How to beemind nebulous projects like doing your taxes or fixing a neurosis

  1. Create a blank document to serve as a diary or engineering log for your progress
  2. Create an URLminder goal to beemind the wordcount of that document
  3. Start by describing the problem and listing tasks
  4. Add an entry each day (or however often Beeminder makes you) describing what you tried, what’s working, what you’ll try next
  5. When you’re ready to declare the project a success, hit archive
  6. Use the last week when Beeminder still has you on the hook to add a summary and post-mortem
  7. You can also add a draft of a Beeminder forum post describing what you did and what you learned!

For best results, share your log/diary/document with a friend or friends or even publicly. (Adding supporters in Beeminder can help too.) That way you’ll be too ashamed to exploit the loophole of blathering on about what you might do without actually ever doing it.


I really like this! It maps onto several things for me:

  1. The Captain’s Log, which is a system for reflecting out loud while in the midst of your day.

  2. Complice, and in particular beeminding using Complice towards a particular goal. If you use the Complice integration to beemind:

    • setting an intention towards the goal every day
    • completing at least a few intentions or pomodoros a week towards that goal
    • and completing your weekly review in Complice

    then I think that would be similarly effective to Danny’s suggestion here.

Although I do think that the Captain’s-Logginess of Danny’s suggestion is really good, and I’m itching to find a way to have more of that within Complice—ie better affordances for people to go “Hmm… what’s going on right now?” and reflect on that midday. And then that could be another thing to beemind. Hmm…


I was once engaged in some project at work I didn’t really care too much about. I beeminded “do something project X-related every day”. It worked quite well!


Isnt this why tagtime exists?

1 Like

@gkrishna63 It’s difficult to use TagTime to beemind anything that is low volume and sporadic, because the random ping times mean that you’re likely to miss the times that you’re working on the project, or to force you to work longer than it warrants on an emergency day, just to catch a ping.

If it’s something that’s amenable to tracking time, you could use a timer instead of TagTime. My own TagTime goals are very coarse-grained, for things that are going to average tens of pings per week.

@malcolm thanks for that! Have adopted the captain’s log (mine is in Draft and beeminded on volume of words) and re-adopted Complice.


interesting insight.
What is the difference between timer and tagtime

I think @philip means a deterministic timer as opposed to a stochastic one (which TagTime is still the only proper example of!).

1 Like

dreev encouraged me to paste this in here from my email conversation with him:

So this is off topic, but kind of related to nebulous tracking. I recently started using a pavlok with a pseudo pomodoro script I wrote. Basically I say “check back in x minutes” and the timer starts ticking down and then shocks me when it runs out (with beeps as warnings ahead of time to avoid legitimate derails). When I’m at work I use it for pomodoros to enforce work periods as well as breaks. When I’m off work I use it to avoid getting sucked into minutiae and going off the rails. So say I want to read reddit but don’t want to go down the rabbit hole. I say “check back in 10” and that way I know i’ve got a life line.

Conceptually this seems like mini commitment contracts. I’ve only been doing it a week, but it’s been working well so far. Very much functions on the idea that failure should be noisy and painful not quiet. This forces action, and it also forces a lot of thought up front. Taken together it raises my level of awareness quite a bit.

Since I wrote that it’s still been remarkably effective. I had one day where I was just totally zapped of energy and couldn’t focus and it was only marginally effective, but then I took it off and I got next to nothing done after that. I’m always a bit worried about these devices as if they may weaken intrinsic motivation, but for the time being this still seems effective and I’m going to keep going with it.


I did something similarly amorphous, beeminding “time spent per day” as the metric, for completing my phd. It worked really well, I think in part because the thesis was well-defined and had no intermediate deadlines, so as long as I got everything done by the do-or-die date, it didn’t matter what I worked on first. So, sure, I started with the easy stuff like “copy published papers into google doc”, but eventually all that was left was obnoxious things like citations and formatting images to fill up my time quota. And I got done with 3 days to spare, so I count it a success!

Sadly the same technique hasn’t been as useful for my work-work in my Real Job, I suspect because lack of clear work definitions means that I can spend basically an infinite amount of time on the “easy” work, and never get to the hard-but-important stuff.

In contrast, I tried a more structured way of beeminding the nebulous “scrapbooking”: i tried to assign point values to things like “sort photos” and “write journaling” and set the slope such that i would accomplish a page a week. It didn’t really work, again because i ended up doing “easy” point items like downloading and sorting photos, and never found the time blocks to do hard things like editing.

Clearly there’s a pattern here, where (for me) beeminding nebulous tasks works better when they have well-defined boundaries. That means I suspect ‘do taxes’ would beemind well for me, whereas ‘fix neurosis’ would not. On the other hand, ‘find new therapist’ probably would be beemindable (…and hey, I should set that up).


This is a very interesting idea.

Adding a note here for future beeminders: I attempted this technique with a google docs spreadsheet, because spreadsheets are how my brain works, but the wordcount feature of urlminder does not play well with spreadsheets, because it’s counting the raw html wordcount :frowning:

1 Like

Ooh, but I think you could create an IFTTT recipe to send a +1 to Beeminder every time a row is added to a Google spreadsheet…

I think that’s true. You can also setup a Google Form that goes into a Google Sheet that triggers a +1 to IFTTT each time a form is submitted. That’s how I do my gratitude journal.


Ooooh ok clearly I need to spend some quality time with IFTTT on this. Thanks!

1 Like

So, in case anyone wants an update, I successfully used this method (with IFTTT and a spreadsheet rather than a doc) to find a new therapist, which was something I’d been intending to do for… something on the order of a year? It took me just under a month, from “I should do this” to “I have done this”:

I set the slope to be something on the order of 2 entries per week, with max safe days of a week; that seemed sufficient to keep me moving ahead without having it take too much time. In any case, it definitely worked well enough that I’d consider it for future amorphous projects. I’ve actually tried it with a couple other projects, but they’re currently on hold for reasons outside my control. I found that having a background ticking clock kept me moving forward better than other systems I’ve tried. However, I don’t think it would work for things I wasn’t really motivated to do, because it’s pretty trivial to weasel, even compared to beeminder in general.

So consider this a +1 to the overall idea!


Buster Benson’s post “1 Metric Kiloslog” describes a similar idea… and come to think of it, a Whittle Down goal would be an awesome way to Beemind a kiloslog.


The link changed to:

1 Like

Idea from another forum thread for combining nebuminding with one-off must-do tasks:

In the nebu-doc you type “Next step: do XYZ task (no typing more until that’s done!)” and now, boom, Beeminder is making you do the obvious next thing – kinda like the MustDo system but you precommit to it all being for a particular project.


Just this morning I deployed a TaskRatchet feature which might help with this. If you have the Beeminder integration enabled, you can use an &goal-name tag to post to a goal on task creation, and *goal-name to post to a goal on task completion. This means you could create a Beeminder goal for a nebulous project that requires you to create and/or complete n tasks per period towards that project.