Beeminiding productivity?

I am just starting a period of deliberate unemployment, with the goal of working on a bunch of things and doing some self-study.

Historically when I’ve done this it’s gone… less than well, and I’ve tended to let things drift.

I would like to use beeminder to make sure that I don’t do that again. My current plan is a tagtime powered goal where I tag time as simply “productive” (the terms of what counts as productive are precisely defined), but I was wondering if anyone else had any experiences around this sort of thing and what had worked/not worked for you.

(If you care, here is a post about some stuff I’m planning to work on, but it is purely descriptive of my current thoughts rather than intended as a precommitment)


I do the inverse of your productive goal – – where I tag pings as “smk” (as in “smack, get back to work”) if TagTime catches me distracted from what I wanted to be doing. It’s a little too fuzzy a criterion (I’m glad to hear you have precisely defined criteria for yours) but it’s a valuable nudge in the right direction with no real overhead since I’m already using TagTime.

And then I have project-specific do-more goals, mainly (PSA: When I derail on that the money goes to a user and I currently have a 3% chance 1% chance (ping just now!) of derailing if I stay completely focused till midnight. Having beemergencies on TagTime-based goals is stressful and unnerving and I love it because it forces focus so well. See also

@bee’s best trick for beeminding productivity is tocks, which works because it automatically posts the intended task to our dev hipchat channel and if TagTime catches you distracted before you’re done it sends a -2 to Beeminder. Other people seem to beemind pomodoros by less elaborate means.

Ooh. Pomodoros. Good point! I forgot about Pomodoros.

I don’t really want to the smacks thing because I’m not going to have well defined working hours in which I “should” be doing work, but I might try the tocks or something similar for specifically beeminding distraction during pomodoros. I’ll see if that’s actually a major problem - historically the problem has been getting around to it rather than getting distracted while I’ve got around to it.


I actually found that more specific goals work well for me when using TagTime in conjunction with Beeminder since it also acts as a nice ToDo list in addition to tracking time-spent.

To implement this, I think of a set of well-defined tasks that have reasonable continuity (i.e. they will take more than a few weeks to finish), assign a weekly number of hours to them and then link them to TagTime tags using the Android app. Combined with home screen widgets, it works as a very nice todo list, also tracking how much time I spend on each.

As an example, I have goals for my teaching: ceng787, ceng424, ceng336, academic tasks: reading, projects, academic, icar2015 (conference) and a goal for beeminder work. I have associated tags, which automatically enter datapoints from within the app. This setup has been working well recently.


Like @saranli, I use TagTime goals for well-defined, long-running, real-world projects, such as preparing for upcoming conferences. I suspect that the more arbitrary your choice of time commitment, the less suitable TagTime is for tracking it.

Because it’s stochastic, emergency days on TagTime goals are qualitatively different than emergency days on most ‘do more’ goals. It’ll either suit your psychology or not; you can attempt to catch those pings early in the day, but there’s ever-increasing risk of derailment, worse if you don’t keep 100% focus on the task.

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I have in the end archived my productive goal (I’m still on the hook for it, but it has > 7 days buffer in it so shrug) as it was indeed a bit too generic - it didn’t really force me to work on the things I actually should be working on. I’ve split it into two goals which don’t have full coverage of what was in the productive goal but should each be things I do more of. We’ll see how that goes.