Max's beeminder journal


Like a few other forum members, I have decided to start a beeminder journal.
I’ve binged on beeminder a few times in the past and each time I would end up taking on too much and then, when I could take the pressure no longer, throwing my hands in the air and letting everything derail at once.

(“This time” he said “things will be different”)

A few guidlines I gave myself to avoid making the same mistakes again are:

Don’t beemind things you don’t need to
A hard and relatively unforgiving system like beeminder works great for creating external motivation, but this (for me) reduces my intrinsic motivation on the long term. I want to read, and I do read every day, so beeminding reading is not necessary of helpful. Writing is a perfect beeminder goal however, since while I want to have written, my mind for some reason abhors the idea of actually sitting down and shooting out 400 words a day. Beeminder to the rescue.

Don’t make the goal too hard
When setting the goal, I always imagine the perfect day: full of motivation and rich in free time. This means that I fail to meet this standard as soon as the inevitable imperfect day comes around.
To use the example of writing again, when I first started the goal, 800 words a day felt easy, since I had just started and had lots of ideas ready to go. A few weeks later it turned out that 800 was going to be possible, but exhausting. 400 was a much better sized goal, even if it feels embarassingly small. You can also do more and retroratchet!
I have some goals designed according to the book “Mini habits”: make sure you do the bare minimum every day, to create a solid habit, remembering that you can always exceed the tiny goal if you feel able.

Don’t add too many new goals at once
When getting back into beeminder after a break, I want to beemind absolutely everything. I have a list of ideas in a document of things I should be doing, that I should be doing, that if only I was doing them everyday, I would be happier/healthier/hricher. Unfortunately I find too many goals becomes unmanageable and stresfull, causing me eventually to break down and mass derail.

So, my goal with this journal is two-fold.

A. Public accountability. Make it harder for me to quit beeminder, more embarassing if I fail my goals.

B. Make me more mindful of the goals I add. By writing about what goes well, what goes badly, and why I choose to add each goal, I hope to avoid the above mistakes. My hard rule will be: only one new goal each month. Each month I will choose one of the goals I want to try. At the end of the month I can kill it if I don’t think it was worth the effort, or continue if it proved useful. The bar for ‘continue’ will be high, to avoid an ever growing number of things to do each day.

I will now immediately break the rule by creating two new goals today:

Meta Goal: To update this journal once a week
What? Write an update in this journal about how the experiment is going, any changes to my goals, etc.
Why? To make sure I stick with experiment, which should help stick with beeminder long term, which in that past has always been very beneficial.
How much? One post a week. Doesn’t matter how short or long.

January New Goal: Get rid of one object every day
What? Every day, I will put one possesion in either the bin or a box to be donated
Why? We have too much stuff, it makes me unhappy to look at, harder to clean up the house, harder to find things. I have had bouts of getting rid of things in the past, but a sustained process should keep our possessions under control, and reduce them down to a manageable level. At worst, I’m 30 posessions lighter by the end of the month!
How much? At least one a day, where ‘one’ might be a pair of socks, or a piece of furniture, or a broken bowl.

Next update in 7 days or less


regarding stuff, are you aware of the getting things done method?


I am, although my ‘stuff’ goal is to get rid of physical objects, not tasks! I have a whole other thing going on for those.


Weekly update:

My ‘reduce number of possessions’ goal has been going well. There has been quite a lot of low-hanging fruit, and I have been rummaging around at the end of most days and finding something that I should get rid of. This has made the goal somewhat unexciting, but I am hoping that it will become more interesting as the number of obvious things to get rid of reduces.

I have a box in our bedroom where everything is going for now. A jumper will be turned into a kindle case, some things might be donated, and others thrown out (like a horrible dead USB cable that I still try every X months when looking for the one that works)

Existing Goals:

To keep the number of goals under control, I will try and reevaluate my current goals each month, removing any that are no longer useful.

A breakdown of my existing goals is below:


I have an IFTTT button that sends the current hour when I click it. The goal is a do-less goal. The result is that I need to get up at 6:30 on week days and 8am on weekends to prevent myself from going over. I am only allowed to hit the button once I am standing up, out of bed, to prevent lying in bed for half an hour after waking, or hitting snooze and going back to sleep.

This is quite a new goal, but so far, this has been working great, and I have not been wasting time lying in bed on weekday mornings.

working fine, keep for now


This goal is to write a daily plan in the morning of each work day, blocking out time for tasks, something like this:

Especially on days when I am working from home, I have found this, combined with pomodoros, to be excellent at keeping me productive. Non-productive time like meetings, lunch, email reading etc. is all planned in, so I can be confident that I will get the important stuff done before the end of the day. I write the initial plan in blue, then make updates in red where necessary. Most days are covered in red, but it is still much better than no plan at all. This has not quite become a habit yet, so I will keep the goal for now.

not yet a habit, keep for now


The number of pomodoros I get done each day. This is set at a (depressingly) low level of 6/day. I only run a pomodoro when I am doing deep focused work, so it does not count emails, talking to people, meetings, small bits of reactive work etc. A day where I do 10 pomodoros is a very productive day. This has been amazing at helping me focus on tasks despite constant distractions in the office.

working great, keep for now


This is my central personal goal right now. It requires that I write 400 words each day on my novel. I have made quite a few changes to make this go more smoothly in the last month, which I may talk about in the next update!

This has been amazing, I am able to push out 400+ words a day, without wasting time on “research”, “editing” or other procrastinatory behaviours. The end result will probably be very rough, at which point I will create an editing goal. (I am not yet certain what form that will take, I may do a diff each day and count the number of lines changed? Or I could count the number of scenes marked as final-draft, etc.)

working great, keep until book complete!


The number of times a week I do not eat out at lunch. It is a big money sink, and so very easy to avoid by preparing something the day before. I have great trouble with this goal, multiple times I have made a sandwich and left it on the table at home. This one annoys me because I am so bad at it, so I am definitely keeping it.

good for me, keeping until a habit forms!


Exactly this:

If there is a task that I have been putting off, the mustdo goal gets it done. For hard ones I might leave it on there, festering for a day or two, but as the goal becomes blue…then orange, the task does in fact get done. Brilliant, awesome goal.

love this, keeping forever


Makes sure that every morning I consume my vitamins. Currently this is: 5000iu of vitamin D, 3g of creatine, 1000mcg of B12. This has been easy, but without it I would probably forget most days. I think this is almost a habit, and I could maybe consider removing it in another few months, but I am not quite ready yet.

still need this for a while, keeping for another month


Since leaving the country, I have found some aspects of my mandarin level getting worse. Comprehension is fine, day-to-day conversational is fine, but I find myself talking using simpler vocabulary and less complex grammar. The very clear reason is that I did not allow myself to read English books for a number of years while I was still learning the language, so I was constantly exposed to the complex grammar and vocabulary of books. Now that I am reading English books again, I use Chinese mostly just when watching TV or talking to people.

To prevent myself slowly starting to sound more and more like a five year old when I talk in Mandarin, this is a mini goal to read something, anything in Chinese every day. This could be a page of a book, a single paragraph of an article, a forum post, etc. (skype/social media doesn’t count, too conversational!)

Recently my kindle broke, and I only had Chinese paper books at hand, so this task has become an automatic pass every day as I read through this book. Once I have moved back onto an English book, it should keep me reading however.

I am very happy with this, and considering adding a similar goal for French, but I think that would be a bit much right now, maybe in a a few months once the writing goal is complete.

love this, keeping forever

Overall I am happy with all these current goals, there is nothing in there that I would be willing to lose right now.

Next update in a week!


Weekly Update

The ‘stuff’ goal is still alive. It is becoming harder to find things, but I am still happy to be getting rid of excess possessions. It has made me realize how little of the objects in the house are really ‘mine’. I may have to begin involving everyone to be able to continue the goal long term, although I should still have months worth of my own items to go!

The ‘wake’ goal has been archived. The difference in my wake times on each day made it un-obvious what time I needed to be waking up to ensure the goal stayed on target. I am considering replacing it with a new goal where I would enter the number of minutes after my planned wake time (with the planned time entered in the comment for the previous data point), this should be more flexible. The goal is to be called ‘getup’

I have scheduled a two week pause in my ‘writing’ goal. This is because I am close to the end of my first draft, and need badly to go back and rewrite part of the story to make them consistent with changes I made along the way. The plan is to make a new ‘edit’ goal, based upon number of lines changed or similar, and run that during the two week pause.

I have retroratcheded vitamins, to get rid of a large buffer.


I have been thinking a lot of friction recently. Trying to align it to help me complete my goals each day.

Writing has been one example of this. When first starting on the novel I was able to write hundreds of words a day with no effort. Once the initial passion wore off, I slowed down. I would find myself procrastinating, each hour spent writing would involve only twenty minutes of actual putting-down-words. The rest of the time went to ‘research’ (ie. reading wikipedia).
The way I found to align the friction to my goal was… writing on my phone! I am writing this post on my phone as well. I have a bluetooth keyboard and prop the phone up against something at a suitable height.

There is now lots of friction if I want to google something, since I have to grab the phone, change app, etc.
There is little friction if I want to write, since I can do it anywhere, instantly, without getting the computer set up. It also removes any excuses I might have about writing away from home. My office is any surface I can balance a phone on!

A few other places where I have tried to reduce friction are:

  • automating collating a draft each day and recording the word-count for the writing goal
  • writing on phone to avoid excuses and distractions
  • using evernote so I can write everwhere, stays in sync, is in the same place as my notes, etc.
  • ensuring I always have a good supply of content (books, pocket articles) ready-saved for my Chinese reading goal
  • make vitamins easy to take (one scoop, one vitamin D pill, one B12 pill, same time, in coffee, every day)
  • putting a box in the bedroom where I can just chuck things for the stuff goal, not having to worry about how to get rid of it right away (donate, recycle, rubbish, give away).

In many cases it seems like a tiny insignificant change, but on the days where it is really hard to get started, even a tiny bump in the road is enough to stop you doing anything at all toward your goals that day.

Next update in a week!