/ advice

Incentive Structures

I have recently started paying attention to the incentive structures around me. They impact me every second of every day and so I think it is quite important to recognize them. Furthermore, if I can impact them, I want to set up incentive structures that encourage me to take actions that are aligned with my goals.

For instance, in the book Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki, a book focused on minimalism, it is brought up that storage containers enable you to keep more of your belongings. So, if you do not want to incentivize yourself to keep or buy more possessions, then you should think hard about whether or not you really want to buy that organization shelf for your closet or that plastic bin for your old beanie babies.

Another example of an incentive structure might be the size of your trash can. Do you have a standard 13-gallon trash can in your kitchen? This makes it easier for you to create more trash. For this reason, I bought a small 1-gallon trash can when I was living alone — I wanted it to be just mildly painful every time I created trash.

Let's do a rapid-fire round:

Want to start rock-climbing? Pay for monthly membership to the gym instead of paying for day-passes. Paying for a day-pass means you will feel money leaving your wallet every time you go — thus deincentivizing you.

Want to spend more time out with friends? Make your home less comfy. Sell your couch, TV, or whatever is keeping you home.

Want to spend more time working on side projects? Make them as easy to work on as possible. Maybe you do not have the right setup available to you at home or nearby? Create it!

Want to quit your job? Start saving up money. It becomes a lot easier to consider quitting when you have a nest egg that could last you several months.

Are you a digital book marketplace and want people to buy your books? Stop putting DRM protections on them and maybe people wouldn't be so incentivized to pirate the book instead.

The point is to make things you want to happen as easy as possible and to make things you do not want to happen less easy. This might sound really obvious, but it is surprising how many times we surround ourselves with things we do not want — expecting that we can resist it.

That shit eats up our mental discipline. Get rid of bad influences. Surround yourself with good ones.

Currently, I want to encourage myself to be more outgoing and engage with strangers around me. I have been shy for my entire life and I really feel that I am losing opportunies, and valuable relationships, by not engaging more with people around me.

What am I doing about it? I decided to create a tiny incentive for myself to engage more. I created an online tally counter just to count my conversations every day. I am a sucker for gamification and so I naturally want to make this number bigger every day. It's a small incentive - but it's better than nothing.

What goals are you trying to achieve right now? What are you doing about it? How are you making them easier to accomplish?

What incentive structures are influencing you right now?