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Brennan's Beeminder Journal 2020

Ding Dong! It’s another Beeminder Journal.

Personal Introduction

Hi, I’m Brennan. I wrote two guests posts for Beeminder back in 2017-- Tao and Sting. Although I felt as though they were good pieces of advice (I had a lot of helpful editing from Daniel and Bee!), I ultimately fell short and failed hard with Beeminder, and subsequently life. I wrote another long post reflecting on that here. Now that’s all rather general and abstract, so I’ll get to the personal stuff.

I have been working as a cook at a children’s hospital for the past four years, and due to a contract ending, I was laid off last month. By the sheer grace of the universe, I landed a full-ride scholarship to a full-stack web development program. I previously had to drop out of university due to lack of finances, so this is a kind of Godsend for me–and I don’t want to squander it.

I will be a lot busier during this program than I was before when I was seriously slacking off–and I’ll probably be just as busy for the rest of my life. Which is exactly why I’m amping up my workload. I need to adapt and adjust to what I ought to be doing.

One reason I think I failed at Beeminder was simply not using Beeminder for Beeminder, or in other words, creating a system that would track daily check-ins so I can be mindful of where I am with all my other systems. Or having a weekly write-up in the way of this Beejournal for meta-accountability. I really cannot believe I did not think of this sooner. I am dumb.

Unique Philosophy (aka more neurotic rambling)

  • Atomic Habits (for now): I’m taking a page out of James Clear’s fantastic book and starting out very small and slow. I know I have a habit of getting the initial rush of motivation to jump into things only for them to fizzle out. A consequence of this is going to be large safety buffers, but I’ll figure that out later.
  • Anti-goal Framework: Unlike a lot of people that use Beeminder, I do not intend on having any systems in play that are temporary. In other words, systems that would eventually end in a succeeded goal. All of my beeminders will be tracking things I want to theoretically do for the rest of my life. Maybe one day my brain will be able to comprehend shorter-term goals.
  • Essentialism: In the addition to the above, I want to make sure my systems only track what is truly important and meaningful to me. Getting lost in the weeds of small habits is too easy for me, so I’m going to utilize the 20/80 rule as best I can.
  • Anti-Circle: I really need to stop repeating myself as well as my same stupid mistakes. Looking back at the goals I set for myself back in 2014, when I was still in high school, I notice there’s a bunch of stuff I’m still hopeful I’ll be achieving this year.
  • Redundancy of Efforts / Cohesive Database: A solution for being anti-circle is simply not letting my plans exist in a bunch of different notebooks, cloud drives, laptops, etc. and instead have a single place that I regularly review (this forum post!), as well as having a redundancy of identical efforts–a single USB drive backup, a single Git repository backup, etc.
  • Automated vs. Manual Input: Initially joining Beeminder, I solely chose to create systems where the data could be automated. This seemed like less work and thus less-likely-to-fail than manual input, however there are sneaky efforts that some things still have.
    • Eg. I have to start up Runkeeper whenever I go for a walk, for instance, and which means turning on my LTE, GPS, etc. and it’s probably more of a hassle than just recording the amount of time I was outside for.
  • Habitual vs. Resistant: There are some things that I am naturally good at doing, thankfully, so I do not have to Beemind them. However, I should write them down elsewhere for the sake of having all of my habits/task items in the same place.
  • Burnout Paradox: I am still figuring out a way to avoid burnout and maintain my efforts through Beeminder. It is kinda paradoxical in nature because having to add more data would negate ease, so I need to think of more creative ways to do this.
  • Work/Life Balance: Being a well-rounded person is essential to me. The last thing I want to do is dedicate all of my waking life to a single thing. So, I have to make sure there’s balance in my systems between all the major categories of life
    • Eg. Work, Relationships, Mentality, Physicality, Spirituality, Finances, Fun. More Information.

Initial/Current Systems

  • /Productivity: Tracking the amount of my productive time in front of a computer via RescueTime. It’s pretty generic but works out well.
  • /Courses: Tracking the courses I take through online learning platforms manually. Will also track assignments when I start my program.
  • /Github: Tracking the commits I push to my GitHub account via Gitminder. I have a repository for my course notes which is currently what I usually commit.
  • /Blog: Tracking the posts I publish to my Medium account via IFTTT. I probably consider this my most important Beeminder.
  • /Poetry: Tracking the posts I publish to my Tumblr account via IFTTT. I have two self-published collections and I just restarted my poetry blog to start working on my third.

Future Systems

I will be implementing these systems slowly, to minimize chance of failure and burnout.

  • /Daily or /Meta: Tracking daily check-ins to Beeminder itself for the sake of intentionality and consistency. Will be manual.
  • /Beejournal: Tracking weekly check-ins to this forum thread, as well as eventual Jekyll website that will contain all of this. Will include Beetuning, Next Actions, Derailments, New Systems, Current Systems Updates, Life Updates, Etc. Will be manual–and I’ll need to write up a template.
  • /BulletJournal: Tracking daily check-ins to make sure I write my daily to-dos, as well as other mundane things, etc. that aren’t important enough to Beemind in my bujo. I like writing on paper a lot! Will be manual.
  • /Tweets and /Photos: Tracking my Twitter and Instagram posts. I have recently deleted all social media and restarting again. I have many harsh criticisms regarding social media (see: Deep Work by Cal Newport) however it is a necessity if I’m going into technology, and I need to demonstrate to myself that these services are not inherently bad, and I can use them as a way to track my own personal progress at the very least.
  • /Gratitude: Tracking one (or possibly more) thing that I’m grateful for daily. Studies often show this makes people happier. Will be manual.

Potential Systems

This introductory post is already heavily bloated. If you would like to see a list of other systems I am currently considering, please check out this Gist. There are a variety of reasons why these are not being used, whether it’s unclear metrics, lack of motivation, or having the beework take up more time than the task itself.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading all of this! I’d love any comments or criticism, as I’m sure I have abundant blind spots and bias that are reasons why I’ve hindered myself in the past. Also feel free to ask any questions or take any of my ideas. I also apologize for being so long-winded–it’s something I need to work on.

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So, I’m just getting myself organized–rather slowly, as intended. I was originally going to return to the Infinibee plan, however I was looking over the premium perks again and noticed that Bee Plus has the benefit of automatic safety buffers, and weekends off? It might be double the price but that’s worth it just for that, in my opinion. So that’s a problem I had originally that I’ve already solved.

I’ve also decided to double down on this idea, and set up a GitHub repository with Jekyll to quickly hack together a quick blog for my beejournal. I managed to score the domain journal.bar for $2, so that’s what I’m calling the project. You can view it here: Journal.bar

Thoughts of the Week

I doubt this section will be as long for any week after this. I just have a couple years of gunk I need to get out of my system.

  • Crafting a Mission Statement: I’ve always been a fan of having a personal mission statement that dictates what you ought to do when the going gets tough and you need something important to remind you not to follow the path of least resistance. I’ve uploaded the mission statement I’ve been using for the past ten year, and looking to revise it.
  • The Unified System: I need to figure out an analog and digital workflow that’s consistent, cross-platform, and that I enjoy using. I have so many different documents and files scattered all over the place, so I should create a workflow template on here as well soon.
  • Less Meta, More Bettah!: I have a bad habit of initally setting things up but not following through. I need to stop dilly-dallying planning stuff out and actually do the work needed.
  • Microsystems: I need to figure out meaningful ways to track small yet important things. For instance, I’m a lot more motivated to work when I play music and ambiance, but often forget to start playing something before I start working.
  • Microreminders: A solution to microsystems might be microreminders, as in setting up an alarm on my phone for things instead of creating an entirely new Beeminder for them. I definitely need one to remind myself to check-in on Beeminder, in particular.
  • Bee Agnosticism: In the longterm, I need to failsafe system to maintain my good and productive behavior in the event of Beeminder vanishing. Although I hope this never happens, the only practical solution I have right now would be a spreadsheet, which would be far less intuitive and a lot more work.
  • Passion Prioritizes Tradition: A weird goal that’s interesting always outranks a traditionally-speaking good goal that you don’t actually have much interest in.
  • Museum of Beejournals: I want to start going through other beejournals as helpful indication of good precedence and systems-over-time. Maybe create a best-of page on my blog, or something.
  • Character of Will vs. Want: Trying to figure out the dichotomy between what I want versus how much effort I’m actually willing to put in to obtain it. Work harder–but also adjust my expectations and want less.
    • Behaviors vs. Systems: In a similar vein, finding the behavior behind a task for a system is not as straight-forward as it might initially seem, whether it actually turns out to be more difficult or easier.
  • Seasonal Themes: An interesting idea that I stole from CGP Grey’s latest video is for seasonal themes as a replacement for New Year’s resolutions. This seems like a fun idea, though I’m not sure what my Spring 2020 theme would be, except something boring like perseverance.
  • Concrete Anti-Weasel Obligations: Do I need to journal-write daily? Why? If I don’t have an amazing answer, the monkey-mind will win and I’ll figure out a way to weasel out of it. (Mixed animal metaphors, aside.) This is why distilling my systems down to the essential is so important–as well as having a mission statement of the values that I require myself to fall back on.
  • System Harmony: Something I forgot to mention before, is the reason I chose the initial five systems that I did was that they harmonize well with each other. If I’m doing coursework, then I’m pushing a commit to GitHub, and all of that’s beeing added to my productive time.
  • Universal Fineprint: An idea I borrowed from other, smarter Beeminder users. I have a universal fineprint page set up so that I know for a fact when a derailment would count as non-legit, though I optimistically plan to have no derailments at all.

Current Goal Check-up

  • /Productivity: I had a few days of minimal screentime, which look like a lack of productive work. Been thinking about tracking my distracting time again, but it seems way too easy to weasel out of.
  • /Courses: Got three courses done this week! Probably going to be getting a lot more done when classes start.
  • /Github: Been doing a lot of work here, including this blog itself. Safety buffer is way too high, and luckily can be set to auto-adjust.
  • /Blog: Going to turn all of this writing into a blog post sometime this week.
  • /Poetry: Been struggling a little creatively with the whole restart. Might change this in the future, or import all of my old stuff back on.

New Goals

  • /Daily: A simple meta-system to check in with my other systems on Beeminder on a daily basis. Only one day of safety buffering. I could incorporate other daily tasks (Eg. using my bullet journal) into this, though I feel like that has too much weasel-potential.
  • /Journalbar: Tracking the number of weekly updates I post to the Beeminder forum and my Jekyll blog to record my progress on Beeminder and in life.

Pesky Obstacles

  • The data for my old systems that I’ve revived are all messy thanks to how much I fudged numbers in the past. My apt punishment for this is that I’ll slowly have to adjust them to be correct without screwing the data up enough to cause derailment.
  • Very petty grievance: Trimming a large amount of safety buffer off a graph makes the whole design of it far less aesthetically pleasing. This is currently a problem, since I’m implementing atomic habits. Oh well.
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Holy cow, so much good stuff here!

(Just one comment for now: I too liked CGP Grey’s video on seasonal themes instead of resolutions but am also not sure what a good theme for myself is.)

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