Getting started

Or The Power of a Good Incentive

“Don’t get ready, get started”

I love the this mantra from Ideo Futures, as well as their less used alternative “’kingship” (think you have to say it out loud to get that one).

I’ve been in utter agreement with this for as long as I can remember, but recently when it came to it, I needed more that a mantra to get started.

So here’s my story about getting started.

Recently I left my wonderful job at a brilliant startup that I’ve worked at for over 3 years to have more time to spend with my family, learn and experiment with new ideas. (Although strictly speaking I’ve not quite left, I’ve just changed my role and my working pattern. I’ll write more about this another time). So I’ve cut down my days significantly, fully embracing what I think the Future of Work is supposed to be — balancing a secure income with more flexible working and experimenting with side projects.

The shift has been amazing, but odd. I’ve never not been in full-time work, so shifting to 2 days a week and doing anything else I want for the other days has been somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it’s been hard to prioritise or even come up with things to do in the first place.

Last week though something changed that completely.

This first was a random phone call on a Friday morning with a good friend. Nick Himowicz is one of the most energetic, motivational and positive people I know. He asked me what I was actually going to do to help build my brand and I mentioned something an thought I’d been having about a podcast and blog series, broadly linked to the new business I was building. He then said, “what are you waiting for, why aren’t you doing it today”.

I muttered something about being too busy and that I’ll get around to it in the next few weeks. Then he asked:

“how much money would hurt you if you lost it?”

Completely taken aback I think I said a couple of hundred pounds (£) would mean I wouldn’t be able to take my wife to dinner this month. So he said “give me £200 and if you create 2 blogs and 1 podcast by next Friday I’ll give it back, if you don’t I keep it”.

Oh shit! I loved this idea and felt a pang of fear too. I see what he’s doing and I’m supposed to be making and experimenting more, so I did it and Monzo’d £200 directly to him (if you haven’t seen Monzo they’re a pretty awesome challenger bank in the UK — we also talk about them here).

So that was it, I had made my pledge, put my money where my mouth was and had forced myself to complete a big task for someone who hadn’t published any writing for 8 years and had never done a podcast.

T-7 — Friday — I start off well, opening Evernote and writing a call-to-action type blog to get people (mostly that I already know) to lend support to my cause — exploring the problems with problem finding.

T-6/5 — it’s the weekend, so I spent it with my family, whilst also shitting myself about unnecessarily losing £200. To add to the burden, I told my wife so now I was letting us both down — what have I done! I’ve left my full-time well paid job, and given a mate £200 for nothing! It’s getting worse!

T-4 — Monday — A contracting day with my old company — nothing done on the “£200 challenge”

T-3 — Tuesday — I re-write the first blog post, start to construction the second follow-up and contact Nick and another friend/colleague Ant to coerce them into joining me on the first pod, they say they’re up for it, so I send over a rough plan and some questions I might ask them. This is feeling better, I can totally do this!!!

T-2 — Wednesday — A contracting day with my old company — nothing done on the “£200 challenge”

T-1 — Thursday — Oh shit, how do you make a podcast? I’d planned to meet Nick and Ant after they finished work with the gear to record them and the promise of a few beers. But I had no recording gear!! Fortunately I used to be a sound engineer so know what I needed — flying around several shops and pulling in a big favour from an old friend who runs a PA hire company and I’ve got what I need. Get there at 6, set up the gear and press record. This is it, it is happening. Hope it goes ok, but to be honest, even if it’s really bad I’ll publish anyway

T-0 — Friday — Ok, so I’ve got a raw recording of 3 guys rambling on and 1 and a half blog post written. So I finish of the second blog and decide to do as much as I can on the pod edit.

It actually sounded ok, I’m mildly happy, actually I’ve very happy. I decide to break the pod up into two, nice trick to smash the challenge!

Time to publish

Upload blog 1- to Linkedin first (Medium and others could follow later)

Upload blog 2

Upload Pod 1 — to Soundcloud first (iTunes could follow later)

Upload Pod 2

Boom! I did it. Not only did I get my £200 back. I has lead to a new way of creating, starting and get stuff done.

So it works, so much so that we’ve now created the £200 Challenge and invited other people to get involved. Nick is next if he doesn’t write up his experience I’ll do it.

Whilst I had motivation to do this, I would not have started anywhere nearly as quickly as I did or with the kind of intense impact that has given me the motivation to continue. So perhaps sometime you need an external incentive to break through the ‘planning’ phase and get started. What I have found though is that now I’ve seen people reading, listening, liking and commenting I’ve getting more and more motivated to do more.

Now what I’m really interested in is how might this be used to get more stuff done? The theme of my blogs and podcasts so far has been Problem Finding, so I’m going to investigate what the problem is with getting started and how to balance or use extrinsic incentives and intrinsic motivations to get started and do more.

If you have a story to share that I can write about or you fancy talking on a podcast, please get in touch on LinkedIn or Twitter


Spencer Ayres


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