Experiment: Using Beeminder for the sting, but not as the cue

I think that this scrambly feeling is one of the benefits for a lot of users (I’m lookin’ at you, @dreev :wink: ), but for me, scrambling to prevent a negative consequence feels aversive and I’d like to limit it to only those goals for which I can’t break away from that (yet!). (I do like to scramble for fun, though, or when the consequences are trivial or silly, like a competition with someone, but that scramble feeling breaks apart from what makes me stay on track.)

I’m probably not going to wade into that thread, but whatever you want to call the mechanism that makes brushing my teeth before bed “the natural thing to do” to my brain is what I’m talking about when I say “habit”.

I’m not going to disagree with it not being for you; that’s totally your call! What makes the cue/trigger have to be an alarm, though? Depending on the goal and on what someone knows works for them, can’t it be a gently quiet post-it note or leaving your running shoes in the bathroom so you see them when you wake up or putting the tea where you usually keep the coffee?

I’ll probably always be an edge skater on a few things at a time, but for most, I’m a non-edge-skater in an edge-skater’s clothing… I just end up there when I fail to plan for what works best for me. (Luckily, Beeminder’s there to catch me even when I do that, though!)

Yeah, exactly. It’s my safety net and it provides whatever degree of motivation is required for the height of each goal’s wall to get over and get it done. For some goals, it’s enough to have a $5 pledge charge that would be triggered “at some point in the future if I don’t keep doing X enough” and for others, what’s needed is an $810 pledge charge that will trigger “in 15 minutes if I don’t answer 2 starred/flagged emails right now!”

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I have an essay I’m working on about how I use Beeminder to my areas of responsibility like I use a task manager to my projects.

One of the pieces I’m still developing is that there’s a huge body of work on how to plan projects and execute them, but there isn’t really the same equivalent for areas of responsibility.

“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”


I’d be very interested in reading your essay! Can you describe how you do it a little or give a short summary?

I’m a little confused about the quote, though. Are you comparing Areas to maintenance and Projects to building? I don’t see it that way - when I review an Area it’s much more like “building” because you have to decide what new Projects to start, whereas working on current Projects is more like “maintaining.”

So I’d say, everyone wants to build (look at the Area and start new Projects) but no one wants to maintain (continue with the current Projects).

It’s easy for me to get carried away with birds’ eye view Area thinking and get all excited about planning and starting new projects, but it’s the follow-through that I have trouble with (ground level Project thinking).

Interestingly, areas of responsibility (or governing values, as I’ve adopted from the Franklin Covey system) is the piece of my personal system(s) that I feel like I’m the happiest with. I’ve used the same system since I was 18 and feel no real friction in maintaining or using it, so I’ve had no reason to change it much at all. (It’s in some of the steps between those and specific-task execution that I feel there are still some gaps in need of tightening up!) Let’s chat about this sometime in case there are any pieces of what I do that you might find resonate or be useful at sparking ideas.

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I’d love to know about your system for areas of responsibility.

I’m curious what you mean when you equate them with governing values - to me that’s a different topic. I think of areas as being like “relationships,” “family,” “career,” and so on.

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Experiment: Using Beeminder for the sting, but not as the cure

That’s what I keep reading instead of the actual title :sweat_smile:
And it is strangely on point!

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I think we can all agree that Beeminder is the cure. As for the cue, what I do these days is use 5pm for all my deadlines and then have my dashboard open all day. In the evening I often see what non-work beemergencies I have and try to get some of them dispatched so I don’t have to worry about them during the workday.


I’ve started a Beeminder Experiments Journal so that I can report on how the individual goals do while relying only on the external triggers and talk about what triggers are and aren’t working and etc.

It’ll take a while to get them all in there as I update each and review or build their triggers, but I’ll work towards getting each done one by one.

Aside about values and life areas

I think of them as being very tightly connected because those things/areas only matter cause I/you value them. (I have an “Instrumental” category for things I have to do but that I don’t value intrinsically.)


This is actually one of the main reasons I recently quit beeminder.

I want one place to track all habits (the beeminder graphs are great) regardless of priority and don’t want the low priority ones to “sting” (the $0 pledge plan is way too expensive). I want more flexible options for scheduling and goal visibility. I would like to have separate reminders/goals for both the cue (ideal goal) and the sting (bare minimum goal).

Since that wasn’t possible, I found myself going back and forth between having lots of non-legit derails (which flooded my inbox with busy work requiring an email to explain them) and goals with so much buffer that I didn’t see them often enough to create habits.

The lack of a fully-featured habit tracker in Beeminder created so much administrative overhead that I had to stop using it and go back to other tools, which is unfortunate because I feel that Beeminder has a lot of potential.


Is there a habit tracker that does more of what you want for all of your goals and habits and that can be plugged into Beeminder through autodata for the goals you want the accountability for, so that you only have to interact with one place but still get the accountability?

Are they the kinds of things that you could use Complice for? Or Habitica or Trello, or maybe even google sheets? Those all connect to Beeminder either directly or through services like IFTTT and Zapier.

Just a thought!

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That’s a really good idea especially to use Google Sheets. Although two downsides are that it’s slow to load (especially once there’s a lot of data) and the mobile app isn’t really ergonomic.

I’ve previously used (and paid for) HabitBull for a while and it was nice, but it didn’t support all the goal types I had, so I eventually dropped it. There was no desktop app either and it encouraged looking at my phone which was unproductive.

I didn’t really get Complice. And Habitica and Trello don’t fit with how I like to do things.

I currently track habits along with daily todos in a wiki-style notebook (called Zim Wiki). There’s no visualizations / tracking which is a huge downside, but I keep it in my own standard format so I can eventually go back and script something to graph progress. There’s also no mobile app, so I sometimes note habit updates in Google Keep on my phone or on paper and then copy them over. I also use Google Calendar events and reminders for some habits.

I know I’m probably too picky about my apps. My current system is pretty low tech and far from perfect, but it’s been working decently enough for now. If I find something better and more specifically suited for habit tracking, I’m definitely open to switching over.


What do you mean by fully-featured habit tracker?

I don’t mean what apps are examples of that (the names won’t mean anything to me I’m afraid :slight_smile: ) – I mean what basic functionality do they provide?

The main thing I want in a fully featured habit tracker is to track all of my habits. That includes low priority ones with no sting. That also means I want to decouple stings (which require payment) from what I believe should be my “realistic ideal” deadlines/frequency of a goal I set (e.g. I want to do something daily. My goal would be to do it 6x/week. I want a sting if done less than 1x/week). I want this for high priority goals as well, because I don’t always want to pay for missing a goal (even a higher priority one).

That functionality would also affect how goals are displayed - they should be displayed based on the ideal frequency I set for myself with some way of marking / “pinning” goals that are going to sting soon so that they’re more prominent. Right now I can have a goal that I ideally want to do 6x / week, but only want to get stung if it goes below 1x / week. In the current implementation, that goal won’t be on top if I’ve done it 4 times this week even though I want to see it on top to remind me to do it almost daily.

There are some other more complex scheduling-type features that would be nice to have - for example, set up a goal that you want to do Mon/Wed/Fri with a sting if you don’t add a datapoint 2 days after that ideal goal…and other features like that. I don’t remember all of them, since I wrote that post a while ago. But the main things I would like are in the first two paragraphs above. On the other hand, paper and plain text have been working pretty well for me and have limited the phone/computer addiction type feelings and distraction that you get when using/updating an app.

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I am quite interested in this topic.

The main thing I want in a fully featured habit tracker is to track all of my habits.

This is also very important to me. Let’s say I want to just track (without paying) that I drink each night some water with lemon juice. I don’t wanna be paying for derailment, but want to still keep track of how many days I have done it. Using a graph with a superlow goal (like 1/month) seems like cheating, paying for Beemium seems very expensive.

I have some edge-skatey goals that stretch my capability or are the “you have to do this no matter what” goals. They will forever be edge-skatey and Beeminder reminders for me.

But especially on my goals that I can set up with autodata, magic happens and I get a little jolt of panic when they go in the yellow. (Usually, some automation broke. But recently on my writing goals… I wasn’t doing well, so genuinely the buffer was declining.) Those goals that naturally check off make me feel all kinds of good about my system. I recently had the idea that my shower speaker can automatically trigger a Tasker recipe to check off my shower goal for example and it’s been great. No forgetting anymore and it happens naturally (giving me a little dopamine boost for having come up with such an awesome automation too).

I do still use the dashboard as a general indicator for priorities in a day similar to what @dreev mentioned. Contrary to @dreev though, I do set the times to the latest I can healthily complete a goal (not all 5pm). Otherwise on bad days, I will end up writing things at 23:55 in the night etc, which isn’t helpful for anyone and just works against my actual goals. So finishing those around 20:00 is a much healthier alternative.

I think for a lot of goals this “use other things than beeminder” is a very good approach and more sustainable in the classic habit building process. If the beeminder ping is the habit trigger, that habit will always cease to exist if the beeminder ping goes away. If there’s another more natural trigger, the habit will form around that trigger, sustaining the habit beyond the (sometimes stressful) Beeminder ping.


What are some other things that trigger a habit?

And how does the automation work?

That’s a very good insight, actually.

But, I still don’t really know how to answer the question of "how to have a log record of all the habits that I have done in just one place but without having to pay for them all in case they derail (as I do not want to be as strict with some goals as the ones I beemind). Automation is a good idea, but you cannot automate everything (in a cheap way, I mean).

Apologizes for the extravaganza of replying to myself, but I think that my perspective has changed on this.

Let’s start by stating the basics (for me):

  1. Habit tracking matters. It is a small reward for completing the habit, it gives you data that can be used to analyze patterns, be able to create more realistic goals in the future, and you might be able to brag about your progress.
  2. Easy, clustered tracking is essential. Recording your habit has to be easy, if you want to keep the habit (so, autodata is good when possible). Another important point is to have only one place where you can track all your habits. Where are the habits that I am tracking? Here. This is about being organized. Where are my spoons? In the kitchen. Same type of question.

So, you want to be able to track the habits you wanna track in a simple place, in a simple way.

But then, some problems arise. You might not want to track your habits with the same intensity as others (therefore, you might not want to put money there). And you might have your reasons: maybe you are just testing or maybe you wanna track not-as-important habits. That’s fine.

Here are some alternatives:

  • If you are just testing a habit, start it with a long-starting buffer, something like 30 days. This is enough for testing and to see whether the initial excitement wears off after the first 10 days. You can even create something like “beeminder.com/user/xxxgoalTRIAL” name. If it comes successful, you can either create a new goal minus the trial part or just change the name and use the data that you already have.
  • If you want to track a habit that won’t last for long (<10 days) maybe you can use something like TaskRatchet.
  • If you want to track something that you know you will be capable of doing BUT you don’t want to put money on the line, create a goal with a suuuuperlow rate. I thought this felt like cheating but you got to ask why. If missing the goal has big consequences, it is probably a good idea to pledge money on it. If missing the goal has low consequences, then, why should you feel bad for not pledging money? - in the end, you just want to track it.

I think the ultimate answer to this is to use a separate and more robust, lower friction, habit tracker that integrates with Beeminder. Extra points if that habit tracker also helps you with your to-do lists. Or in other words, a robust to do system that includes habit tracking, and integration with Beeminder.

Then everything that you need TO DO, including your high priority beeminder tasks, and your lower priority non-beeminder habits, all of those would be managed under one centralized application. Beeminder then just becomes a back-end for commitment contracts.

What habit tracker will do this? I don’t have an answer to that. I think that emacs and org-mode might have that capability. There are two independently created integrations for org-mode that I know of. And those integrations could certainly be expanded as necessary. (I have it on my plate to eventually dive into these integrations.) But emacs is certainly not for everyone, not for a typical user.

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I am quite happy with my (last) own answer/solution but I am still open to experiment with new habit trackers. If you came to know any for a typical user tell me :wink: