Beeminder Forum

Help me stop the "daily" tasks from taking over everything?

I am having trouble balancing the “daily” tasks (stuff I want to do every day) with the “non-daily” ones.

Like, ideally, I’d do all of the following every day:

  • brush teeth
  • take a walk outside
  • vitamins/supplements/meds in morning
  • vitamins/supplements/meds in evening
  • physical therapy stretches
  • laser light treatment
  • meditate
  • magickal invocations meditation
  • read my psychotherapy cards
  • take a bath
  • do sprints
  • consume protein powder for gainz
  • lift weights (this one might only be 3-4 times a week)
  • work on my organizational system / go through my in-tray
  • set my alarm for the next day
  • lock my phone up
  • plan the following day
  • journaling / brainstorming about goals
  • dual n-back

Obviously, that’s a lot - 19 things - and it just gets overwhelming. I try to start working on it and then I don’t have time for the non-daily tasks, which also have to be done, and which I really should be spending a lot more time on.

I’ve tried making beeminders for all of them and it’s just too much - I end up finding reasons to call non-legit, or just not doing it and paying the penalty. I also don’t really have money to set a high pledge level now.

So now I’m trying having a small number of beeminder goals, and using a paper journal to keep track of the rest - I’ve been consistently writing in the paper journal what I get done each day.

But I’m still having trouble figuring out how much I really “want” to do in terms of daily tasks - for various values of “want” - and balancing it with the non-daily stuff that I’m just procrastinating on!

Looking for suggestions as well as meta-suggestions for how to think about all this.

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OK, I’m curious! Wiki says low level laser light (yay 4 L in a row) is basically good for anything, I had no idea! I thought it’s only used for skincare.

And yeah it’s, off topic but let’s just not tell Daniel :stuck_out_tongue:

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Suggestion: take this list of things and decide which half of them are more important than the other half. (To do this you could give them numeric scores, or you could put them all on slips of paper and move them around on a table, or whatever.) Then sleep on it for a day. Then take the half that you chose and do the same thing again: pick half that are most important.

Now you have ~5 things that you have identified as most important. Make beeminder goals for those and do them consistently. Note, you can still do the other things as you have time/inclination, but you just won’t have Beeminder goals for them (yet). After a few weeks of doing these 5 consistently you can pick one more thing to make a Beeminder goal for (either the next most important thing, or maybe the thing with the highest importance / frequency of actually doing it ratio). Do that for a while, then add one more thing, etc.

I think you could eventually get to a place where you are doing all of these, but you have to approach it gradually. Adding 19 small every-day things all at once does indeed sound overwhelming.

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I think you would really, really benefit from the book Tiny Habits by Stanford prof. BJ Fogg. You can’t “just do” new habits–one way or another you have to make them habits, and without the right frame for how you should even think about designing your own behavior–yes, designing–you’ll likely be less successful.

For one thing, you should design new behaviors to be as small and easy as possible, and you should celebrate when you succeed at doing them (however tiny), and you should clarify what your aspiration and generate behavior options to come up with better habits, and you should clarify, if possible the exact anchor and its ‘trailing edge’ at which to place the new habit. (Just… read the book. It’s a delight to read.)

Read it carefully–and also, don’t do 19 things at once. Just don’t. Or rather, don’t commit to all 19. Have a list, sure, but don’t beat yourself up; focus on just 2-3 to always, always do, and as for the rest–feel good if you get some of them done.

You’ll still be here in 3 months, 6 months, a year. So many times, I’ve told myself, I’ve GOT to do X, Y, and Z NOW!!–that I can’t spread it over months–and then I find myself months later not having X, Y, or Z.

Things take time, and that’s ok. The time is going to pass anyway. If I look inward at myself, I think part of the reason I thought I had to do everything at once was because of fear and lack of trust in myself that I’d be able to do them in the future–I had the motivation now and I’d better use it, goshdarnit. Maybe you don’t suffer that particular affliction, nevertheless, 19 is a lot of things.

tl;dr Tiny Habits, patience, and use more tools & theory than just Beeminder

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He does get a little nitpicky about that sometimes lol.

Good info on LLLL: https://www.lostfalco.com/low-level-laser-therapy/

I want to shine it on my brain to improve and also on the pelvic area for pelvic pain/bladder issues.

Why’d you change omg to yay?

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Thanks for this! I’ve been doing something similar. For the last two months, I have had only 8 beeminder goals for 8 of them. I tried to lower it but 8 seems like the minimum I really need. I’ve been doing pretty well with them but have derailed on one in particular a few times.

The problem comes when I try to decide how to spend each day and what to do. Sometimes I just get caught up in doing all the dailies - the 8 I have beeminder goals for and the 11 others - and end up not finishing all the dailies AND not getting important work done. It’s a form of procrastination.

I’ve had these 8 for two months now, so maybe I should be able to add a couple more, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself yet.

Okaaaay that’s… okay…

So, this is something supervised by a doctor? Or not? After the lostfalco link I was thinking this is a self experimentation thing but especially the latter sounds like something I would definitely involve a doctor with.

Anticipating this, just for you I have actually gone the extra mile and included an edit reason this time! :stuck_out_tongue:

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I of course saw the edit reason listed as “curbing ma excitement” but I was wondering why you felt the need to curb it! :stuck_out_tongue:

I also see a pelvic physical therapist. This is actually a cheaper, less powerful version of the machine one of my physical therapists has used. It’s just infrared light - there’s no way it can be harmful.

Interesting! That whole laser light therapy thing sure is… enlightening if nothing else :stuck_out_tongue:

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Why are you so skeptical and hesitant?

I find it perfectly acceptable to be hesitant when it comes to doing unknown things to my brain. As much as I complain about it, I am, after all, rather attached to it :wink:

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@phi

Do you have any ideas about unknown things I could do to deal with this daily tasks issue? :grinning:

So I’ve been really skeptical of BJ Fogg because of all the sleazy marketing around that book. It set off some alarm bells. But maybe I’ll give it a shot. I like what you said.

I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

Me too, and it makes me very discouraged and upset at myself. (Then I try to visualize the inner criticism as an external attack and physically fight back by punching and shooting at the imaginary attacker - a therapist taught me this and it really helps.)

Right now I have 8 of the 19 that are beeminder goals. And I’ve been struggling with a couple of those. Some are pretty poorly defined, too - like I’m not sure how much I have to do for it to count.

My main problems are not sleeping well, staying up late, and spending too much time on my phone. If those were taken care of, the rest would be easy.

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I have similar issues with having too many “regular” tasks, and not having time to do the actually important tasks. I try to keep my daily beeminder goals to less than 5 minutes each, with two exceptions: my “touch everything on my to-do list for the day” goal, and my “work X hours of paid work today” goal. Everything else has to be short and fast enough that I can hammer it all out in about half an hour total, after my daughter goes to bed. That means I can prioritize my other projects as I have time and energy.

In your case, you could consider either staggering a bunch of your more time-consuming goals (one a week, due on different days), or consolidate them (do one of [list] every day), so you’re only doing, say, ONE 15-minute physical/mental improvement task every day, instead of like 6 of them. You can also combine some of them into a single “do evening routine” goal (which is on a post-it or something): take evening pills, plan for day, set alarm, lock phone up, for example. Then you’re in a better position to form a cohesive habit, and you also aren’t spending so much time checking off goals.

Finally, I am also constantly aware of how much going to bed earlier would improve my life. It’s a neverending struggle :frowning: I’ve reached the point where I’ve accepted that it should almost always be my #1 priority, more so than any particular beeminder goal, and I try to keep that top of mind when I add anything new to my beeminders. “Is this goal going to improve my life MORE than going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night would?” The answer tends to be no, unfortunately for my ambition :stuck_out_tongue:

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All those points you asked to hear my thoughts on are covered in Tiny Habits.

I had no idea the book had some off-putting marketing; sorry to hear that. Having consumed quite a few related books and hundreds of blog posts, I believe Fogg’s book and models are the most sophisticated of all of them, despite their simplicity.

Probably the biggest issue around habits is something almost nobody else even covers, and when they do cover it, they do so too superficially to be helpful: emotions create habits. Indeed, a lot of people in this space still repeat the same recycled ideas, like that it takes ‘21 days’ to create a habit. Or, if they don’t suck that bad, they still present a simplistic model of a habit as cue -> routine -> reward. Great, but what do I do with that?

Sure–if we’re smart we realize that altering any of cue, routine, and reward might help make a habit; but this model is so simplistic. What is a reward, exactly? Is it telling yourself you’ll get X later as a treat? Is it an in-the-moment feeling of success? What kind of feeling is it exactly? Promising yourself to get X treat later is better than nothing, but it’s not very effective at creating habits. What’s a cue? What’s a routine–what even is a habit, really? Is “meditation” a habit? (Hint: not even close.) No model of habits other than Fogg’s that I’ve seen is (a) sufficiently detailed, (b) accurate, © complete, and (d) easy to remember. Here’s one example of why I describe Fogg’s book as “sophisticated”: teaching is one good way to learn better, particularly if it incorporates active recall. So what does Fogg do? He asks you to teach one of his basic fundamental models of behavior almost right off the bat. If you really don’t read his book, Atomic Habits is okay but a distant second.

Fogg’s models are made to work for humans, not rational homunculi.

Something in the “field” of habits and behavior change baffles me: it all implicitly pretends we’re a rational homunculi. We’re not–we’re a rational homunculi layer on top of a mostly-unintrospectable, embodied and subconscious system.

How did your bad habits come about? They’re actually rewarding, in a way that your designed behavior changes might not be. And “you” didn’t plan them–the affordances of your environment created them, in concert with your whole self–including the homeostasis-seeking / self-regulating, unintrospectable subconscious part of you.

Our analytical self is the part doing the reading and planning, but it’s just a thin veneer on an evolved creature. Have you heard of the rider and the elephant metaphor? (Google it if you haven’t.)

Well, even other writers who tell you about that metaphor don’t really take it to heart. Because if you take it to heart, you realize that behavior change is really, really hard, but it can be easy. You can’t force the elephant; you have to nudge it very gently.

It can be easy if you do the things I said: accept a long-term mindset i.e. be patient, clarify your aspiration, generate behavior options (real behavior options, not just sub-aspirations), rank them by estimated impact and how well you think you could do it, pick the ones that match you best, only do 2 or 3 at a time, make them as enjoyable, ridiculously tiny, and otherwise easy-to-do as possible, feel good–celebrate–after doing them, and don’t raise the bar (only do more when you genuinely want to, not when you feel you should).

If you do this correctly, you will form habits in just a few days, and you will like yourself more (not less) the whole time.

It can seem crazy to start really tiny, but if it leads you to real change, it will quickly accumulate.

You can either do this, or you can continue the cycle of reaching too high, beating yourself up, and (very probably) ending up in the same place you started, expect that now you have lower expectancy for future goals/change, which will then make future change even harder. (“expectancy”–in case you want to Google it, this is part of Steele’s procrastination model, which synthesizes hundreds of studies).

Whew, I got a little carried away.

Also, I think you’ve identified your main issue: sleep is huge.

I don’t think I can impart the right words that will help you. That task is too large for any of us to do, because it’s easy to just read words, and hard to take the right action. That’s why I recommend finding a resource that you personally feel you can trust to teach you how to form habits. If you can’t trust Fogg’s book, I urge you to find something you can trust.

Why should any of us expect behavior change to be quick? It’s true that on rare occasion we manage to ‘just change’–but we need something consistent, not a reliance on miracles. It baffles my mind that the idea one might have to learn some new life skill over dozens of hours (or more!) through deliberate, sequenced practice isn’t seen as obvious. After all, we each spend thousands of years and over a decade just getting better at math, reading, writing, and so on. tl;dr Things take time, and that’s okay.

Like me, you’re committed to bettering yourself. I just hope you can redirect your commitment to improving at the process of behavior change itself.

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It looks like you’ve gotten a lot of feedback, but I want to reinforce something about @byorgey’s comment to identify which are actually the most important items from this list: I think some of your friction comes from the fact that, actually, a day where you do all 19 of those things but not your most important, fulfilling life tasks is not an ideal day. This might be tied to the problem of measurable metrics sometimes overtaking desired outcomes: I think an ideal day for you is one where, generally, you maintain and improve your health and happiness, and also accomplish some aspect of your life goals. All of these little things can help with that, but they are just means, not ends.

I find it helpful to use Beeminder mostly to keep things balanced on the scale of the week, e.g., make sure I’m maintaining appropriate momentum on various nebulous projects. It creates concrete reminders and milestones for otherwise large or ambiguous tasks. On the scale of the day, I find it helpful to rely on environmental changes and habits, and let most of the details work themselves out flexibly. No two days are exactly alike, but every day I do some things that keep me moving in the direction I want.

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I have the same problem recently. I think “the health situation” has made this more of a problem for me by throwing a lot of my habits and structure up in the air.

Two points:

First, my current mental model is that I have two powerful ways to get things done:

  1. habits
  2. beeminder

Habits are hard to start and maintain, but they tend to be very efficient when they get going – you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, and the actual doing of them and how they fit into everything else you do gets very efficient too. I think those two (beeminder and habits) don’t always reinforce each other – see my posts here.

As others have said, maybe you’re doing too much 2. and not enough 1.

(By the way, what’s missing from my list? I feel sure there must be other things that should go in there, but I don’t know what they are!)

Second: David Sparks on the Focused podcast has a concept he refers to as “Moving the needle”. He has a few things that are either what he’s actually wanting to spend productive time on, or proxies for that (core work that makes him money so he can do what he wants in the rest of his life). He counts roughly how long in hours he spends on those things. What he’s counting is the productive core of the work, not all the inevitable admin and fluff that goes around it. Probably I’m butchering this a bit, if you’re interested I recommend listening to their episode on this.

People also talk about the metaphor of filling up a jar with sand, rocks, and water. If you want to get some of all three in the jar (without spills), which do you put in first (hint: rocks)? The rocks are the harder, bigger things, which often are the more interesting/fulfilling things. The sand and water of your daily tasks fill up the jar and stop you putting in the rocks if they go in first. There’s always more sand and water. “First” here might mean first in the week, or in the day.

So, some ideas: 1. cut down the beeminding a bit and work on a small set of habits (for which beeminding might help, but only if used mindfully with that aim in mind I think) 2. maybe the first habit is: after your morning routine, start the day by moving the needle?

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This is brilliant and right on, as usual with your posts @oulfis !!

And yeah, Goodhart’s law is very relevant here.

In other words, if you pick a measure to assess people’s performance, then we find a way to game it. I like the illustration of a nail factory that sets number of nails produced as their measure of...

Can you elaborate on how you do this? Are the week ones like “spend an hour on task X once a week” for every different long-term project you have?

As far as the daily ones, what I think is missing from your analysis is that it is important to build up daily habits, and some of these things I really need to or want to do regularly for their own sake, not just as means to other things. Others are required means to their ends - like there’s no way to build muscle without eating protein and lifting regularly.

Sort of, but rather than “an hour once a week” it would be “an average of 1hr/wk.” Part of the idea is that the arbitrary datapoints don’t matter, what matters is whether I am overall heading toward my real-world goal. Some things retroratchet if I never want to go more than a week without touching them. And very few of them track pure hours of input.

My dissertation is a good example: I track a lot of different outputs to prompt me to work on important different aspects of the project. They’re all defined “backward” from when I want to complete the dissertation: if I want my bibliography to have 500 items by June 2021, I need to add one item to it today. For the diss, I track bibliography entries, total wordcount, drafts submitted to my committee, git commits, two different monographs I’m reading, time writing, and overall time. I also sometimes track completion of todos on a Trello board. The goal is to allow these different aspects of the work to ebb and flow while still knowing whether I am “on track” overall. Something I like having so many goals is that they come due in different combinations that makes each day feel a little “fresh”.

It does also sound like there aren’t clearly-defined parts of your day for particular things to happen, or enough time overall for everything. I wonder if it would help to work backward from how your time gets spent on a really good day – or a really good week.

You’re definitely right that there are a lot of things where it doesn’t make sense to build up a buffer, but I still want to push back against the idea that daily habits are important: doing something regularly enough is not the same as doing it daily. For example, I really like Beeminder because it gives me a way to firmly commit to flossing sometimes, as opposed to either flossing every day or never. The stress you’re experiencing sounds to me like a symptom that for some of these, daily is too often. Maybe you could take @byorgey’s idea and framing it around, what is the minimum frequency you’d have to do that habit to get a positive result from it? Of course, there is also definitely an aspect of personality here-- I’d rather floss once a week and feel chill than floss twice a week and feel stressed out, but you may feel differently.

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I haven’t read this whole thread carefully, but something I’ve been thinking about may be relevant.

Since I changed my deadlines all around, I have a lot of goals due more-or-less first thing in the morning. I’ve been playing around with the idea of combining the ones that are daily or almost daily into one do-my-morning-routine goal, where I’d check off all the items in a list separately and then mark the routine complete in Beeminder. I’m already doing this for my work startup and shutdown routines, and it seems pretty workable.