Feeling too scheduled


#1

I’m starting to feel too scheduled in my personal life.
I have a bunch of Beeminders related to specific exercises, personal care (keeping my nails from breaking), doing housework, taking medications, and now my oldest has started school there’s a whole bunch of stuff that needs to be done each day for him (eg, his school does swimming three days a week at the moment, so his swimming gear needs to be rinsed and dried each evening and then alternately packed for tomorrow).

And it kind of feels like I spend so much of my personal time ticking off steps.

But there’s nothing I want to stop doing. The specific exercises are massive for my quality of life, my nails were really bothering me before, the housework is all for daily convenience, and of course, I would hate to think of my son missing out on swimming or other school stuff.

But this is not how I envisaged my life, somehow, checking off a whole bunch of little things every day.

Any advice? ideas for reframing?


Approximating spontaenity
#2

Is it the mechanic of entering data that’s bothering you, or the fact that there are lots of little acts you have to do every day? (Or something else?)

If the mechanic of entering data feels too oppressive, could some of your goals could be reframed as autodata integrations? Depending on your level of tech savviness, IFTTT integrations combined with location-based check-ins or a programmable button might be a good option. (None of those are integrations I personally use, so I hope someone who does will chime in). Also, if you’re not using the app already, my experience is that it’s good way to simplify data entry and not feel as tied to a computer.

If what’s bothering you is feeling over-scheduled, I’d suggest taking a break from some or all of your goals, or at least dropping the slopes a bit. For me, that feeling is a warning sign that I’ve over-committed myself. I try to remember that I need to keep my baseline somewhere below my personal 100% effort level. That way when life interferes (as it always will, eventually) I have something extra to give. Think of a recent day when things were going really well for you. Did you have some time at the end of the day where you’d done all your Beeminder tasks and taken care of anything else urgent, without sacrificing sleep or other important parts of your life? If not, a reevaluation of your commitments (Beeminder or otherwise) may be in order.


#3

Thanks for getting back. It’s the lots of little acts.

It’s feeling over-scheduled, but there’s nothing I am willing to cut back on. Well, maybe the nail care, but I really really like the end results of that one. Everything else, if I cut back on it, will have rather immediate consequences, in terms of a few days.

And I do have some time for myself, and some outside activities, and sleep.


#4

That’s a tricky one, and I’ve experienced that myself. I track the various things I do for dental care, and it’s annoying to have to enter data every day - but experience has shown that I’ll abandon them if I don’t track them, no matter how established I think the habit is.

Maybe you could lump several activities together in a morning/afternoon/evening routine, and just track that routine as a whole? I’ve found that the overhead of finding time for each activity separately feels like a lot of effort to do every day. With dental care I give myself one point for each element of my daily routines, and I set the road slope such that I have to get all of the points each day to stay on track. The fine print is that I can’t do silly doubling-up like flossing twice in a row - I have to do them as part of the routine. Would something like that work for your situation?


#5

Maybe. Can you give a bit more detail on how you do that grouping?


#6

Are there any that you would mostly do even without the beeminder push? With beeminder it’s like “I HAVE to do x,y,z or I’m gonna lose cash” even if the reality is “I want to do x,y,z because it improves the quality of my life.” I find that beeminder takes the enjoyment out of some things because I’m doing it so that I don’t lose money, rather than doing it because I like to do it.

I track exercise, meditation, healthy eating, my morning stretching, and my wakeup/sleep times in an excel file. No stick, only carrots. Those are things I do because I want to do them and I don’t really require the fear of losing money to get done 80% of the time. I track them to keep me honest though, because otherwise I’ll trick myself into thinking I’m doing things more than I am. I used to track everything in beeminder, but the more I beeminded, the less I felt like my day was actually Mine. Now it’s like “Oh I didn’t meditate yesterday I should do that.” rather than “Shit, I gotta meditate today or I lose 10 bucks.”

I’m a bit more lax with things I track in excel than I am with things I track in beeminder, but not a lot. The things I track in excel have their own motivating factors and I do enjoy seeing all green boxes when I’m on a roll. These days I only use beeminder to track things that I really significantly drop the ball on if I don’t have an immediate motivator (studying, almost exclusively.) Just something to consider.


#7

Take a step back and try to see the progress you have made. Try to remember how your life was before creating these schedules. When we change habits, after a while we forget our previous state and become accustomed to a new state which sometimes feel like we have been in forever. Also consider taking a day off from everything (and get back 100% the day after)


#8

Thanks for all the effort in your post. There’s a lot of things I do basically each day that I don’t track on Beeminder, eg housework, most personal care (showering, teeth rushing, etc). It just feels like I get up in the morning and work my way through a mental checklist. As the kids go to bed there’s another checklist. And before I go to bed there’s a third checklist. And now my oldest has started school there’s a fourth checklist when I get home from work starting with going through his bag for any notes from school. And then the next day I get up and do it all again. Ugh.


#9

Yeah, thinking back is the issue. My life felt a lot more spontaneous and flowing. Unfortunately that was also when I was pre-pregnancies and several years younger. If I stop doing my hamstring stretches for example, there’s a decent chance my back will freeze up again, which would not help.

And I enjoy the kids in and of themselves, it’s just all the administrative paraphernalia that goes along with them that’s getting me down.


#10

Do your kids have another parent or support person in their life? Can you talk to that person about being over-scheduled, and see if they can help you balance the kids’ needs?


#11

Yes, he handles the daily minutes of paying the bills (we both know the big picture), handling the mail, and the kids’ medical needs (currently nit treatment) and we split the housework. I have no idea how solo parents do it.


#12

Awww, maybe it’s just due to loving Beeminder like it’s my baby (which, well, it is) but I never feel like something is less enjoyable because of being beeminded. Quite the opposite, as @bee has pointed out in a blog post somewhere (?), beeminding leisure activities or hobbies makes them more enjoyable because you remove the guilt that maybe there’s something more productive you ought to be doing. It’s like an airtight excuse for doing the fun thing (“Beeminder says I have to!”).


#13

Hi Tracy,

What about having a IRL cue for each of the things you need to do at the time it should appear in your routine? One thing that I’m currently trying (and so can’t yet confirm is effective) is having an IRL cue for each thing that I want to do, and setting my Beeminder reminders to start at roughly the time that cue usually comes up. So, there’s something I want to do when I first get out of bed, so I have the SMS reminder set for 6:00 (and my Beeminder SMSs have their own sound). If I’m still asleep, my phone’s on Do Not Disturb, so I don’t have to worry about it waking me up, but it’s the first notification I’ll see when I pick up my phone if I’ve forgotten my “Get out of bed and then do X” habit-in-training.

I want to write X words per day at the start of the day, and so I want my cue to be sitting down at the computer for the first time that day… so I’m setting the Beeminder reminder for the time I normally start my work day. The idea for me is for the Beeminder reminder to be my safety net in case I forget, not the cue to get going, and for Beeminder to be the thing that helps me reinforce building the habit. Hopefully one that would survive if I no longer had the big yellow to-do list of my Beeminder gallery.

Basically, I’ve had this problem too, while trying to get back into Beeminding after needing to be on hiatus for a while. It was just a long list of things that I had to run through at the end of the day. But I think trying to figure out when I would have tried to insert the activity into my routine if I weren’t using Beeminder, and then building my Beeminder reminders around that cue (and backing it up, where necessary, with additional alarms and post-it notes around the apartment until it starts to stick) is likely to be way better.

One Benefit of this: There’s an upper limit to the number of things you can have on a recurring to-do list like the one created by just adding more Beeminder goals and making sure you get through them by the end of the day. But if there’s an IRL cue for a goal’s tasks, and the reminders come at the right time to help you remember to start connecting the cue to the habit you want, then Beeminder can reinforce the creation of a habit that you eventually don’t need Beeminder for. Which means you can create a new Beeminder habit. And I think that leads to way more long-term growth than just finding the upper-limit of what the current routine can handle and riding into the sunset with that one list that’s always on the brink of burnout. That way I’m hoping that Beeminder can be a tool for continuous progress, one habit/routine improvement at a time.


#14

I think there’s a lot of good advice here about how to build habits and routines in ways that will be sustainable and not too stressful, but when I hear you talking about a life of checklists I don’t actually hear a problem that can be solved just with habits and routines. My advice is a little more personal, so feel free to ignore it if it seems off base, but: I wonder if you might consider beginning a ridiculous project or three.

Looking at my own beeminder gallery, I have two goals that are about routines – a weekly medication, and flossing – and the other (yikes) thirty-one are for things that aren’t routine. Some of these are still dull life administration stuff, but most are things that keep me in touch with my bigger life priorities: staying in touch with friends and family, making progress toward ambitious career goals, learning new skills. And I have a good handful of weird little one-off projects.

Probably the best example of what I’m talking about here is a goal to read an eighteenth century French novel, in French, despite not really knowing French. When I cross “la nouvelle heloise” off my to-do list, it’s not a checklist item, it’s a baby step toward something that is a little bit silly but also a little bit awesome. (For graduate student definitions of “awesome.”)

There’s always stuff that has to be ongoing, but I like to Beemind by thinking of things I’d like to have done, and then setting the world’s gentlest slope to encourage me to do them. If everything on your list is the kind of thing where you’re just trying to maintain a status quo forever, if makes sense that the checklists feel like they’re overwhelming your real life.

Hence my suggestion to experiment with a ridiculous project, something that it makes you smile to imagine yourself a year from now telling your friends you’ve done it. It probably won’t make your day-to-day life any more spontaneous, but it might make the checklists more rewarding.


#15

chipmanaged, I appreciate the effort you’ve put in. I’m afraid that my issue is that I don’t really want a routine.

Oh, I know I have to have one, but philosophically, my discomfort is over having a routine in the first place. Or be stuck on habits. I had kids so I could have more chaos!


#16

Thanks. I do Toastmasters, which I really enjoy, perhaps I could beemind that.