A few years ago, Maneesh Sethi decided he was wasting too much time on sites like Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube. He sought a solution on Craigslist.
"Hey!" he wrote in an ad. "I'm looking for someone who can work next to me ... When I am wasting time, you'll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me. ... Compensation: $8/hour, and you can do your own work from your computer at the same time."
The whole thing was more of a publicity stunt (or, God help me: a "social experiment") than a serious effort to improve productivity. However, I guess you could say it achieved its intended purpose, since the story went viral. You can read it here.
A shocking idea
Two years later, Sethi took the idea, expanded it, and raised more than $280,000 on Indiegogo to create an electrical mechanical device built on the same theme.
It's called the Pavlok, it goes for $199, and it's designed to give you an electric shock between 50 and 450 volts, every time you do whatever it is that you want to stop doing. By way of comparison, an electric cattle fence packs a 2,000 to 3,000 volt shock.
The New York Times explains:
"As the name suggests, the ... Pavlok, worn on the wrist, uses the classic theory of Pavlovian conditioning to create a negative association with a specific action. Next time you smoke, bite your nails, or eat junk food, one tap of the device or a smartphone app will deliver a shock."
Just to clarify, you have to manually shock yourself; the device doesn't magically know that you're lighting a cigarette or eating a bag of Doritos.
Lose weight! Quit smoking!
So, the big question: Does it really work?
The company claims it can help you break a bad habit in five days, and, you can find a lot of other customer testimonials on places like Amazon and Facebook. But you won't find many scientists backing it up, reports the Times.
"The most clever thing about this gadget is the name," one doctor told the Times. Although the newspaper did find a nurse practitioner who said she's used it to help five patients quit bad habits.
And some people swear by it: A woman who wants to lose weight shocks herself every time she cheats on her diet, for example. ("I've already lost 18 pounds," she told the Times.) And a 24-year-old man said he used it to stop smoking.
"When I tried to quit before, I still had the craving to smoke," he told the Times. "When I used Pavlok, the cravings completely went away. I don't know if it's science or a placebo effect or what, and I don't really care because it worked."
What do you think? Great idea or get-rich-quick scheme? Let us know in the comments below, and also download the free bonus e-book, The Big Free Book of Success.