Beeminder Forum

Between Lion and Ladybird, or Figuring Out What Works


Thank you for posting this!

I struggle a lot with wanting to do too many different things. This includes work related stuff, spending time with friends and family, changing the world, etc. I’ve burned myself out frequently, and am trying to be better about it. I hit my head last September and that forced me to slow down and reflect on how to build my habits in a more sustainable way (I gave a talk about this if anyone is curious.)

My approach has been to use the dailies feature on Habitica for little habits I commit to doing each day. Habitica is more forgiving than Beeminder, so if I feel like I have a good reason to not do the thing I don’t do it. I’m not allowed to add more things until the habit is blue (about 12 days with perfect compliance, more if not). I use beeminder for tasks that don’t need to be done daily, require better tracking, and/or are tasks where I need a kick in the pants to do them (pomodoros on my PhD project is a good example).

This has been working pretty well for me. I’m good at not adding new things compulsively. The hard part I’ve been facing lately is feeling bad about not doing more things. Like there is something wrong with me because I find my current level of commitments to be as stressful as I can handle. That’s a hard thing for me to accept and something I’m working on. It is hard to break the mindset that less may be the right thing to do, even when I feel like I’m letting myself or someone else down (which I’m probably not actually, but it certainly can feel that way.)


That’s a really useful suggestion, actually. I’ve tried various things in the past for lighter commitments, but perhaps Habitica is the one that will allow me to stay on track without too much ‘stick’. Thank you.


I hope it works for you! Would be interesting to hear what you think if/when you try it out.

For me, Habitica is a good amount of stick for little habits. The penalty of not doing a daily (losing HP) was less of a motivator for me than potentially damaging my party members during quests. At first this was so motivating that I’d always do dailies if my party’s HP was on the line, but now it has settled down to the point where if I really don’t want to do something or think I shouldn’t because of self-care, I won’t and I’ll let my party take the damage. I am also liberal about using the “inn” feature, where I can still check off dailies while not taking any damage. I’ll use it if I’m on vacation, sick, or just need a break but want to keep track if I do complete things.


You might like this:


@strickvl, thanks for sharing! This is a really helpful way of thinking about things. In retrospect, a lot of my journey with beeminder can be seen as trying to converge on the right balance between lion and ladybird.

@dreev, I actually hate the idea of using Beeminder as a nannybot that tells me what to do every minute (though as @adamwolf says, it is definitely interesting seeing the many different ways people use Beeminder, and there’s obviously no one “right” way). Maybe I’m just misunderstanding what you have in mind, but for me, (1) my schedule is too variable to be able to set up daily “waterfalls” that actually work consistently, and more importantly (2) it seems to remove the possibility of serendipity and making space for others. For example, if one of my (life, not necessarily beeminder) goals is to be a good mentor to my students, then sometimes that means I need to drop what I was planning to do for the next hour and talk to a student about a crisis. I cannot make a Beeminder goal to “spend more time being a good mentor” (well, sure, there are some aspects of it that I could beemind). And when something like that comes up I want the flexibility to be able to respond, without having to think “is it worth $90 for me to talk to this student right now”.

Maybe the answer is that I should try to keep all my goals blue or green to allow me that flexibility — and I do indeed try to do that to some extent. But then beeminder isn’t really functioning as a minute-by-minute nannybot anymore.

Banking progress across goals

I have exactly the same experience like yours. And even more. My variability due to serendipity will be sometimes for more than a few hours delay, to the extent that I have to increase a task time into twice or three times what is Beeminder asking me to do in a day, but then I have to omit other tasks which of course Beeminder will not allow me to do.

Today for example, I had the energy to do the most boring/important task twice the time for what is allocated by my daily schedule. I cannot do that usually, unless I get super good mood and energy. I am super happy to throw away less important tasks today and do this twice. The problem is I cannot predict my mood and energy unless I start with the task.

Now how can a person like me who is super variable in his daily schedule to use Beeminder? The solution is: I have invented a bank where I can exchange this currency with that. I put in the bank +4 hours for task 1 (since I did 4 hours extra of task1 ) and put -4 hours of task 2 in the bank (since I did 4 hours less from task2). Beeminder will not know all of this and task 1 and 2 will be Beeminded just like any other day. Because, if I enter the data correctly in beeminder, I will be punished because I did super well today, much more better than my usual daily routine.

Now, is this cheating? Certainly I don’t feel it like that. On the contrary, I am super happy that I got the energy today to do more from task1 even on the expense of deleting the less important task 2 from today. There will be a day in the future where I feel very low in energy, that I need the favor that I have done for myself today. And what I had put in the bank (the +4hr of task1), I will borrow it and will not do task1 and do more from the easier task2 by +4hr, and return to equilibrium.

Actually, this is the only way that Beeminder worked for me. For such users with variable, unpredictable daily routine, it is impossible to use Beeminder. I speculate that such people will be turned off once they know the rules of Beeminder and never return back.

I wished if there is way to make Beeminder better for all users. To be flexible in the settings to make it work for people like us. Normal users with fixed daily schedule can turn off such settings and we can use that flexibility. This is a very conscious choice. It is not akrasia. It is the contract from the beginning, just like when I choose the pledge amount and the daily amount of the task when I create the goal settings.

Probably this is a related idea that @chelsea and I strongly support. And to my surprise, now I have opened the thread, and saw @byorgey the 1st one replied “that is a great idea”.

It is not a coincidence the same users are asking for such remedies to Beeminder in a way or another. We feel Beeminder should be able to attract such personalities as well. This is not cheating. It is just rearranging tasks in a very conscious way for people where tasks are depending on serendipity and energy.

Just a note for anybody thinks that using the bank method means that I cannot be derailed in any of my tasks.
That is not the case. I have been derailed many times. Actually, I cannot put in the bank a -4 hours unless I put +4 hours in another task in the same day. The total sum should be >= 0. So this will be instead of rearranging tasks within the same day (Beeminder allows same day arrangements if “waterfalls” are not used), it will be rearranging within a week or within a month which I need to do, due to serendipity (which I am happy to embrace and catch the opportunity if it happens).

This is a major issue for people like me. Any suggestion/comment is highly appreciated.
I have been for years trying to find a better way, and feeling the pain of those who would love to use a commitment device like Beeminder, but because of their flexible daily schedule they cannot be here.

Any idea what features to add to Beeminder to attract such users?

Banking progress across goals

Just to enforce my statement further, that there are a good proportion of productive people who cannot be fixed on a rigid schedule like beeminder currently works, I’ll give you an example of a well known productivity blogger since he was at MIT and now a professor, Cal Newport. Particularly in this post titled “Deep Habits: Three Recent Daily Plans” he states:

My goal, of course, is not to make a rigid plan I must follow no matter what. Like most people, my schedule often shifts as the day unfolds. The key, instead, is to make sure that I am intentional about what I do with my time, and don’t allow myself to drift along in a haze of reactive, inbox-driven busyness tempered with mindless surfing.

I really encourage to read this excellent post, since it does have a lot of interesting insights. But let me give a couple of other paragraphs if you have no time:

The columns growing to the right side are rewrites that I made throughout the day as my plan changed. Someone stopped by my office during the 12:30 block to discuss a research problem, which shifted the length of my 1:30 task block. But even that shift was not enough as that block ended up lasting until 3 — requiring yet another rewrite of the plan.

and this:

The grayed out blocks that follow involve me taking my youngest son to a doctor’s appointment — a disruptive task from a scheduling perspective. But notice how my use of daily planning allows me to salvage every ounce of productivity from the day. Not only did I get a lot done before I left, but on arriving at campus, I was ready to inline core tasks into the down periods that arose during my regularly scheduled office hours.

You can see, how it is a must to change the schedule at the same day for most people. I doubt Beeminder in its current way will work for Cal Newport and most other people like him!

P.S.: By the way, for productivity lovers, skim the other posts as well and choose what grabs your attention. This blog has a lot of interesting ideas.


Thanks. And I remember seeing your video when it first came out. Really found it useful. I’ll give Habitica a try.


Looking at the number of goals I have, I would fall into the lion category. I have quickly become a believer in beeminding all the things! However, if I look at the rates on most of my goals, they’re set quite conservatively and I have very little trouble maintaining most of them, which makes me seem much more like a ladybird. I’ve been gradually increasing my lion-ness in that I’m cranking up a few goals, but still doing it very conservatively.

One of my concerns with beeminder has always been overwhelming myself and burning out, so, oddly enough, I am using beeminder to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here’s what I mean: The more I track with beeminder, the more I know about how I spend my time and what my priorities really are. Therefore, I can use that information to adjust my goals and rates in a way that is appropriate and helpful, rather than continually cranking them up until my internal lion can’t take it any more. Any time I notice something that is out of balance in my life, if I am tracking it with beeminder I can adjust my goal to force me to return to balance. If I’m not tracking it with beeminder, my first impulse is to figure out a metric I can track. In fact, I’m currently finding myself unable to cope with my emotionally demanding job, and trying to figure out a metric to track specifically for self-care.

Does this make me a lion or a ladybird? @dreev came up with the phrase “lion-like ladybirding” when I was talking to him about it, and that sounds right to me. Beeminder allows me to use my lion-like tendencies to force myself into being a ladybird, which makes me overall a happier and more awesome person. So, if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by beeminder goals, the solution is obviously to just beemind more things! :slight_smile:


This is what I originally thought when I started using Beeminder, and have now found it to be the exact opposite! Beeminder has provided me with some of the only consistency I have. Each of my days are generally dedicated to one of three priorities, and all are prone to interruption and variability. Doing one of those things means that I generally can’t do the others that day, or can only do a very little. This used to leave me feeling like I was always neglecting something. Using beeminder to track and regulate how much time I’m spending on each of those three major things on a weekly basis has given me a much more realistic perspective on how much I’m getting done. Granted, in order to make this work I keep those goals set at a minimum rate.

I also beemind a whole bunch of less time-consuming metrics, and have found that as long as I start with a conservative rate I am generally able to find the time to accomplish what I set out to accomplish, although on an erratic schedule. I look at most of my rates as weeklies, not dailies, which gives me enough flexibility to manage the variability. I’ve been gradually increasing rates on those goals and surprised by how much more I can do than originally thought.

For me, beeminding lots of things allows me to recognize where my time goes, what my priorities are, and how to make what I want and need to do happen.


I explicitly use Beeminder to help me balance the different parts of my life the way I want to when I’m thinking about them, not when I’m all engrossed in one of them.


I agree with you on this to some extent. I try very much to start with reasonable / small goals, but I guess once I’ve started a goal, it’s easy to start tweaking and dialling the roads to a rate that I wouldn’t normally consider. Part of the problem is that it’s sometimes hard to see the bees for the trees, or it’s hard to calculate what other BM goals will be going on at point X or Y in the future, so planning how multiple goals interact takes a bit of thought.


That’s a good idea to deal with a variable, unpredictable daily routine. However, I feel that there is one advantage of using the bank method with higher beeminder rates over the minimum rates method that allows for a weekly task flexibility. There will be a flexible motivation to settle down the negative values in the bank in the future. And on top of that, you do not have the side effect of relaxing with a minimum rate .

Basically the bank method will allow to push you with a relatively higher rate to do a better job in your task, but at the same time will give room for flexibility when you need it. Moreover, what you have borrowed from the bank, will still be counted in a negative balance and will bug you, until you can restore it to 0 but in a very flexible way at any day in the future. Also tracking what had been done is simply the final value in the beeminder graph + the bank value (whether it is positive or negative).

In sum, you got the tracking, the flexibility and the pushing effect of a higher rate.


I don’t think that I could make the bank method work in my situation, but I find it intriguing.

For me, I have no planned schedule for how long I will spend on each task on a given day. So, I can’t figure out how I would determine what counts as extra time spent, or which task I would deduct from to account for that extra. I suppose I could call the amount of unnecessary buffer I add to my beeminder goal extra, but in some cases huge buffers are a necessity for me because I work in chunky time and figuring out what is above and beyond for each goal would get onerous. And that doesn’t solve the problem of deciding which task should get the negative time.

If I find that I need to give myself an extra push to do more of something I’ll dial up the rate on that task and sometimes balance it out with decreasing the rate on something else. But I can get frustrated that I have to wait a week for the higher rate to take effect if what I need is a push right now. In that case, having a negative balance in a bank of some kind would be a very useful motivator.


Agreed! I spend a kind of embarrassing amount of time figuring out how to adjust my goals and rates. One thing that has helped me is to (mostly) stick to a rule that I can’t increase more than one goal rate per week, and if I’m making a significant increase I need to also decrease a goal somewhere. Which is very helpful with figuring out priorities! (i.e. what am I willing to do less of in order to do more of this?)

And using the Beeminder calendar from this thread was helpful. I actually ended up getting overwhelmed with having all my goals on my calendar, so I started using IFTTT to add an event to my calendar when specific goals whose deadlines are most important are approaching, and that has worked really well for me.


I’m pretty sure that if you increase the rate of the road and then retroratchet the new rate will take effect immediately. Unfortunately, it won’t let you downdial another goal to compensate.


The effect you described exists but the new rate is only taking effect sooner by the number of days by which you retroratchet. (in akrasia horizon minus the number of days by which the buffer was cut)
However, if it is only possible to maintain some buffer (if at all the person is motivated to do something if it is not an emergency day), if the buffer is more than the akrasia horizon, in a way the new rate takes effect immediately (in terms of the numbers beeminder tells us we need to do to push the goal one day further). I try to keep all my goals at 10+ days, that is, I consider “10” to be the emergency day. This removes some of the motivating stinginess… But in terms of applying the rate immediately, this is most useful.


I have a beeminder goal to do a daily plan each workday and another one to “do 3 things” each working day from that plan.
For me, these combine to keep me working, while also giving a lot of flexibility as to what I do.

I have a bunch of specific daily goals too, but they’re all pretty brief (well, as long as I keep on top of the inbox zero one).


Thank you for your Habitica suggestion, btw. I’ve reorganised everything now with an emphasis on Habitica rather than on BM. It’s only been a week but it feels less pressure. Do you use the Habitica-BM integration? I’m not sure I need it…


Thanks for the post, much of it does resonate with me.

I’m just coming out of a goal collapse. Putting it in these terms I tried very hard to avoid the lion approach, but slowly added more goals and eventually added one that it turned out I didn’t really want to do and it wound up being toxic to the entire system.

Having just one goal that I was falling behind on and started to feel like it was hanging over me made the experience of managing my goals turn from a brief inspirational daily moment into an enervating daily chore. As a result I started updating goals only every other day, then only every 3 days or so, which caused to to slip on others, etc.

My take away is in the future to take it very seriously if I ever start falling behind on any individual goal. Some times the answer really is to push though it, but then I want to carefully ask myself at the end of the day if I am truly happy that I did these or if it is just something I am doing because I decided I should. If it is, is there something else I can drop to make it easier to refocus on what is important.