A 200-year-old productivity hack

14th January 2022

Hi there,

In the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was in a bind. He had spent the last twelve months working on multiple art projects, entertaining kindred spirits at his home, and procrastinating - when he should have been working on his new book. His frolickings had come home to roost. 

His seething publisher now set him an impossible deadline. Victor had to finish his book by February 1831. The French author came up with an ingenious solution, stuck between a deadline and a hard place. He asked his assistant to lock all his clothes away, leaving him with only a large shawl to cover himself. Unable to go outside, he sat in his study and worked furiously through the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early, on January 4, 1831.

Stepping into 2022, where none of us are strangers to being locked inside our homes, it’s easy to miss the genius of Victor Hugo’s solution. He inadvertently tapped into one of the four laws of Behavior Change. As the #1 New York bestselling author James Clear popularized, the four rules of habit formation are: 

(1) Make it obvious

(2) Make it attractive

(3) Make it easy

(4) Make it satisfying

By making it near impossible to go out, Victor Hugo forced himself to work. 

As you build strategies and set goals for this year, professional and personal, we hope this anecdote helps you create the right environment to achieve your target outcomes. 

Cheers!

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