Banner showing three books

Harness the Spectacular Productivity of WIBBO(X)

Productive Writers - Kevin J Anderson quoteI love WIBBOW. It’s an acronym coined, from what I’ve read, by writer Scott William Carter. WIBBOW = Would I Be Better Off Writing?

But that’s not what the title of this blog post says. That’s because it’s a wonderful question to ask in every area of your life. Would I be better off doing X? WIBBO(X).

And it all falls back to what your dreams are.

Time as a Promise

There’s another concept I love, the concept of time as a promise. I first encountered it in the Writing Excuses podcast as applied to writing novels but it applies to so much more.

The Writing Excuses version goes: what you’re spending your reader’s time on, that is, what you’re devoting a lot of words to, is the promise you’re making to the reader. So if you spend ten pages describing the theory of dragon fighting then you’d better have a dragon fight coming up or else you’re breaking a promise to your reader.

If you spend a lot of time reading about beach vacation rentals then you’d better have a Hawaii holiday coming up or you’re cheating yourself.

It goes like this: you’ve got dreams. Things you’d like to accomplish. Things you’d love to accomplish. Produce a game. Write a novel. Go to Thailand. But if you’re spending your time watching funny cartoons on Facebook then you’re cheating your dreams.

WIBBO(X) – Would you?

WIBBO(X). Would I Be Better Off Coding My Game? Would I Be Better Off Writing My Novel?

Would I be better off hanging out on Twitter? Would you?

In 99% of the cases that’s not the case. You would be better off WIBBO(X). You would come closer to your dreams, advance your goals. Do stuff that really matters.

So why don’t you?

  1. It’s hard.
  2. It’s damn hard.
  3. Aren’t the first two reasons enough?

No, they’re not. And yet we’re fooling ourselves that we’re doing marketing when we’re really wasting time on Instagram. Or we could be doing things like “research” where we click around reddit waiting for inspiration to strike. Guess what? It’s not going to.

Grab Inspiration!

Want inspiration? Go out and grab it. Don’t surf aimlessly or watch bad movies or waste your time. Figure out what roads will take you to your goal by the fastest route and follow them. Or the most fun route, whichever you prefer.

The key isn’t to work, the key is to work smart. I could be doing any number of things but I’m writing this blog post. For my goals, right now, this is my WIBBO(X). I would be better off writing this blog.

I could be watching the news (which I never do anymore). I could be reading up on writing. I’m not. I considered what I could do and realized that I am better off writing this blog. Conscious decisions matter.

I could have stumbled upon writing, but I didn’t. I took a long, hard look at what I’m doing and decided that writing this post was the best thing I could do to come closer to my dreams right now. This is not the same as writing this post because I had nothing better to do, or because I thought it would be fun, or because someone told me to.

The words on the page are the same, the effects are completely different.

Get a Foot in the Door

See, when you decide, when you take a conscious action to do something, you’re affecting your self-identity. There’s an interesting study done by Freedman & Fraser in 1966 where they called a bunch of random housewives and asked them a couple of questions about their household items. A couple days later they were contacted again, but this time with the request that a stranger be allowed to search through their cupboards and catalog every item they owned.

Turns out that the people who agree do the first request were 130% more likely (52,8% compliance rate vs. 22,2% compliance rate in the control group) to allow strangers into their home. There was a similar study done in the 1990’s where people who were asked to put up signs advocating traffic safety on their lawns were much more likely to agree to support a social initiative two weeks later – regardless of whether they’d agreed to put up the sign or not.

This is the power of the foot-in-the-door technique. And that’s what you’re doing when you’re deciding to do something.

You’re changing your self-image.

Decision = Identity Change

You’re saying that “yes, I am going to pursue my dreams, I am determined to become better, I am worthy of achieving my goals”. That’s some powerful mojo right there.

But what makes it extra powerful is that you’re not only deciding. You’re deciding and following up. You’re actively pursuing your goals. You’re changing what you do toward your dreams.

And you’re achieving stuff right now. You’re coming closer to your goals and you’re making sure that you will be more likely to pursue them in the future.

Would You Be Better Off…? Yes, yes you would.

Now stop reading and WIBBO(X).

Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover


  • This was a pretty powerful message. Many times I’ve done stupid things like look up porn, or binge watch videos on Youtube, claiming that I would stop after “just one more”, or even that I was researching my book by watching medieval history videos before I wrote, when (in reality) I was just avoiding doing the work.

    Again, thanks for these articles, man. They’re one of the reasons I’ve been getting better.

    • Filip Wiltgren

      Yeah, procrastination comes in a lot of forms. For me it often ended with it being way too late to write and me being angry at myself for not having done the work.

Leave your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.