In San Francisco, everything is done with Craigslist. Need an apartment? Craigslist’s got you covered.
Want a bicycle, but you’d rather not buy stolen bikes from the corner of Market and 7th? To Craigslist we go.
It was the perfect location for an experiment on doubling productivity. How could I leverage Craigslist to improve my efficiency?
To me, the answer was obvious: I hired a girl on Craigslist to slap me in the face everytime I used Facebook.
The Craigslist Slapper Experiment
When are you most productive? Depending on your personality, you might not need alone time—you might need a team.
Humans are social animals—we aren’t designed to live and work alone. Now that the average worker’s job is to sit in front of a computer,—often with no supervision—it’s no surprise that we are only productive a three days each week. Having worked mostly alone, on my computer, I found that the majority of my time is spent unproductively.
So I measured my productivity, using a nifty little app called RescueTime (aff link). RescueTime sits in the background of your computer and measures the amount of time you spend on your computer and on each Website. It lets you see exactly how much time you spent hard at work on your Excel spreadsheet—and exactly how much time you wasted watching episodes of [The League] (holy shit go watch The League).
Nothing makes me more embarassed than seeing the amount of hours I spend wasted on Reddit and Facebook chat.
That means that almost 19 hours of my time last week were wasted—disappeared, never to be seen again.
I figured, “This is stupid, why am I wasting this time doing nothing? When I have a boss, or someone of authority watching me, I always get my work done. How can I simulate the authority figure?”
Naturally, I believe that an authority figure should have real authority. And I am a big fan of Slap Bets. Put those together — and I realized I needed someone to make me work, with permission to slap me in the whenever I cheated.
So I went on Craigslist, put up an advertisement, and waited to see if anyone would bite.
Title:(domestic gigs) Slap me if I get off task…
I’m looking for someone who can work next to me at a defined location (my house or a mission cafe) and will make sure to watch what is happening on my screen. When I am wasting time, you’ll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me.
You can do your own work at the same time. Looking for help asap, in mission, near 16th mission BART.
Compensation: $8 / hour, and you can do your own work from your computer at the same time.
Within minutes, my inbox began blowing up. I received 20 emails in less than an hour from people who loved the idea. I read through them, found one that stood out, and hired her to meet me at a cafe the day after.
The next day, at 9am, I found Kara sitting and waiting for me. Pulling up a seat, I gave her the basic instructions—she would monitor me for the next few hours, and make sure that I was staying on task. I gave her a list of action items that I needed to accomplish, and made her promise to force me to stay on task.
My average productivity runs around 35-40% on most days. When Kara sat next to me, my productivity skyrocketed to 98%
An Analysis: Why Hiring a Slapper works
Without a doubt, this experiment was a success. My biggest takeaway from the experiment is this: If you add a social element to the work that you do, you will become more productive
Honestly, the fear of the slap wasn’t the productivity driver. That just made it fun. The real reason why Kara made me more productive is because she added a social element to writing. When I was drafting the outline, I asked for her feedback. When I couldn’t think of the right way to phrase a sentence, she was there to help. Instead of it being a chore, Kara made it fun to write.
Here are the major reasons why hiring someone on Craigslist to watch me work improved my productivity and quality.
1) Someone else, besides me, knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish that day. In many jobs, you might have a team or a manager who knows what you are supposed to do. My work, however, doesn’t give me the benefit of a boss that plans my todo list. Kara became my makeshift boss, knowing what I needed to get done, and forcing me to do it.
2) Kara pushed me through the cheese monster. I take the phrase “Cheese Monster” from ZeFrank’s awesome video–he defines the cheese monster as the “feeling in your stomach, when you get a ball of energy that tells you to get up and go to the refrigerator and get a cheese sandwich…but the cheese monster will never be satisfied by cheddar but only the cheese of accomplishment.” In those moments where I hit a rough spot and wanted to take a walk or check Facebook, Kara proved to be the most valuable. She made me push through the difficult parts.
3) I finally had someone to bounce ideas off of. Kara helped polish my sentences, and told me if my ideas made sense. That sort of clarity is priceless.
I found that speaking out loud and trying to explain your work to someone else actually helped me to understand what I was trying to say, what I was trying to do. Even when Kara didn’t know the best way, she would ask me questions—and that helped shape my path.
4) The Slap Challenge added a playful, silly element to working. It gave me a nonconventional reminder of what I was supposed to be doing—and it ended up being something I didn’t want to happen again.
5) Having another pair of eyes to go over my content drastically improved the quality of my work. I knew Kara would be reading it, immediately, so I wanted to make sure that the logic was clear, and there were no spelling or grammar mistakes.
If you can turn your todo list into a game—especially a social one, a fun one—it won’t be work anymore. It will be fun. All it takes is building a system.
See Maneesh’s original post here http://hackthesystem.com/blog/why-i-hired-a-girl-on-craigslist-to-slap-me-in-the-face-and-why-it-quadrupled-my-productivity/
In 2008, while studying at Stanford University, Maneesh Sethi decided to take a little trip abroad. His little trip lasted 5 years. Since then, he’s made it a life goal to show others that there is another way to experience the world. Sethi has traveled to over 30 countries, learned five languages, and studied the art of hacking systems. With Hack the System, Sethi spent time becoming a “famous” DJ in Berlin in just 90 days, living in the wilderness for a month with no backpack, and tested systems to become more productive, healthier, and happier. Currently, Sethi writes for Hack the System and Forbes, and work on interesting projects around the world like Pavlok, an inspired habit forming device.
(Used by permission – Thanks Maneesh!)