Sometimes I need little extra push to get myself pointed in the right direction. There are countless methods out there that proclaim to cure a writer of their creative blocks, or motivate even the most lethargic pencil pusher.
Nostrums! Snake Oil!
Autism-causing vaccinations! OK, maybe not that last one.
As a slacker fueled by distractions, I have attempted just about every method out there to escape the event horizon of the anti-productivity black hole. Yet, even my ever-increasing mass does not seem to attract enough accountability to keep me from ignoring the goal all together and justifying my inaction.
Something a little more drastic must be done.
What, Exactly, Is An Incentive Post?
An Incentive Post is an amalgamation of a number of different motivating principals which will presumably sear itself into a writer’s psyche enough to force the writer to take action.
Based on the principle of holding yourself accountable for reaching your goals in a public manner, an Incentive Post not only forces you into accountability, but also puts your neck on the line in the name of progress.
The idea here is to not only create a post which will put your intentions out there, but has potential to affect your online persona or business in some way.
The post should be fully realized, written and formatted properly, and scheduled for publishing on the day you want to achieve your goals. That could be months, weeks, or even days in the future. (Be sure that your Incentive Post is indeed unpublished, you do not want to leak this personal writing tool.)
Think of it as a steamroller headed your way down an abandoned road. It may take a month for the steamroller to reach you, but if you stand still, your bones will be crushed. So get moving!
Nine Tips For Writing An Effective Incentive Post
I have just recently written my own Incentive Post, and along the way came across a few ideas that I think could help another writer to make an earnest effort to change.
1. Be Honest With The Content
Writing an Incentive Post is a learning process. The best way to learn to move toward the future you want to create as a writer is to be honest when you are creating your Incentive Post.
The Incentive Post is supposed to be a declaration of your intentions, where you currently stand, and exactly what it is you want to achieve. Your social concerns should not factor into its creation. Check your Twitter persona at the door and be brutally honest with yourself.
2. Be Explicit
What exactly is it that you are looking to achieve with this Incentive Post?
Lay everything out on the table so that you know the result you want to get out of this process. Do you want to reach 1000 subscribers? Do you want to stop blogging about the mundane, and provide more value to your readers? Do you want to make more money through targeted ads or an affiliate program?
Each and every intention you have for creating this change in your writing should be plainly and clearly explained. Do not hold back. Once again, be honest.
3. Be Realistic About Your Stated Goal
Some goals are created with no intention of actually following through with them. You have to avoid this type of unachievable goal when writing your Incentive Post.
If you are a blogger who runs a blog in a filled niche, it may not be realistic to expect to start making $150 a day in only a month. Creating a goal like this can backfire horribly, and chances are you will easily lose your faith in the process that you prepared to push you forward.
4. Do Some Research
The best way to set realistic and achievable goals is to do your research. How have writers before you gotten to the same outcome you are looking for?
Find a similar success story (or better yet, a failure), and follow the advice given by that individual. Anyone who truly achieves their realistic goals in a public manner is bound to have made mistakes along the way. Most likely they are also willing to share those mistakes, how they overcame them, and–most importantly–how you can avoid them in your process.
Do not just whip together something in a short period of time and expect that to motivate you. The amount of time and effort you put into the Incentive Post should be equal to the result you wish to reach. You cannot just expect to have 1000 subscribers find your blog overnight.
5. Be Serious With The Post Formatting
Your final Incentive Post should not look like a first draft. Act as if this were truly a blog post you are planning on publishing in the not-too-distant future, and use the same care and conventions in your writing that you would for any other post.
Use the research you did before finishing your Incentive Post to flesh out the topic with supporting links, quotes and other materials that are relevant.
Make sure to put some images into the post as well. You are trying to create something professional enough that quickly glancing at the post elicits the same emotions as any other post you write.
6. Schedule Your Post To Be Published
This may be the most important step in this concept. You have to be willing to put your neck on the line in order to truly motivate yourself to get to the end result.
For my set of goals, I scheduled my post to publish on March 3, 2010. That is one month until d-day. I will be anxiously watching the calendar each day until that date arrives. In the mean time, I will be working until my fingers go numb to reach my goals, or else risk the oncoming steamroller.
Scheduling the post for publication has another, secondary motivator. Depending on how you have your blog setup, the scheduled post will sit at the top of your “Edit Posts” queue, looking you in the eye each and every time you sit down to write something new.
7. Tell Someone About It
Though the Incentive Post is primarily a tool for your personal motivation, you can add an extra layer of embarrassment to the mix. Show a coworker or your significant other; someone you trust to keep you honest and remind you of the commitment you are making.
The honesty, research and professional formatting of the post will show your confidant that you are indeed serious about this commitment, and you expect yourself to get those results.
If the idea of publishing the Incentive Post is not enough to make you sweat, being 100% transparent with someone you admire and trust will. They expect you to make that positive change, and it is now your job to meet their expectations.
8. Make It Hurt
The most effective way to motivate yourself toward that new goal is to give your Incentive Post some real weight in your mind. Reveal some deep dark secret in the post that will truly keep you from slipping in your convictions.
For me, it is not enough to simply write out my intentions and leave it at that. If you are anything like me, there needs to be more clear cut consequences for your inaction in order for you to take this commitment seriously.
9. Give It Lasting Bite
To make the post explosive on one occasion simply is not enough. You have to make sure that what you write will really affect your future self enough that you will consciously and subconsciously fear that post seeing the light of day.
Make your Incentive Post a nightmare. You need to push this into your awareness in a way that will keep you honest and fearful.
Remember This Post
If you have followed the intent of each of these steps, you are not going to want to forget about your Incentive Post. #8 alone should ensure that you never want your thoughts to see the light of day. Remember, once the Internet sees something, it cannot be unseen.
Ultimately, you can delete your Incentive Post, bypassing this whole idea. But remember, you are making a pact with your future self, and breaking that pact will only result in anger toward the you of right now.
What Do You Do When You Have Reached Your Stated Goal?
Go back and read that original Incentive Post and be sure that you have covered all of your bases. If you are satisfied with the results, be sure to stop the scheduled publishing of that article.
Do not quit now. After reviewing your achieved goals, look to the future. Having a carrot on a stick will keep you moving forward.
Write a new Incentive Post to kick things up a notch. Look back on the time you spent with the previous Incentive Post’s goals, and plan accordingly for the next step. You are now a different person, so be sure to not just copy and paste your previous post in an effort to save time.
Have you ever used an Incentive Post to reach your writing goals?
I am excited to hear about some personal war stories using this or similar concepts. Leave a comment below if you have successfully (or unsuccessfully) navigated to your goal through the use of an Incentive Post.
Remember, one of the best things you can do to help another human being is to share the mistakes and the methods you used to overcome those mistakes with your fellow man.