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He who gets slapped
Why has Maneesh Sethi hired someone to slap him?
One tight slap. Television viewers will remember MTV India's revenge-seeking, frustration-quenching show that aimed to maintain discipline with a smack. Maneesh Sethi has decided to emulate this practice in real time.
A few months ago, the Indian-American entrepreneur, digital nomad and blogger went out looking for a "professional slapper". Someone who would, for a fee, whack him each time he got distracted by Facebook or other equally time-thieving content online.
Sethi, who runs a productivity and life-improvement blog called Hack the System, put out an ad on Craigslist, a popular classified advertisements website, for a slapper. Titled "Slap me if I get off task", his ad read: "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. Compensation: $8/hour, and you can do your own work from your computer at the same time. " $8 is approximately the minimum wage in the US.
Within minutes, Sethi's inbox bloated with emails - 20 within the first hour - from people thrilled with the idea. The first slapper he hired was Kara, a 26-year-old San Francisco resident. As it turned out, she rarely had to slap him - though did deliver a few of those. Most of the time, a reprimand worked. Sethi, who grew up in California but is now based in New York City, said that his average productivity spiked from 35 to 40 per cent to an astounding 98 per cent. Kara's iron fist helped him finish articles on deadline and send out applications for projects.
Sethi, a Stanford graduate who works by himself on his computer, says that the lack of an authority figure and no supervision allows him to stray from the work at hand and wander online. An app he used to measure his productivity told him that he was about 38 per cent less productive during the 30 hours he spent online. Which meant he spent most of the time on Reddit and Facebook chat. So, Sethi, a fan of slap-betting (where the loser gets slapped by the winner), began to look for a similar deterrent. "Since I have a team in Delhi whom I outsource projects to, I thought why not outsource someone to keep me on task as well, " he says.
This isn't the first time Sethi has tried an offbeat way to shake a troublesome lifestyle habit. Once, on a mission to make his eating habits healthier, he promised a friend that he would pay him $50 each time he ate a piece of bread or anything fatty. He ended up paying up twice. Another time, when he had to write 20 articles on deadline, he promised his editors that he would pay them $500 for every missed deadline. This time, he didn't have to pay. Sethi says that positive reinforcements, such as an award at the end of a task, just don't work for him. "For example, if I promised myself that I would get a cookie at the end of a successful deadline, it would not work. I would just skip it and eat the cookie," says Sethi.
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