as you’ve mentioned. I need to make a habit of writing quality content for my blog.

So, my SMART goal is to write 30 minutes a day, based on pre-planned blog topics, at 9 p.m. or 7 a.m. I’ve put down $50 for each missed session and am getting started today.

Gotta make this happen…no way in hell I’m donating to the anti-charity I’ve chosen! Would appreciate some extra supporters as well!

Thanks Maneesh. Keep the great stuff coming!


Hayley December 6, 2012 at 12:04 am

ok im in… im going to spend 30 minutes a day for the next week (starting monday) writing my business plan. cos i have been so slack about it. so 9am every day for a week (unless i finish early) If i dont do it every day i have to donate my camera as i clearly dont deserve it. Bring it on.


Rohit Gupta December 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

Excellent advice.
I wonder what was more effective though, the fear of being slapped or the 50$! 😀


maneesh December 4, 2012 at 10:09 am

both are effective but for different purposes. The slapper is good for getting something done, right now. The bet will make you meet a minimum requirement.


Amrish December 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Hey Maneesh!!
I have tried technique in college exam days with my cousin and it works.
I completely forgot about this ,thanks for reminding me 🙂


mws December 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm

great stuff….. CHCK OUT the habit factor (book and app)! use the app –


prasanna n December 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Great advice Maneesh. I did it when I was in college. Told my friend, I’d buy him a Plum Cake every time I don’t go to gym. I bought him once. And video recorded him greedily eating that, so that it could be a motivation for me the next time.

It was fun. I think I was being dishonest and stopped giving him cakes after that 😀 Should find a way to do that with my wife.


Dan December 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I’m going to do it for
– Music practice (my career… yeah just as fucking hard to get into that zone as it is to get myself to do homework these days)
– Reading for 30min
– Quitting internet/facebook/twitter before 12 midday so I get shit done

One at a time.

Thanks for your post dude.


Jonathan December 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I really want to try this but hesitant about betting – I just don’t like bets!

But I like another technique you’ve talked about, using something physical to force you into action. Like unplugging the internet or going to the 5th floor of the library and putting earplugs in to focus only on writing.


Cahil December 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Please remove that sticky share-box for the sake of productivity.


maneesh December 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

What do you mean—why is it unproductive?


Tyler December 3, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I don’t think it’s unproductive either.


Julia Christova December 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I am a writer as well and I thought that it was impossible for me to write every weekday, but I did it for almost 6 months back to back (except on my vacation in Greece). I downloaded an interactive calendar for MS Word (for free) and everyday I colour the square red if I write and add everything else that I did for the day as text. So, I used something more like “don’t break the red line”. I will try the bet-switch for my exercise routine, though – I am not quite as regular there yet.


maneesh December 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Don’t break the chain! Great advice from Jerry Seinfeld


Julia Christova December 4, 2012 at 1:26 am

Good to know, thanks for answering 🙂


Terri December 3, 2012 at 11:34 am

Great post Maneesh, thank you, needed this!


Tim December 3, 2012 at 11:18 am

Nice post I like the clothing donation idea.


Soma December 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

Great post – awesome and actionable. I’ve read about this strategy for months (years?) but never done it. Till today. My goal is a healthy pre-planned breakfast everyday this week. The schedule (everyday includes a smoothie):
M – yogurt with granola
T – eggs with salsa
W – oatmeal
Th – eggs with salsa
Fr – yogurt with granola
Sa – eggs with salsa
Penalty: Will donate $66 (all the money in my PayPal account as of this morning!) to if I miss a day. Will update you in a week.
BTW, let me guess – this picture is Samovar @ Yerba Buena?


maneesh December 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

You are right! Samovar in Yerba Buena 🙂 Cool! Do it good!


Soma December 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Was 5 for 5 on weekdays but slept in late and ended up eating crepes on Saturday!
Lesson: keep weekend breakfast out of habit-forming since the routine on weekends is totally different from weekdays.
Penalty – money to your charity is on the way


Krista December 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

Great post Maneesh! I love Leo! : )


maneesh December 3, 2012 at 10:11 am

Thanks Krista! I hope you’re doing well 🙂


johnathan December 3, 2012 at 11:49 am

great talk maneesh!!


Tim December 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

I like the emails that’s Leo sent. Very personal, helpful, and motivation with a great tone- I’m going to use those on my friend too. Awesome!


maneesh December 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

Leo is incredibly motivational. I still can’t believe that someone with a site as big as his is willing to write me an email every day.


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