As an event planner, I’m sure that you’ve probably seen every kind of contract there is. After all, you’ve made contracts with your vendors, your clients, your freelancers and your employees. You even have a contract with your spouse!

But there’s probably one contract that you haven’t gotten around to making yet.

What’s a Self-Contract?

If you want to achieve your personal goals and be productive day in, day out, I propose you create a self-contract so you’ll stay focused on your goals.

A self-contract is kind of commitment where you write down what you want to achieve as well as how to achieve it. Often, it also clearly states any rewards for completing the contract as well as any penalties for breaking it.

I know what you’re thinking: “Well, I don’t think having a contract with myself will work for me.” Well a contract, even one that you make with yourself, is a powerful motivator.

Just look at the last vendor contract you signed. I’m pretty sure you went over it to see if it was all in the up and up before agreeing to it. I’m also sure that you’re trying your best not to break any of the clauses of that contract.

What Makes A Self-Contract Work?

Contracts have a weight of importance to them which makes you stick to it, even at times when you don’t want to. It’s not just the penalties that will keep you in line, it’s also the fact that you actually agreed to it when you first signed it.

I don’t know about you, but when I give my word on something, whether it’s a pinky swear or a signed contract, I do my best to commit to it. Most of us will never back out of our promises, especially promises that go on record like a contract.

Our brains want us to be consistent so our actions often match our thoughts. That means the act of signing a contract changes our view about an agreement. It’s no longer a simple document with some rules, it’s now something you physically agreed to doing. Thus, your mind will now try its best to stick to the contract you’ve made, even one that’s just with yourself.

If you’re worried that a self-contract might become a burden, don’t. The great thing about a self-contract is that it actually makes life easier for you. You’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it since it’ll be written in the contract. You’ll also be clear about your personal goals because those are stated in the contract as well.

If you're someone who keeps his word, even ones made in private, a self-contract will really help you stick to your goals. Click To Tweet

 

A Sample Self-Contract

Let me give you a sample contract to get you started:

I, Glenn Santos, abide by the terms of this contract. And I vouch to excel in my work, both inside and outside the office. And I will give encouragement to everyone I encounter. I vow to do my work on time and whole-heartedly. And yeah, I also promise to put on a fresh pot when I’m the last guy to get from the coffee maker.

Here are a few other sample self-contracts you can use:

Creating a Self-Contract

As you can see, self-contracts are really simple. Here are some guidelines you can follow to make it easier to write these down.

  1. Stick to just one goal. Write down a single goal to keep you focused on achieving rather than juggling between them.
  2. Write down the steps you need to take to achieve the goal. It doesn’t have to be complicated and legalese, just something that you can easily understand and will actually help guide you in doing your work.
  3. Set a deadline for the contract to one day, or a week at most. This way, you can always change it as your personal goals change and you won’t be tied down with long term commitments.
  4. Keep it short and focused, but formal. The formality gives it an air of importance. Keeping it concise means you can easily glance at it every once in a while to refresh the commitment in your mind.
  5. Focus on the upsides of the contract.Concentrate on writing down positive actions and outcomes so that you’re pushed towards a goal, rather than pulled away from consequences.
  6. Change the contract if you feel that you’ve accomplished it already.You don’t need to do a new one from scratch each time. Simply rewrite it to make the new contract fit your day’s needs and personal goals.
  7. Reward yourself after you reach the goal. Of course you need to enjoy your victories! But more than that, you also need to set yourself up for success and look forward to your next goal. If you have a reward after every goal achieved, wouldn’t that motivate you that much more to go after it?

Making the Self-Contract Stick

One of the great parts about creating a self-contract is it makes it easier to counter problems you’ll face committing to your agreement. That’s because you’ve added clauses that actually state what you need to do in case you fall off the wagon.

Here are a few other ways to make your self-contract stick.

Write down excuses beforehand and identify countermeasures.

I’m sure you’ve tried to wiggle your way out of a traffic violation or school penalty before. You’re likely to do the same with your self-contract. What you need to do is plan ahead and clearly state how to act when you’re faced with the decision. This way, you’re making the decision logically beforehand instead of letting your  emotions take over.

Add some penalties if you feel that you’re slipping up too often.

You can use a site like Stickk or Beeminder to keep yourself accountable by putting real money on the line or putting your reputation at stake (the app can actually post your failures online for all to see).

Agree to it on paper with your signature.

Print out the contract then sign it. Nothing beats a written signature to seal the deal. You can even post it on your desk if you want.

Get a co-signor.

If you can’t trust yourself enough, get someone else to sign the contract with you. The co-signor can be a close friend, your mentor, or a respected work colleague. Ideally, this person needs to be someone who’s looking out for you so that they’ll keep you in line when needed.

Post it in public.

Declaring your commitment in public is a great way to make your actions fit the contract. You don’t want others to be disappointed in you, but more than that, you don’t want to go back on a public promise.

Get support from friends and family.

Who better to help you achieve your goal than those close to you? Contracts are often heavy burdens so having people who can act as your cheerleaders will really help boost your morale.

Find a group on the same journey.

In the same manner as the above tip, get into a small group that’s facing the same challenges. You get support from people going through the same thing and also advice on how to move forward in case you stumble.

Track your progress.

To stay consistent, it’s also best to jot down whatever progress you’ve made versus your goal. It can be the number of tasks done or even as simple as writing your accomplishments for the day. What’s important is that you have something that will show you that you’re moving closer to your personal goals.

 

Now that you have your contract signed, it’s time to get to work! Think of your self-contract as a guide to doing your work, something that has your back and will keep you accountable to yourself.

As one wise man once said to me, “rules are there to help us maximize our enjoyment of life.”

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in June 15, 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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Glenn Santos

Author Glenn Santos

Glenn has been writing about technology, productivity and lifehacks for 10 years now. He was previously an editor for Android Authority and Geeky Gadgets, and was one of the first contributors for Startup Weekend's main blog.

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