Max's beeminder journal

Like a few other forum members, I have decided to start a beeminder journal.
I’ve binged on beeminder a few times in the past and each time I would end up taking on too much and then, when I could take the pressure no longer, throwing my hands in the air and letting everything derail at once.

(“This time” he said “things will be different”)

A few guidlines I gave myself to avoid making the same mistakes again are:

Don’t beemind things you don’t need to
A hard and relatively unforgiving system like beeminder works great for creating external motivation, but this (for me) reduces my intrinsic motivation on the long term. I want to read, and I do read every day, so beeminding reading is not necessary of helpful. Writing is a perfect beeminder goal however, since while I want to have written, my mind for some reason abhors the idea of actually sitting down and shooting out 400 words a day. Beeminder to the rescue.

Don’t make the goal too hard
When setting the goal, I always imagine the perfect day: full of motivation and rich in free time. This means that I fail to meet this standard as soon as the inevitable imperfect day comes around.
To use the example of writing again, when I first started the goal, 800 words a day felt easy, since I had just started and had lots of ideas ready to go. A few weeks later it turned out that 800 was going to be possible, but exhausting. 400 was a much better sized goal, even if it feels embarassingly small. You can also do more and retroratchet!
I have some goals designed according to the book “Mini habits”: make sure you do the bare minimum every day, to create a solid habit, remembering that you can always exceed the tiny goal if you feel able.

Don’t add too many new goals at once
When getting back into beeminder after a break, I want to beemind absolutely everything. I have a list of ideas in a document of things I should be doing, that I should be doing, that if only I was doing them everyday, I would be happier/healthier/hricher. Unfortunately I find too many goals becomes unmanageable and stresfull, causing me eventually to break down and mass derail.

So, my goal with this journal is two-fold.

A. Public accountability. Make it harder for me to quit beeminder, more embarassing if I fail my goals.

B. Make me more mindful of the goals I add. By writing about what goes well, what goes badly, and why I choose to add each goal, I hope to avoid the above mistakes. My hard rule will be: only one new goal each month. Each month I will choose one of the goals I want to try. At the end of the month I can kill it if I don’t think it was worth the effort, or continue if it proved useful. The bar for ‘continue’ will be high, to avoid an ever growing number of things to do each day.

I will now immediately break the rule by creating two new goals today:

Meta Goal: To update this journal once a week
What? Write an update in this journal about how the experiment is going, any changes to my goals, etc.
Why? To make sure I stick with experiment, which should help stick with beeminder long term, which in that past has always been very beneficial.
How much? One post a week. Doesn’t matter how short or long.

January New Goal: Get rid of one object every day
What? Every day, I will put one possesion in either the bin or a box to be donated
Why? We have too much stuff, it makes me unhappy to look at, harder to clean up the house, harder to find things. I have had bouts of getting rid of things in the past, but a sustained process should keep our possessions under control, and reduce them down to a manageable level. At worst, I’m 30 posessions lighter by the end of the month!
How much? At least one a day, where ‘one’ might be a pair of socks, or a piece of furniture, or a broken bowl.

Next update in 7 days or less


regarding stuff, are you aware of the getting things done method?

I am, although my ‘stuff’ goal is to get rid of physical objects, not tasks! I have a whole other thing going on for those.

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Weekly update:

My ‘reduce number of possessions’ goal has been going well. There has been quite a lot of low-hanging fruit, and I have been rummaging around at the end of most days and finding something that I should get rid of. This has made the goal somewhat unexciting, but I am hoping that it will become more interesting as the number of obvious things to get rid of reduces.

I have a box in our bedroom where everything is going for now. A jumper will be turned into a kindle case, some things might be donated, and others thrown out (like a horrible dead USB cable that I still try every X months when looking for the one that works)

Existing Goals:

To keep the number of goals under control, I will try and reevaluate my current goals each month, removing any that are no longer useful.

A breakdown of my existing goals is below:


I have an IFTTT button that sends the current hour when I click it. The goal is a do-less goal. The result is that I need to get up at 6:30 on week days and 8am on weekends to prevent myself from going over. I am only allowed to hit the button once I am standing up, out of bed, to prevent lying in bed for half an hour after waking, or hitting snooze and going back to sleep.

This is quite a new goal, but so far, this has been working great, and I have not been wasting time lying in bed on weekday mornings.

working fine, keep for now


This goal is to write a daily plan in the morning of each work day, blocking out time for tasks, something like this:

Especially on days when I am working from home, I have found this, combined with pomodoros, to be excellent at keeping me productive. Non-productive time like meetings, lunch, email reading etc. is all planned in, so I can be confident that I will get the important stuff done before the end of the day. I write the initial plan in blue, then make updates in red where necessary. Most days are covered in red, but it is still much better than no plan at all. This has not quite become a habit yet, so I will keep the goal for now.

not yet a habit, keep for now


The number of pomodoros I get done each day. This is set at a (depressingly) low level of 6/day. I only run a pomodoro when I am doing deep focused work, so it does not count emails, talking to people, meetings, small bits of reactive work etc. A day where I do 10 pomodoros is a very productive day. This has been amazing at helping me focus on tasks despite constant distractions in the office.

working great, keep for now


This is my central personal goal right now. It requires that I write 400 words each day on my novel. I have made quite a few changes to make this go more smoothly in the last month, which I may talk about in the next update!

This has been amazing, I am able to push out 400+ words a day, without wasting time on “research”, “editing” or other procrastinatory behaviours. The end result will probably be very rough, at which point I will create an editing goal. (I am not yet certain what form that will take, I may do a diff each day and count the number of lines changed? Or I could count the number of scenes marked as final-draft, etc.)

working great, keep until book complete!


The number of times a week I do not eat out at lunch. It is a big money sink, and so very easy to avoid by preparing something the day before. I have great trouble with this goal, multiple times I have made a sandwich and left it on the table at home. This one annoys me because I am so bad at it, so I am definitely keeping it.

good for me, keeping until a habit forms!


Exactly this:

If there is a task that I have been putting off, the mustdo goal gets it done. For hard ones I might leave it on there, festering for a day or two, but as the goal becomes blue…then orange, the task does in fact get done. Brilliant, awesome goal.

love this, keeping forever


Makes sure that every morning I consume my vitamins. Currently this is: 5000iu of vitamin D, 3g of creatine, 1000mcg of B12. This has been easy, but without it I would probably forget most days. I think this is almost a habit, and I could maybe consider removing it in another few months, but I am not quite ready yet.

still need this for a while, keeping for another month


Since leaving the country, I have found some aspects of my mandarin level getting worse. Comprehension is fine, day-to-day conversational is fine, but I find myself talking using simpler vocabulary and less complex grammar. The very clear reason is that I did not allow myself to read English books for a number of years while I was still learning the language, so I was constantly exposed to the complex grammar and vocabulary of books. Now that I am reading English books again, I use Chinese mostly just when watching TV or talking to people.

To prevent myself slowly starting to sound more and more like a five year old when I talk in Mandarin, this is a mini goal to read something, anything in Chinese every day. This could be a page of a book, a single paragraph of an article, a forum post, etc. (skype/social media doesn’t count, too conversational!)

Recently my kindle broke, and I only had Chinese paper books at hand, so this task has become an automatic pass every day as I read through this book. Once I have moved back onto an English book, it should keep me reading however.

I am very happy with this, and considering adding a similar goal for French, but I think that would be a bit much right now, maybe in a a few months once the writing goal is complete.

love this, keeping forever

Overall I am happy with all these current goals, there is nothing in there that I would be willing to lose right now.

Next update in a week!


Weekly Update

The ‘stuff’ goal is still alive. It is becoming harder to find things, but I am still happy to be getting rid of excess possessions. It has made me realize how little of the objects in the house are really ‘mine’. I may have to begin involving everyone to be able to continue the goal long term, although I should still have months worth of my own items to go!

The ‘wake’ goal has been archived. The difference in my wake times on each day made it un-obvious what time I needed to be waking up to ensure the goal stayed on target. I am considering replacing it with a new goal where I would enter the number of minutes after my planned wake time (with the planned time entered in the comment for the previous data point), this should be more flexible. The goal is to be called ‘getup’

I have scheduled a two week pause in my ‘writing’ goal. This is because I am close to the end of my first draft, and need badly to go back and rewrite part of the story to make them consistent with changes I made along the way. The plan is to make a new ‘edit’ goal, based upon number of lines changed or similar, and run that during the two week pause.

I have retroratcheded vitamins, to get rid of a large buffer.


I have been thinking a lot of friction recently. Trying to align it to help me complete my goals each day.

Writing has been one example of this. When first starting on the novel I was able to write hundreds of words a day with no effort. Once the initial passion wore off, I slowed down. I would find myself procrastinating, each hour spent writing would involve only twenty minutes of actual putting-down-words. The rest of the time went to ‘research’ (ie. reading wikipedia).
The way I found to align the friction to my goal was… writing on my phone! I am writing this post on my phone as well. I have a bluetooth keyboard and prop the phone up against something at a suitable height.

There is now lots of friction if I want to google something, since I have to grab the phone, change app, etc.
There is little friction if I want to write, since I can do it anywhere, instantly, without getting the computer set up. It also removes any excuses I might have about writing away from home. My office is any surface I can balance a phone on!

A few other places where I have tried to reduce friction are:

  • automating collating a draft each day and recording the word-count for the writing goal
  • writing on phone to avoid excuses and distractions
  • using evernote so I can write everwhere, stays in sync, is in the same place as my notes, etc.
  • ensuring I always have a good supply of content (books, pocket articles) ready-saved for my Chinese reading goal
  • make vitamins easy to take (one scoop, one vitamin D pill, one B12 pill, same time, in coffee, every day)
  • putting a box in the bedroom where I can just chuck things for the stuff goal, not having to worry about how to get rid of it right away (donate, recycle, rubbish, give away).

In many cases it seems like a tiny insignificant change, but on the days where it is really hard to get started, even a tiny bump in the road is enough to stop you doing anything at all toward your goals that day.

Next update in a week!


Weekly Update

Frugal Lunch failure
I managed to fail my frugal lunch goal a second time. I am hoping that the forfeit is now high enough to stop me forgetting to bring lunch to work. Last week I ended up not eating lunch one day to stop myself derailing (no lunch is the cheapest lunch) but it was not enough! I have not yet made lunch for tomorrow, so things are not looking good. I had better do that after writing this update.

Writing and Editing goals
I have hit the flat part of my writing goal. I put together some changes to my Evernote word-counting script to also do a diff between each change and fire the total number of lines changed at IFTTT (the output of git diff --stat), which populates a new ‘editing’ do-more goal.
I am not sure what a good slope for this goal would be yet, so I have left it very shallow. I imagine I will want something like 50 changes a day, but will let it run for a week before deciding. The idea is to allow myself to work on the novel without having to add words for a few weeks, which enables me to delete and rewrite as well as add. After one edit pass I will turn the ‘write’ goal back on to push me to flesh out anything left, then another edit pass!

The rest of the family is excited about this goal now. We have sold an old pram, shelving unit, inflatible dragon chair and bottle steriliser. I cleared out the cupboard under the stairs, built new storage for my daughter’s room and added some shelving to the kitchen. We are all in constant state of furious tidying.

A meeting heavy day has me skating along the red with this goal. I will have to turn off skype for the beginning of next week to get some breathing room back

The Rest
Everything else is going well, no other changes to make right now. I did not get round to thinking more deeply about any of my goals this week, but it is time to update the journal if I don’t want to derail, so a short update it has to be.


I am still a beginner with Beeminder, so it is interesting to see how other people use it. I think I should also implement a mustdo goal. I would also like to wake up earlier and ensure that I complete my morning routine as efficiently as possible, but I am still experimenting how to do that.

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I had completely forgotten about needing to write an update post until just before I need to go to bed, so it will be short today.

Looking back, the posts seem to be becoming shorter each week. Funny that.

Everything is humming along normally, although writing/editing has gone down a lot since I paused the writing goal, since the editing goal is too lenient to get me to do anything until the last moment. The pause will end soon, and I will be back to writing each day. At least I now know that without something pushing me to write every day I will hapilly do nothing at all every day.

As another example of removing friction, I bought a dishwasher, saving myself a surprisingly large amount of time each night, which is helping with writing/preparing lunches.

Next update in a week, longer next time hopefully!



There were two derailments this week.

work: I was skimming along the red for a few days, then a day almost full of meetings prevented me from hitting my minumum. I knew in advance it would be a low-pomodoro day, so should have prepared!

must do: I had been doing quite well on this, but ended up leaving a task too late in the day, and was unable to complete it (involved calling someone during office hours).

Lessons learnt:
I need to be more aware of what I need to get done each day, and when, ie. planning. My ‘daily plan’ task was meant to be the solution, but it has become a bit of a tick-box task by now. I no longer carefully think about the plan each morning.

Action: Document how I should create my daily plan. The goal is to make it a more intentional process.



The work goal has been going well, I retroratcheted it back to 3 days since I was forgetting to record the pomodoros without the pressure of a yellow task.


I have archived this task, finishing on 2018-02-12. Taking the vitains each morning is now a firm habit and I have not missed a day in weeks. I will add it back if it begins to slip


This goal has been going for a month now. It is still proving useful, so I will keep it running for now. I have a lot of potential items to get rid of when I do a clean-out of the shed.

New Goal

It is time for the next new goal. I am planning something around keeping clear the ‘flat surfaces’ in the house. I have not decided quite what the rules will be yet. This will be a challenging goal.


Embarassingly I failed this goal again. I let it sit for a week while the buffer from my last failure ran out, then promptly failed again. No excuses for this, just stupid.

Morning planning:

Currently I am running through the below tasks. I am back on google calendar instead of using paper for time-blocking. Still unsure of where I want to go with this, so trying a few things out.

  • Check calendar for pre-scheduled tasks
  • Process all untagged evernote notes
  • Block out tasks roughly in google calendar
  • Check work/home todo lists and add a sensible amount of tasks to Today’s list

Another quick and shallow update this week.

Surfaces goal

I have added a new goal, the second experiment of the year. I was slightly late in picking the goal, so have stuck it in my calendar for next month.
It may seem uninspiring, but it represents an ongoing push to make our home more tidy, pleasant, efficient. This will save us time, improve our mood, etc. etc.

The ‘stuff’ goal continues to encourage me to reduce the number of items we have, but realisticly there will be a limit of how much I can get rid of. I have been steadily building storage around the house to hold what remains somewhere I don’t have to look at it.
Regardless, all the flat surfaces in the house seem to attract piles of gloves, hats, bags, half eaten packets of food, glasses, books, toys, pieces of paper which may or may not be extremely important, pens, cats, rocks, socks and other items which should really not be on the kitchen table.
The surfaces goal is therefore to keep these flat surfaces clean and empty. This is a good result in itself, but it should also encourage everyone to be a bit more tidy in general, since we will need to find sensible places for these things to live.

Knowing my family, this will be a gruelling sisyphean daily struggle I will start small. The goal is currently to finish the day with the kitchen table clear of cruft. If this becomes habit, I will add surfaces one by one until the entire house is finally…tidy.


I have paused writing (a week from now) and increased the editing goal to a level that represents a decent a bit of fiddling with the book each day (8 changes). I just want to get the damn thing finished at this point, so I need to stop adding and start cutting.

The rest

I retroratcheted ‘mustdo’ to get myself moving on some tasks I’ve been putting off.

Frugal lunch is finally going well, with me bringing food most days (or at least avoiding paying for lunch).

Work is going well, it should be a productive week coming up as well.

Next update in a week!


Frugal lunch

This goal has finally become a habit. I’m remembering to prepare lunch pretty much every night I need to. After another month or so I should be able to kill this goal if I stay on track. I retrotatcheted this to keep the pressure on.


I hit the flat spot in this goal on the same day I finished the last scene. I now have a big stack of terrible writing. It will be up to the editing goal to help me tear it apart to build something readable.


The kitchen table is staying clear, but this has not spread magiclly to the rest of the house. It is pleasant in its own right to come down to a clear table in the morning. There is space for a vase of daffodils on there now.


This is becoming a struggle, we need to do some big clearups if we want to make progress here. I actually read Marie Kondo’s book this week. It was much better than I was expecting. Due to the subject matter and popularity I was imagining something shallow.
I have heard people mock it because of Marie’s talk of objects as having feelings, or the insistance on keeping things that ‘spark joy’. They are missing the point. Requiring the object to ‘spark joy’ is a way of raising the bar on what people decide to keep. It makes the process a positive one, focusing on the good things you are deciding to keep, instead of a negative one had she focused on the items to discard.
That she suggests you talk to your items, or when she discusses energy moving into your clothes when you caress them, does not mean (necessarily) that she believes they are alive and have feelings. The ritual of thanking her bag each day will make her more intentional about how she uses and cares for it. This focus on the objects you already have (that spark joy) prevents you from unthinkingly accumulating tat.
The impression I got from the book is that she is extremely good at what she does. I am getting my partner a copy and will give the techniques a try.

Next update in a week!


really good journal to my opinion! keep it going! am I the only one waiting for the next update?


Thanks! To be honest, it is useful to me even if nobody reads it, but knowing someone is reading might be even more motivating.


I also enjoy these updates a lot – really interesting to read about how you’ve iterated through goals/figured out how much they work or don’t work for you



I’ve felt bored of pomodoros recently, so have started using something a bit more flexible. Basicly I nominate a task, mark it and the start time in a spreadsheet, and work until I want to stop. I’ve found myself gravitating on 50-55 minutes, which seems a more natural length of time than a pomodoro for myself, although there is quite a bit of variance.


  • I no longer avoid starting a pomodoro if I know I have a meeting in 20 minutes that would interrupt it. I do track average length of time spent in the spreadsheet, and try and keep it above 25 minutes, but I am able to use the technique to concentrate myself for shorter 15-20 blocks of time as well.
  • I don’t get interupted at 25 minutes when I’m in the zone.

Possible Disadvantages:

  • Breaking before I feel ready might make it harder to restart on the task later.
  • Breaking always after the same amount of time might allow me to build up a rhythm, whereas breaking when I feel like it is less structured.

I doubt it should make too much difference either way, the novelty factor of the slightly different factor should increase my productivity for a few months anyway, then I can always change to something else when that wears off!

For my work task, I am tracking the number of 25 minute blocks of work I complete, rounding down, which should be roughly equivalent to pomodoros.


I did a bug cleanup over the weekend, pulling out all of my clothes and getting rid of a decent chunk that I no longer use. I gave myself a 10 for that, although there was rather more than 10 items. Next weekend I’ll tackle my drawer full of papers.

Everything else

…is ticking along fine, although mustdo/surfaces are scating a bit close to the line.


New Goal

My new goal will be ‘flossing’. Not very exciting. It is one of those things that doesn’t happen if I don’t keep track of it though, so in it goes.

Daily plan

This no longer feels useful. I am playing around with productivity systems again (if nothing else, the novely will increase productivity for a period) and making less use of time blocking. I have archived this.


Last month’s new goal is going fine. The table is still clear. I should probably start expanding to more surfaces, but I feel that doing so will cause me to fail instantly. We need to work on our larger issue of…


I wrote a bit more about my thoughts on Marie Kondo’s book . It turns out that I really liked it. I tried cleaning up my clothes using her method, and it worked very well. I enjoy looking at my wardrobe, I am careful to keep it tidy, it is easy to keep it tidy since I know what I have and where it goes. I can belive that doing the same thing for the rest of the house would be ‘life changing’. My partner is reading the book as I write this, she is lukewarm about it so far, but I imagine that if I continue having success with the method she will try it also. I will work through my papers next, since they are ‘mine’, and I want to avoid common areas as much as possible to start.


My fiddling with productivity systems is going fine, I feel productive, I am staying focused on a single task for long periods of time, I am reducing the amount of internal interruptions (ie. me checking my email or something) during each task.


I am going through and ripping out chunks of text from my horrible novel. Soon it will become a short story. The more I cut, the less I hate it. This is good.


I am feeling positive about beeminder. Before this current batch of goals I was stagnant or regressing outside of a few areas of life. I feel like I have now managed to consolidate my position and begin pushing forward again.
Language skills are no longer slipping, house is becoming nicer, health is improved, productivity is up.
It has not been a massive overnight change, but it should be a maintenable one, one that can continue to compound over the years. Step by step.

Next update in a week!


Just writing in to say that these journal entries are so inspiring. Please know that there is at least one person reading and enjoying it!


I am ill today so will keep this short.

New mini-goal

I added a new goal with a short timeframe to finish off a book I have started reading, 100 kindle locations at a time. I would usually just stop reading the book if I become bored, but I want to finish this one off because I think there might be some useful information in there, amongst the fluff.
Generally I prefer to finish a book within a week or so (Very dense or long books merit more than a week of course, this is neither). This allows me to hold the thing in my head when I go back over my notes. If I take too long, my memory begins to fade. I am always impressed by people who can read many books in parallel.
I’ve not used many short term goals like this before, so we’ll see how it goes.


I have added a second table in the house to be kept clean each day, the titanic struggle between man and clutter continues.


Yeah, it is going fine. Beeminder works great for this kind of thing. It is quick, simple and happens right before I go to bed as part of an existing routine, very hard to fail!

Next update in a week!



Everything has continued chugging along nicely. I am glad I added the new ‘book’ goal, as it has indeed turned out to be something worth reading. I may use beeminder in this way in future, to help finish short-term goals where I think I may need a helping hand.

I am going to head on holiday for a week or so starting tomorrow evening, so we will see how well I am able to continue with my habits on the road.

Nothing much else to say this week, next update in 7 days!