A flexible way of using Beeminder for productivity

I’ve started using Beeminder in a new way that’s kind of weird, but that is working crazy well for me, so I wanted to share it in case it might be useful to others.

I use Beeminder mainly to get myself to write. In the past I did that the standard way: making a goal of, e.g., 2 hours of work per day. That sometimes helped a little, but it wasn’t very effective. My akrasia around writing was so severe that I could never build up a buffer–I could never get myself to write unless it was an eep day. And then there’d be an eep day when I also had a bunch of other stuff I had to do, and no time or energy to write, and then I’d feel like it was totally unfair that I got penalized. This is irrational of course, but if I could just bloody stick to reasonable plans for the sake of my future well-being, I wouldn’t have needed Beeminder in the first place.

What I do now allows for much more flexibility. Every morning by 10 am, I have to make (in writing) a plan that I commit to completing that day. That’s worth 1 point. Then, I can’t play video games or turn my internet blocker off until I’ve completed that plan; that’s worth another 1 point. (If I don’t complete the plan but also don’t play games or turn the internet blocker off, I still get the point–but I like games and am greatly hindered from procrastinating if I don’t have the internet, so generally this is enough to motivate me to finish). I need 13.5 points per week, so I need 2 points per day but can mess up once every 2 weeks.

This system works for me because it’s flexible: I set a reasonable goal for myself in the morning based on the actual circumstances, so I assign myself less work if I have a lot of other stuff going on or if I really need a break, and more if I have an urgent deadline coming up. While most of me is an idiot, my 9am self is pretty rational about making good, reasonable plans. Of course, before Beeminder, I would set sensible plans for myself in the morning all the time–I just didn’t tend to keep them.

The result is that I’ve been setting significantly higher goals on average than I did before, yet, unlike before, I have been consistently meeting those goals (!!!). I also feel more peaceful and less resentful about writing. It helps that the goal is always one I set for myself that morning, so I know it’s fair. And I never have to worry about anything beyond today once I start working.

One possible downside of the system is that it’s so flexible that there’s really no excuse for ever failing and getting penalized–so if it keeps working well I’ll eventually just have to buy a subscription.


Interesting. So how does this translate into a Beeminder goal? Do you set a specific goal to get so many items done each day?

I have a similar “make a list” beeminder system, although I have it as a specific individual goal (with a slope of 1 per day) and I require that the list be made the night before, when I’m still in far-view – by the morning, I’m too near-view to assign myself work. My “actually do the list” goal has a slope of 6/7 per week, so I can mess up once a week; this has worked reasonably well for me for over a year now.


@qualiyahoo said the goal was 13.5 points per week which allowed for one mistake every 2 weeks. I guess by including weekends, it is good for creating habits. Since there are no restrictions on what goes into to the plan, a plan on the weekend could be as simple as making the bed or doing some simple chore.

For someone who makes good daily plans but has trouble carrying them out, this seems really clever to me. I think others have written about goals related to completing a daily list of 2-3 “must do” tasks. This appears to be similar, but more flexible. Also, I’m sure some people are likely to be more motivated by a “plan” than a “list”.

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After I posted this, I read about the system of having a daily “must-do” task, and yeah, that is quite similar. But I need something more flexible than that; there’s no set number of must-do tasks. I allow my plan to be “Take the day off; you’re done already,” if, at 9am, I really think I need the day off, but on other days, the plan will be “Write for 5 hours” or a list of 8 different things.

Similar, but also very different. I like it.