Minding sparse (non-daily) start times for creative work

So, if you’ve been using Beeminder for any amount of time and you’ve decided you want to mind your creative work, you’ve probably run into the problem of tracking it.

You could mind your finished work (number of paintings, finished poems) but that goes against one of the founding principles of Beeminder (namely, mind inputs, not outputs). You could mind the time spent on it in total, but if you’re a person who does their best work at a certain time of day you could be putting in a bunch of junk hours and not actually accomplishing as much as you would want. You’d be leaving good creative time on the table despite motivating yourself to work on your creative stuff.

But there is a way to force yourself to work so that you don’t miss your most creative hours! I’m calling it an ass-to-chair goal, for a phrase I’ve seen a lot of writers use when they describe the daily ritual of sitting down to begin writing.

So, say you want to force yourself to get in some good creative hours on a regular schedule–3 days a week, Monday Wednesday Friday, starting before 7am because you’re a morning person and you think best about your characters during sunrise, and also you don’t trust yourself to honestly report whether you did in fact start work at 6:45. The steps are as follows:

  1. Start a new do-more goal with a flat road, say: beeminder.com/[yourNameHere]/asstochair [1]. Set the deadline to 7:10am (to allow for a 5 minute grace period and IFTTT flakiness).
  2. Set up a new IFTTT applet using the “Date and Time” channel to fire about an hour before you plan to arrive at your workspace. This applet should add a datapoint of -1 to asstochair on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6am no matter what. IFTTT’s date and time features are really flexible and customizable.
  3. Set up a second IFTTT applet which fires whenever you arrive at your workspace or perform a trigger that reliably proves you’re about to start work, ie your phone arrives at a location, your phone connects to a specific wifi SSID, data is logged from rescuetime on your work computer, etc. This goal should add a datapoint of 1 to asstochair.

Then, whenever your work days roll around, the following happens. At 6am, your perfectly flat goal gets a datapoint of -1 from your first applet and goes into the red, triggering panic and notifications, because it’ll now derail at 7:10 if nothing else changes. You roll out of bed, eat breakfast, go to the studio or sit down at the computer, and your second applet sends a datapoint of 1, putting the goal back to 0 and safety.

To pause or stop it, all you need to do is pause your first autodata applet. So this means it’s not weaselproof but it is automatic, which is great for those of us who like to work early but don’t always remember to do the little things before our second coffee.

[1] purely hypothetical, of course.