Bear with me for a moment while I talk you through a hypothetical situation.
You’re in the middle of a pandemic, and you realize you need to take better care of your mental or physical health. You decide to start doing something that’s really good for you. Maybe you’re pledging to walk more to get a little bit more fit and a little bit less stressed. Or you want to keep a gratitude journal so that you have to focus on good stuff at least once a day. Or you want to stop idly scrolling through Facebook so much because it ends up making you super, super cranky. You buckle down and commit to your change! It starts out great. You keep it up for a week or two, but then your attention gets drawn somewhere else (murder hornets, perhaps), or you’re just SO TIRED at the end of the day that you convince yourself that it’s okay to skip a day. But those skip days start piling up until soon enough, you’re not so much Skipping a Day as you’re Not Doing The Thing Anymore.
Does this sound familiar?
There’s evidence all around us at large and small scales that we humans are wired to pay attention to the short term instead of the long term, especially when the changes that need to happen are the accumulation of lots of little individual decisions, day after day. Simply put, if the consequences of us doing or not doing something is cumulative and way off in the future, it’s hard to convince our little short-term minded lizard brains that that we need to stay committed. Especially if we’re tired, stressed, worried, and hyper-focused on meeting our short term needs. Say, in a pandemic.
But what if you could invent a way to make that long-term pain hurt just a little bit if you don’t Do The Thing you want to change? What if you could really make a commitment to yourself so that you DO stick to the goal that your happy, relaxed, weekend self wants you to do but your tired, stressed, weekday self has some strong opinions against?
The geniuses at Beeminder have invented an app that does exactly this. You can create just about any kind of goal, both goals to ‘do less’ of something and goals to ‘do more’ of something. You can enter the data yourself or use one of their many integrations to automatically enter your data. They graph all your goals so you can see your progress. They notify you when you’re about to derail on a goal. And (here’s the sting), when you fall off the path of meeting your goal, you pay them a fee of your choosing in the goal options.
Yes, you pay them money if you don’t stay on track to meet your goal. It can be anywhere from $1 to… well, a lot of dollars, if it’s something for which you REALLY, REALLY need major consequences.
Now, they’re not jerks about it. When you derail they send an email to make sure it wasn’t a glitch, or even a user issue like “my Fitbit died today” or “I caught a stomach bug and haven’t left the bathroom in 2 days.” If it was a glitch or something truly unavoidable, you won’t be on the hook (unless you’ve marked the special ‘weasel-proof’ box).
Maybe you’re leery of signing up to pay a stranger money for your moments of laziness. I know I was when I first started. But the threat of derailing really has kept me on my toes over the years. It’s worth every penny I’ve paid in derailments to keep me on track and organized for the things that otherwise, I absolutely wouldn’t do.
Here’s a few of the goals I’ve achieved with Beeminder:
- Completing language lessons in Duolingo for the year leading up to a vacation
- Finally keeping a daily journal, logging 120K words since August 2018
- Writing one item per day in a gratitude journal
- Getting a minimum number of steps on my Fitbit
- Reading a minimum number of articles per day in my Pocket account
- Limiting the number of hours per week I spend on Facebook or playing video games
Beeminder has a great introductory video which gives a more detailed overview, and you can see the other products they integrate with. If you need help figuring out how to quantify a goal or whether Beeminder might work for you, I’d love to give you a hand or you can reach out to their support team.
Stay safe and healthy out there!
If a friend forwarded this message to you, you can sign up for the Move More 2020 Anti-Challenge newsletter here!
Thanks again to @pjpants for promoting Beeminder to her audience! It’s often a tough sell with normal people (“why wouldn’t I just lie?”, etc) but presumably the Datasmithing audience is not normal people, so hopefully some were convinced!