We’ve been collecting a list of synonyms for the crazy lifehack that sites like Beeminder facilitate. In addition to us being shameless SEO-whores, it seems like this list could be genuinely useful for humans, especially the kind of humans who read the Beeminder Blog.
Here’s how a co-founder of StickK defines, with admirable rigor, exactly what that lifehack consists of:
Entering into an arrangement which restricts one’s future choice set by making certain choices more expensive, perhaps infinitely expensive, while also satisfying two conditions: (a) one would, on the margin, pay something in the present to make those choices more expensive, even if one received no other benefit for the payment; and (b) the arrangement does not have a strategic purpose with respect to others.
(The above is excerpted from a wonderful survey paper on commitment devices.) I would paraphrase it as: voluntarily imposing penalties on your future self purely because you know yourself to be an impetuous fiend who will otherwise act against what your cool-headed current self knows to be your best interests.
Here’s a list of pithier ways to say that:
- Using a commitment device
- Using a self-commitment device
- Creating a commitment contract
- Precommitting, or using a precommitment device
- Stickking (to something)
- Aherking off? [UPDATE: Aherk is gone now so that link points to our list of competitors where you can read about Aherk and others in our graveyard section]
- Tying oneself to the mast
- Employing counteractive self-control
- Motivation hacking (coined by Nick Winter)
- Burning the ships
- Setting up a Ulysses Contract or Ulysses Pact
- Bringing things inside the tunnel
- Making a threat bet
- Aligning your future incentives
And here are myriad related terms:
- Egonomics (a new competitor has borrowed this term: egOnomics Lab)
- Picoeconomics (coined by George Ainslie)
- Counteractive control theory
- Programmable Self (coined by Fred Trotter of RunOrElse.com)
- Hyperbolic discounting
- Dynamic inconsistency, or Time inconsistency
- Multiple selves
- Delayed/deferred gratification
- Captology (coined by B.J. Fogg)
- (New year’s) resolutions
- Present-biased preferences or just present bias (coined by economists O’Donoghue and Rabin)
- Beta-delta preferences
- Baumeister’s Ego Depletion (I’m with Dweck on this one) [UPDATE: Ego Depletion Depletion]
- Mind over mind (coined by David McRaney)
- Second-order preferences
- Astheneia and propeteia (Aristotle’s terms for the two kinds of akrasia: weakness and impetuousness)
- Executive functions (psychology term)
- Temporal Motivation Theory
- Preference reversal (though the term has a more general meaning in behavioral economics, referring to any inconsistency in preferences; it’s only time inconsistency that’s relevant to akrasia)
- Deposit contracts
- Internalities are externalities imposed on your future self
- Time Bridges (Gaia Dempsey’s coinage for systems like Beeminder)
- Incentive alignment
- Constraint Theory, proposed in Jon Elster’s Ulysses Unbound
- Price Pacts, coined by Nir Eyal
If we’ve missed any, please leave them in the comments!
UPDATE: Thanks Nick Winter, Hilary Anne Mayhew, and others for the additions, now added above.
UPDATE 2017-2021: We continue to add terms here that we come across, and have even added commentary as hovertext on all the above links.