Deliberate Consequences: How To Make Bad Habits Unappealing

When entrepreneur Thomas Frank decided to start waking up early every morning, he invented a clever strategy to force himself out of bed.

In his work, he uses a social media app called Buffer to prepare tweets and messages to Facebook and LinkedIn ahead of time.

It’s a great tool for scheduling updates that you want people to see later. And, as Frank realized, that also makes it a great tool for scheduling updates that you don’t want people to see later.

Tweeting Himself Out of Bed

Using this insight to his advantage, Frank crafted a tweet in Buffer that he didn’t want his followers to see:

It’s 6:10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this for $5 via Paypal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.

Then, he scheduled the tweet to get posted 15 minutes after his desired wake up time. And, just as he had hoped for, this little message immediately became a powerful motivator.

The mild threat of social shame and monetary loss along with the hassle of sending money to five people was just enough to change his behavior overnight.

Since implementing his Buffer wake-up strategy, Frank now gets up early every morning to move the tweet’s schedule date to the next day. Once he has done that, he starts each day with a morning routine that prepares him for the workday ahead.

And that has made him vastly more organized, productive, and happy compared to when he was regularly sleeping in.

The Power of Deliberate Consequences

I love Thomas Frank’s Buffer wake up strategy1, because it’s such a great example of how to intentionally use consequences to your advantage.

In the moment, the immediate benefits of bad habits can be irresistible. But by deliberately adding consequences to them, you can make them a lot less appealing. And when you cross the point where the consequences outweigh the benefits, your behavior can change drastically as a result.

There are a lot of clever services you can use to make this happen. Let’s have a look at some examples:

  • Beeminder lets you create goals and pledge cash that you’ll lose if you fall enough off track.
  • Habitica is a role-playing game that helps you achieve your goals by giving you in-game rewards for completing real-life tasks.
  • HabitStop helps you break bad habits with the threat of paying a fine or getting shamed by your friends.
  • Lazy Jar is a fitness app that tracks your physical activity and penalizes you economically if you don’t achieve your weekly goals.
  • SPAR! lets you and your friends run challenges where each of you put money on the line that gets sent to the winner.
  • WayBetter is a collection of games (DietBet, StepBet, and RunBet) that helps you create better habits by betting on yourself and winning money if you stick to your goals.
  • Write or Die is a word processor that starts deleting your text if you go too long without sticking to your writing habit.

Oh, and if you’re serious about creating immediate consequences, you might want to get a Pavlok bracelet. This sinister little device lets you give yourself electric shocks to retrain your brain and avoid bad habits.

Consequences Drive Behavior

Of course, it doesn’t really what product, service, or strategy you use. The important thing is that it provides a strong enough consequence. Because if it does, it can change your behavior quicker than you ever thought possible.

Do you want to master your habits? Get my book The Habit Blueprint.

Footnotes

  1. How Buffer Forces Me To Wake Up At 5:55 AM Every Day

The Pavlok bracelet link is an affiliate link. So, if you make a purchase, I earn a commission. Thank you for supporting my work!