MindCORE Writing Room

indCORE Writing Room offers our faculty and affiliates dedicated space, time, and structure for high-productivity work. The Writing Room is for any project requiring focused work (not just writing!), and we welcome any undergraduate or graduate students, staff, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and other Penn affiliates.

Inspired by the Graduate Student Center’s Dissertation Bootcamp, the MindCORE Writing Room utilizes behavioral change research done by Angela DuckworthKatherine Milkman, and others to facilitate a space of accountability for long-term writing and work projects.

Recent findings suggest “situational strategies” for self-control (in which a person changes their environment or circumstances to better focus on their goals) are generally more successful than solely relying on oneself to resist temptation.3 (See more on strategies and research below) The MindCORE Writing Room offers the chance to change the situation by providing accountability and commitment devices, as described below.


Summer 2022 Writing Room

*Register HERE*

Participants who register for the Summer 2022 Writing Room are welcome to use the Writing Room (Stephen A. Levin Bldg, Room 250), open every Thursday morning from 8am-1pm from June 2 to July 28. Participants can create their own schedules and attend as helpful.

  • Snacks & Coffee provided: MindCORE will provide snacks, coffee, & tea in the 3rd floor kitchen of Levin – food & coffee are grab-and-go only and are NOT allowed in the room itself
  • Commitment Devices: Additionally, the Writing Room offers structure for the following three research-backed commitment devices (optional)
  • COVID Safety: MindCORE will adhere to current campus COVID guidelines at all times. If masks are not required in campus work spaces, participants are not required to mask, but are asked to do so if they may have had an exposure. The room set-up allows for spacing and extra ventilation will be provided.

Motivation Partners

Research shows that partnering with another for progress check-ins can utilize social pressure for increased motivation.1

You can request a motivation partner upon registering for the Writing Room. MindCORE will match individuals to connect during the Writing Room or virtually via video chat, phone, or email on a rolling basis.

We also suggest the following guidelines for effective partnerships:

  • Focus on being constructive & celebrating accomplishments–leave judgment out!
  • Make your check-ins a priority
  • Try making listing action items at the end of each check-in to complete before the next one
  • Focus on goals that are PACT (Possible, Actionable, Clear, & Time-bound)


Goal Worksheet

Fill out this worksheet to utilize the following strategies to accomplish you goal(s)2:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Implementation Intentions
  • Commitment device

Goal setting involves creating mental representations of what you would like to accomplish and making a plan for implementation intentions (forming “if, then” statements to plan the steps you’ll take to achieve your goal).2 Learn more about these strategies below!


Money Pledge

A money pledge involves setting aside money to be returned only upon the completion of the goal as a self-imposed punishment.2,7. To use the money pledge strategy, please email pennmindcore@sas.upenn.edu for more information.



  1. No cell phone or social media use
  2. No talking (unless necessary, at low volume)
  3. No eating inside the Writing Room (snacks & coffee/tea may be consumed in the kitchen).
  4. Respect the space and those around you.
  5. Masks must be work when campus regulations require them.

 Please email pennmindcore@sas.upenn.edu with any questions


To learn more about what behavioral research suggests for productivity and motivation, please explore the following strategies below.

Research: Strategies for Success



Alter your environment to change your behavior2,3


Accountability Partners1: increases motivation by creating social consequences for failing to achieve your goal(s) (ie disappointing your partner, having to reveal your failure). 

Commitment Devices: decreases unwanted behaviors by reducing the options available to you (eg putting money on the line, deleting a distracting app).

Temptation Bundling: increases motivation by coupling fun or pleasurable activities with goal-oriented behaviors (eg listening to your favorite podcast only while exercising).

Situation Modification: decreases unwanted behaviors by removing the temptations out of view (eg working in a room without a TV or your phone).


Change the way you think to make goal-oriented behaviors more appealing and temptations less so2


Fresh Start Framing: increases motivation by creating a start for a new cycle to help you feel less connected to past failures and boost your confidence (eg New Year’s resolutions, emphasizing each month as a fresh start).

Self-Licensing Prevention: decreases unwanted behaviors by avoiding tempting choices in the present because you think you’ll be more self-controlled in the future (eg having a piece of cake now because you think you’ll start the diet tomorrow).

Self-monitoring: increases motivation by consistently observing your own behavior patterns & progress towards a goal (eg keeping track of how many hours you’ve spent on a project).

Goal Setting & Planning: increases motivation by directing your attention and energy towards a goal (making failure feel more like a loss) & planning specifically how to attain it (eg filling out a worksheet like this one).

Implementation Intentions: decreases unwanted behaviors by committing ahead of time to actions to overcome obstacles to your goal through “if-then” statements (eg “If I find myself wasting time on social media, then I will immediately close it and go back to work”) – thinking about how to problem-solve ahead of time takes away the stress of making the decision in the moment!

Emergency Reserves4: increases motivation after failure by allowing a set amount of allowances to try again (eg you have 2 extra days a month to go to the gym if you get off your schedule) – this increases the perception of goal-attainability and persistence after set-backs.

Citations at bottom of page.


  1. Rogers, T., Milkman, K. L., & Volpp, K. G. (2014). Commitment Devices. Jama, 311(20), 2065. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.3485
  2. Duckworth, A. L., Milkman, K. L., & Laibson, D. (2018). Beyond Willpower: Strategies for Reducing Failures of Self-Control. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(3), 102-129. doi:10.1177/1529100618821893
  3. Duckworth, A. L., Gendler, T. S., & Gross, J. J. (2016). Situational Strategies for Self-Control. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(1), 35-55. doi:10.1177/1745691615623247 (4)
  4. Sharif, M. A., & Shu, S. B. (2019). Nudging persistence after failure through emergency reserves. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2019.01.004
  5. Hofmann, W., Vohs, K., Forster, G., & Baumeister, R. (2011). Everyday temptations: An experience sampling study on how people control their desires. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e634112013-146
  6. Karlan, D., Mcconnell, M., Mullainathan, S., & Zinman, J. (2010). Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving. doi:10.3386/w16205
  7. Bryan, G., Karlan, D., & Nelson, S. (2010). Commitment Devices. Annual Review of Economics, 2(1), 671-698. doi:10.1146/annurev.economics.102308.124324