I wrote about my setup to Daniel, and he seemed to like it and (more or less) asked me to repeat it here. So, here you are – maybe someone will find it useful.
Every day I prepared (at most) 12 bullet points for the next day with “things I needed to do”. Every point was worth, well, 1 point, and Beeminder made me do at least 8 points every day. I called this a “productivity score”. Most “tasks” were of the form “spend at least X minutes on Y before time Z”, but there were exceptions (like “do something this day, don’t care when exactly”, or “do not touch facebook until 15:00”, or possibly others).
The plus of that system was its simplicity. The problem was its simplicity. I mean, 90 minutes of coding was worth 1 point, and 3 minutes of answering an important email were worth 1 point. Not ideal.
My current system has variable point values:
- for a task taking up to 10 minutes, 1 point
- for a task taking more than 10 minutes, but not more than 30, 3 points
- 30-60 minutes: 5 points
- 60-90 minutes: 10 points
Apart from that, there are a few more:
- not using my laptop (nor watching youtube on my phone) after 21:45 the previous day - 10 points
- being in bed on 22:15 the previous day - 10 points
- no red Beeminder goals in the evening - 10 points (and 5, 2, and 1 for 1, 2 and 3 red goals)
Also, completing anything at least 15 minutes before the designated time (including turning the laptop off and bedtime!) is worth a 50% bonus (rounded up).
Also, if some task is marked as “urgent”, -10 points (yes, negative 10!) for not completing it that day (even after the set deadline).
Also, no more than 4 10-point tasks per day, excluding turning off the laptop and going to bed (and max 8 3-5-point tasks, and max 16 1-point tasks), so that I won’t cheat with a swarm of trivial 1-minute tasks.
I also have a Beeminder goal of minimum 50 points per day (this seems pretty conservative, but maybe is not - too early to say). No weekends off, and usually at most 2 10-point tasks on weekends, so I need to build a bit of a buffer until Friday (not ideal, I know).
I still consider some refinements, but so far it works great.
Notice two things:
- It’s still pretty simple (after all, I don’t have any automation for it yet, so it is all manual).
- It might be “game-able”, and that could be a weak point for some people, but it’s good enough for me. (If I’d “game” it, I would compromise goals that are important to me personally, so why would I?)