Get Things Done: How To Harness The Power Of A Promise

What does making a promise mean to you? Do you promise to others (and yourself) that you will definitely do, give, or arrange something, or declare that something will happen? Walk the dog, lose that extra weight, return grandma’s phone call. In today’s fast-paced and turbulent world, does making a promise still hold any weight?

Making a promise is, in many ways, similar  to declaring an intention to stick to a commitment or achieve a goal. In each case we are essentially making a pledge to carry out some future action. Breaking promises, defaulting on commitments, or giving up on goals can have painful consequences – strained relationships, eroded trust, deep feelings of regret and disappointment.

While most people would agree that honoring our word is always the right thing to do, in practice it’s not always so easy. Life gets busy and we often get sidetracked by distractions, lack motivation or simply slip back into routine. So what are some steps we can take to increase our promise-keeping ratio? How can we eliminate promise procrastination?

There is no shortage of opinions as to how we can best do the things we intend to do and live more productively day-to-day. A quick Google search reveals that the most in-trend ‘Hack’ is only a click a way. Yet for every semi-helpful tip you stumble upon, you’re bound to get nine other incredibly stupid pieces of advice.

With the explosion of the personal coaching industry and the often unbelievable anecdotal reports of coaching success, it is important to take breath and note the validity of some of the promises this growing profession is making. Are these prophesied techniques founded on sound scientific research or simply fanciful hearsay?

As with many things, listening to the experts is always a good place to start. So what does social research suggest are some of the best techniques to really motivate yourself to get things done? It’s actually quite simple and comes down to just three things – a pen, a friend and a few dollars.

Pickup A Pen

Our brains and lives can get very busy, and flippant promises to improve can easily be forgotten and be replaced by other (often less pressing) issues. Writing it down shows intention and commitment, and it converts your ambition into something concrete. It forces you to be really specific about the action you intend to take and when you intend to do it, a powerful motivator that should not be underestimated. In fact you are 43% more likely to reach your goal (or fulfill your promise) if you write it down. Don’t write it down and you only have a wish. Put pen to paper and you’ve got a better chance of keeping your promise.

Find A Friend

Making a silent promise to yourself to run a marathon is one thing. But telling someone you respect, and whom you know wants to see you thrive, is another thing entirely. Doing so makes you accountable and more likely to get off your butt and start training. They will not only keep you focused but can be a great resource for support and suggestions when you’re having an off day. It’s not all that surprising that sharing you intentions with a friend, in addition to writing down, boosts your chances of success by 64%. Moreover, if you involve people who care about you not only will be astonished at the flood of support, but you’ll be soon realize that you have the potential to achieve more than you ever thought possible.

Make A Pledge

Mounting behavior economics research insists that money is a stronger motivator than nearly everything else. Studies show that you are 72% more likely to follow through with a goal if you have your own money on the line. In fact, the higher the stakes the more likely you’ll be to follow through with it. Want to start exercising every morning but can’t get motivated? Imagine if you could lose $500 of your hard earned cash just for pressing your snooze button?

Whether it is a self-improvement commitment to quit smoking or a vow to help a friend move apartments – sometimes sticking to promises can be really difficult. By combining these techniques you will significantly increase your chances of overcoming your obstacles and achieving more – faster, easier, and with a new sense of calm. Get things done and transform your life, all you have to do is start keeping your promises.
Jay Boolkin is the founder at Promise or Pay, a new online platform that helps users to keep their promises by encouraging them to wager money for charitable donations. To learn more, please visit