Hello everyone. I just want to introduce myself and start a life thread that I can hopefully update every week or so. I have been a Beeminder user for more than a year now. I am a software engineer by trade, so heads up: some over-engineering ahead.
I have used Beeminder to achieve a number of things:
1. Lose a bunch of weight going from 98kgs down to 89kgs. And most importantly, maintain that weight for a few months.
I am great at losing weight. I have lost weight multiple times before but maintenance has always been difficult. It’s been difficult to get started because of this fear that it’s pointless to even try. I even hired a nutrition coach for 3 months hoping to encourage me with weekly calls, goals and plans. I learned a few things, but still ended up gaining some weight at the end of that.
To lose weight this time, I used a combination of habit-based goals. I tried and did not like weight goals. The habits I beeminded to lose weight included: working out a few times a week (Crossfit), not eating crappy food, no calories after 4 pm and a goal to limit how many times I order out food. I also used a meals service to send me a healthy lunch at work. I tracked weight weekly outside of Beeminder, as well as waist, chest and hips circumferences.
To maintain weight, I only beeminded one goal to not eat crappy food. That was basically two long lists of can and cannot eat. Foods that I enjoyed but did not eat regularly. I would allow, like lasagna. If I began to abuse it, then it would go on the cannot list, like fried chicken. If I forgot to include something that I really should not have, I would enjoy it then add it to the list. I gained back about 4kgs in 4 or 5 months.
I would expect some weight gain after stopping dieting anyways. From the graphs you can tell I still don’t have maintenance completely figure out.
With the COVID-19 lockdown, I decided this was an opportunity to start dieting again. This time I have a daily goal to do lazy keto, another goal not to eat calories after 4 pm, so far losing 1kg/week.
2. Train at Crossfit.
I started Crossfit before Beeminder. It had all the right elements that I needed to keep going, especially coaching and classes. Beeminder helped me maintain and escalate how many times I went to class per week. I even started going in the morning for a while to make it easier to diet. I trained for more than a year until I hurt my wrist.
Crossfit in a lot of waits was my cornerstone habit. If I am going to class regularly, I am less likely to eat crap, not smoke, more likely to sleep early, and lose weight which kept me motivated.
Though I have struggled to get back to working out since then, and derailed a few times when I tried to use Beeminder to try to force myself without a plan that accounts for my hand and a good alternative (something that I enjoy and can easily do).
3. Quit smoking.
I quit mostly because I could not do Crossfit and continue to smoke. But whenever I dropped off, like when traveling, I would go back. I used a daily no-smoking goal to hold myself not to smoke. Over the past few months, with no Crossfit, I have mostly avoided it, even when encouraged by others or under lockdown with nothing to do.
This has been the greatest benefit of using beeminder. I don’t spiral out anymore. I used to have periods when I am motivated and I am doing things. But one key thing (a corner stone habit like Crossfit) would end and then I would gain back all my negative habits, quickly spiraling into a depression. Beeminder helped me keep an even-keeled approach to most things. I would build it into the goal itself, allowing for failure 1 out of 7 days.
4. Start brushing teeth at night.
This is a habit I have attempted multiple times before Beeminder but was difficult to continue. With Beeminder, it was easy to pick up and continue for 3 months before I stopped the goal. I started faltering after turning off the goal, so I turned it back on and still going.
5. Continue meditating until I did not want to.
I have meditated for years but Beeminder helped me maintain it when it got difficult. Like brushing my teeth, once I turned off the goal, I faltered. However, I chose not to start up again.
I used Calm for the past year and renewed it recently. I tried Headspace before that for a year. If I was to start again, I would want to try something different.
6. Limit Netflix and media consumption. And get back into reading.
I created a goal that limits how many times per week I can watch TV. However, this led to me binge-watching TV on weekends. I did not mind that until recently, so I created a new goal to limit it to an hourly basis. Overall, my TV consumption dropped tremendously. I also stopped listening to music that I did obsessively. I have also stopped browsing Reddit and the news. I have quit Facebook and other social media platforms long ago, but Reddit was quite sticky.
I used to be a voracious reader up until I left college. With work taking up most of my time, TV became my main entertainment. I came back strong with 20 books read last year and planning on 30 this year. I tried different ways of measuring: counting how many books, measuring how much time I read… But the best way has been to aim to read at least 10 minutes every day. Time-based goals seem to encourage me to cram and then stop for days. Finishing a whole book also encourages me to get lazy until the time is up. Reading 10 minutes every day means I am always putting making an easy effort towards finishing a book, often going beyond.
To encourage me to finish books I start and not spend every 10 minutes on the ones I enjoy the most, I added a rule that the 10 minutes have to be from the book I started first.
7. Track and budget with YNAB.
I learned about YNAB in the forum here and decided to give it a try. I used a daily goal to track that I tracked all my costs. I eventually stopped the goal after I thought I had the habit down. It turned out I did and tracking in YNAB became a key daily habit without a goal. I might need a goal soon to remember to track the budget more closely or maybe just a reminder, but maybe after the lockdown is over.
YNAB helped an extra psychological cost to Beeminder derailments. I have a category just for that, but that I don’t allocate any money from. So whenever I derail, I withdraw money from category like vacation or something I want to buy. It adds to the sting.
8. Get AWS certified.
I used Beeminder to track how much time I spent learning an online AWS course and then ended up getting the easy certificate. Now I am working towards the next level one.
9. Develop a website to help track Beeminder goals.
The main motivation behind this is that I wanted to build my own thing. As a software engineer, I use a lot of tools that others have built but nothing that I have built myself.
I also found the Beeminder UI (web and android) to submit points to be friction-full. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously love Beeminder. But the UI could be simpler. There’s way too many clicks to add one point. After you add a point, the order of the goals changes. So if you are adding a lot of points, then it’s frustrating.
Please keep in mind how I like to add points. I submit all of my points once in the morning for the previous day, except for time-based goals. Before Beeminder, I used to use a simple Habits android app for years to track habit, which was a list of goals and you only had to tap that day to mark it as done. So moving to Beeminder, I wanted that simplicity.
So I built my own form. At first it was simple, just an HTML file that I would update. Then it became a web app with NodeJS, Handlebars and Postgres, deployed on Heroku. I built it with only one user in mind, which is why I never shared it. I have open-sourced it since. And recently, I have been rebuilding it with Vue and Handlebars, and other users in mind. I am just about done migrating, so if you are interested, let me know.
I use this in tandem with the Beeminder widget in the Android app, which offers the simplest view of all the goals and takes up most of my home screen.
10. Keep and use a todo-list.
I have tried todo lists before but I always forget about them. I am using Todoist Premium integrated with Beeminder. The goal is currently set to 2 todos per day, with max safe days at 4. Max safe day feature is the main reason I switched to Bee Plus for this goal. It’s also set for a lot of the other goals.
I have the same issue as everyone else who starts doing low priority and easy todos just to get an easy. I am trying out a new strategy where I use priorities to set what I can do. So if I have a P1 in my list, that must be done. Any other todos completed before don’t count (delete it instead of complete it). P2 takes precedence as well except for P1s. And P3s take precedence except for P1s and P2s. And I can only have one of each: one P1, one P2 and one P3.
I am still trying this approach out, but so far it’s working. The only reason you are reading this is because I gave the todolist item to create a thread a priority, which I have had in my list for weeks now.
I have also used this goal as a way to avoid creating a lot of other small goals. Do I need a Beeminder goal to make sure I weigh in every week? What if I could just get a point for it in this goal? Same goes for reconciling YNAB accounts, updating my LastPass master password, etc…
Okay, 10 things is plenty. There’s definitely more. But Beeminder has been a game changer for me. I will discuss more things in future posts and use this as a place to think out loud and review.