New Year's Resolution Thread 2023

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Will you use beeminder to help you with any of them? Or just some new beeminder goals you feel like saying a few words about?

Recently I’ve absorbing a lot of Cal Newport (Deep Work and Digital Minimalism) so this is a likely source of some resolutions. To help brainstorm, I also re-read the Hammertime Bug Hunt post, and googled some variations of “types of New Year’s Resolutions”, etc. etc.

Taking my lead from Nicky, I guess I’ll try to make a list of general goals for the year and then try to produce a set of beeminder goals that are useful.

Some general kinds of things I want to accomplish:

  1. I have started to plan each day by time-blocking, with large blocks dedicated to focusing on a single project Deep Work style. This is going well. I want to keep doing it.
  2. I want to spend less time reading random articles online / scrolling reddit / clicking aimlessly between discord servers / just doing anything that I’m only doing because I was bored and I didn’t know what to do and it was the first thing that occured to me. Actually, it’s not even just the time, it’s the distraction—even worse than checking my phone just because I’m bored is doing that while I was already watching a movie.
  3. I want to finish tidying up my apartment and keep it clean (two separate issues, if one completely drinks the Kondo Kool-Aid).
  4. I must clear my backlog of half-written research papers. (I have a writing beeminder goal but it doesn’t feel like it’s working. I may write a detailed post-mortem one day but for now I should just try attacking the issue from a different angle.)
  5. Obviously I also want to do well in my new position, although so far I actually feel pretty good about my new research projects.
  6. I want to make substantial progress on learning Japanese.
  7. I want to make more music.

Now let’s convert that to more specific goals. Thinking big, maybe aiming a bit too high:

  1. By the end of the year, average at least 4 2-hour blocks a day (3 work, 1 not work) that are set aside in advance to do some specific thing, and I get through without distractions.
  2. By the end of the year, never multitask. Do not open another browser tab / discord / my phone / anything without a conscious decision to stop whatever I was doing before that. Note that the non-work time block in goal #1 also has some overlap with this.
  3. By the end of Feburary do a substantial tidying that gives everything left in my apartment a specific place it is stored. The rest of the year, keep up with regular cleaning. (Even though we’re not in the beeminder goal section yet, I know that the regular cleaning will mean something like what @rperce is doing.)
  4. The two most important old papers posted on the arXiv within three months. The two less important ones within six months after that.
  5. I have lots of specific goals, but keeping in mind that my biggest problem is not publishing enough, let’s set an insane goal of 4 papers on the arXiv from new projects this year. (Yeah, if you’re in like CS or something, maybe this doesn’t sound insane, but academia varies more than you think it does).
  6. On the short term I will probably make some specific goals like get through textbook X in two months, but this kind of goal is a bit weak (how much benefit did I really derive from narrow goals like “learn to write X kanji”?) I have at least one friend who speaks reasonably well, so we can get closer to an integration test: have a half-hour phone conversation purely in Japanese by the end of the year.
  7. I’d like to make two original songs this year. Details are open.

And the beeminder goals. I’d be open to any suggestions that seem better aligned to the above goals, if you have doubts about any of these:

  1. Time block X hours per day. For now I’ve set X=6. The implied fine print is that it only counts if I ended up actually doing what the block said, but I’m allowed to change the block shortly before it takes place, I don’t have to commit at the start of the day (although it would be good to).
  2. I have already made one amusing goal, phonebox to spend at least 3 hours a day with my phone literally placed inside a sealed box (only intervals of at least 1 contiguous hour count). I think it’d be nice to have another beeminder goal that gets directly at unstructued browsing of discord / the internet but I don’t have a good one yet.
  3. I’m going to basically copy @rperce’s cleaning goal / trello board. As for short-term tidying…well, I tried to think of various goals, but Kondo-Sensei’s voice in my head keeps saying you have to do it all in one go. So !@#$ it, this isn’t a job for beeminder. I’m just going to go to my closet, take all the disordered junk, and put it in a giant pile in the middle of my !@#$ing living room.
  4. For both of the paper-writing goals: one clearly identifiable problem is that goals like work-hours or writing don’t prevent my common failure mode of essentially constantly generating new things to work instead of focusing on finishing a small number of projects before moving on to anything new. One provisional solution is anything that will force, say, 30 hours of my weekly time blocks to be focused on only the 3 projects I think are most important right now. Now, since each of these projects are probably going to last at least a few weeks more…the obvious solution is to just give each of them a separate toggl goal. When I originally made my writing goal I was worried about this kind of solution because of the akrasia horizon—what if by the time I realize a project is almost done, it’s too late to archive it and I derail just becuase I have nothing to do? Well whatever, I can live with that.
  5. For now on Japanese and music let’s just make more toggl goals. Start with 2 hours a week and we’ll see how we can push it.

I feel like maybe I haven’t been creative enough here—̛I mostly just made “spend X hours doing Y”-type goals! As I said before, suggestions are welcome.


what if by the time I realize a project is almost done, it’s too late to arhive it and I derail just because I have nothing to do?

I suspect this is a non-issue: I can’t think of any project where I could generate at least two or three days worth of “polishing” I could apply to it after “completion”: fixing up dependencies/references, improving the README (or “abstract”, as appropriate), taking another copyediting pass, touching up footnote formatting consistency, writing a blog post about the project…

On an unrelated note, I am honored to be your cleaning-goal inspiration! :smiley:

I think I will have some resolution ideas later today. I’ll mull it over and probably post Soon™.



I think looking a year into the future carries too much uncertainty for me, at least for this year. So I’ll only make one New Year’s Resolution, and that’s to set at least three goals/resolutions for each season. Except for 2022-2023 winter, which I’ll set right now, the others need to be set in the last two weeks of the preceding season. So my schedule—I’ll just post updates here, if you don’t mind, @poisson (if you do, I can make my own thread! :smiley:)—is:

  • Today: set winter goals
  • 2023-03-05 – 2023-03-19: set spring goals
  • 2023-06-06 – 2023-06-20: set summer goals
  • 2023-09-08 – 2023-09-22: set autumn goals
  • 2023-12-06 – 2023-12-20: decide if I’m going to do this again for the next year, and if so, set winter goals

To hold myself to those dates, I’ve just set up a metagoal, seasonal-goals[bmndr]. I get a +1 for writing the new goal in the comment of the datapoint and I have to write it here (or my journal thread, or somewhere public).

In the spirit of bughunts past[LessWrong], here’s some things to improve that come to mind that might be good candidates for turning into resolutions:

  1. Be better at setting beeminder breaks far enough ahead of trips, vacations, &c. I already started trying to improve this by adding a “upcoming breaks” section to my journal thread[forum], but that’s only because I started thinking about seasonal resolutions last night.
  2. I’m pretty happy about general cleanliness, but my desk specifically stays too messy for too long.
  3. I “have” too many hobbies, with “have” in scare-quotes there because what I actually have too much of is gear & tools for hobbies I’m realistically not going to back to but am lugging around “just in case”. I’ve had an entry to start cracking on this in my GTD actions list for months and it just keeps drifting lower and lower and lower…
  4. On a related note, come to think of it, my GTD actions list is steadily increasing in depth and I’m starting to get worried about losing important but unpleasant tasks deep in it, which rather defeats the whole point.
  5. My wife and I have been talking about taking tennis lessons together since last spring and haven’t made any progress towards it.
  6. I want to grow more plants but am out of convenient places with good sunlight.

I think (1) doesn’t need to be a whole resolution: I already wrote “fill out the breaks section” in the fine print of my calendial[bmndr] goal, so it’s pre-enforced. (6) might turn into something around summer-goal-time, possibly: we’re currently house-hunting, and our apartment’s lease is up in June, so I don’t want to spend too much time worrying about my physical environment if it’s not a real problem.

(4) gives me an idea for a new reporter script, but I want to get my storygraph individual-book one packaged up neatly and published first, then tidy up my beenary website userscript, then work on the reporter for GTD action depth. That said, I might should create a goal to keep up with doing Weekly Review so I at least scan through the whole list more regularly and archive stale tasks or move them to “someday/maybe” or something. Plus, attacking (4) feels like it might generalize to solving (3) and (5), since they’re sort of “specific task”-style goals.

So, in terms of concrete winter resolutions:

  1. Keep desk more clean. Tracked in a new goal: cleandesk!
  2. Improve rate of handling tasks in my Next Actions list. It’s a big fuzzy problem, but I’ll start by enforcing a more regular & frequent Weekly Review process with a new weekly-review goal and see how it goes.
  3. Sign up for a tennis lesson with my wife sometime before the start of spring. The lesson can be in spring or summer as long as the signing up happens this season. Even though I’m hoping “more weekly review” would make this happen organically, I want it to happen strongly enough that I’m pulling it out into its specific resolution.

Micro-update: I do have spring goals set, but not a full writeup yet—I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow, so I’ve been just barely keeping my head above water preparing for that. Writing coming when I get back! I’ve gotten back, so:

Spring goals writeup ahoy!

Winter Goals Retrospective

A qualified success!

  • cleandesk has been effective, but its rate is a bit low. I’ve just kicked it up a notch, and it’s certainly at least directionally successful.
  • weekly-review is doing a good job with some of the issues with my GTD system, but my Next Actions depth is definitely still increasing over time, so I probably need another system to manage that more directly, control-systems style. I’m not worrying about it right now, since things are still better than they were, and I want some more time to think about potential approaches. Shape Up, the basecamp book, in particular has me thinking some about the futility of backlogs, and maybe I should by default age tasks out if they don’t happen in a month or season? Definitely more thinking to do here—but, and I can’t emphasize this enough, things are better!
  • We signed up for our tennis lesson! We got six; the first is next Friday. It looks like the weather is cooperating, too!

Bugs for Spring

The bugs I’m targeting this season are (phrased as identified: they’ve all seen at least a little bit of progress since deciding I was targeting them!):

  • A few of my friends and I want to put together a little bit of an app, but I haven’t actually done any work for it.
  • Our new house needs a ton of renovation & maintenance work before we can move it, and I don’t feel like I’m moving quickly enough on it, and there’s a hard deadline in June.
  • Meditation, like yoga, is one of those “I don’t do it very frequently but every time I do I think it was really really nice” activities. My yoga practice is slightly better than my meditation practice, so I’m targeting improving my meditation practice. Yoga is probably coming in a future season if it doesn’t improve on its own.

Spring Bugs

Concretizing those bugs into improvable metrics:

  1. Spend time on the app. Adding a new goal, endoscreen, as a Toggl integration.
  2. Work through the list of issues discovered during home inspection. I’m not sure if I want to track this as a whittle-down on a to-do list, or as just time-put-in. No matter what, I need a list, so I’ve added a TaskRatchet task put a task on my calendar that’s due in a week to turn my big inspection-report PDF into an concise actionable list. I’ll make some sort of goal to track this, but haven’t yet. I couldn’t log into TaskRatchet; I’ll deal with that separately. The task I added reads “Complete inspection tasklist by midnight or pay $10 to someone”… I’m hoping I’ll have my TaskRatchet login sorted out by then, but if not, I can use the beeminder api to charge myself or transfer some money to my wife in our budget.
  3. Meditate more. Added a new beenary goal, meditate.

I wanted to make this another reply, rather than an edit, but I got an error that I couldn’t make 3 consecutive replies! I’ve never seen that error before; @dreev, is it new? If you’ve recently updated the Discourse version or something? Might want to turn that off, if so—seems like a weird fit given the “updatey” nature of many threads in this forum. (Edit: I just updated my calendial thread and did not get the error there!)

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I’d guess there’s a different consecutive reply limit, based on whether or not the tread was started by you…


Spring Goals Retrospective

  • endoscreen goal was extremely successful, and is sticking around.
  • Making the big to-do list of home inspection issues ended up making a big positive adjust to my gtd system in general, to be able to handle the sudden massive influx of tasks. Things are truckin’ along!
  • meditate is partially successful. Most of my sessions have been a bit desultory right now, but I’m happy that I’m trying at all. Over time I intend to get slightly more strict with myself about what counts as a real session, or possibly switch the goal to toggl, but for now things are definitely at least better than they were.

Bugs for Summer

As with Spring, phrased as identified: progress is already progressing!

  • I’m dehydrated more often than not.
  • I’m worried we won’t stick with tennis practice without taking expensive lessons.
  • One big part of why we picked the house we did was for hosting opportunities: as an extremely large-scale Beemind What You Buy endeavor, I want to make sure we actually make hosting happen!

Summer Goals

  • I created bottlefill to track how many times I fill up my water bottle. Big ups to @narthur for this technique: it’s been working swimmingly.
  • I haven’t created a beeminder goal for tennis yet, since it’s not entirely up to me whether or not it succeeds. I might end up tracking a metric like “serious attempts to go play tennis”, and count it even if the court is full or my wife is too busy or whatever? But I’m not totally sure. Regardless, I’m definitely tracking for myself how many practices we get in.
  • Similarly with hosting, I haven’t decided what metrics (if any) I want to concretely track, but it’s definitely something I’ve been paying attention to. We’ve been pretty successful up until last week when our downstairs AC went out, so unsurprisingly this is on a bit of a hold while I get that cleared up. Which is gonna suck massively, but such is life.

Maybe just “events for which invitations have been sent out” is a perfectly good beeminder goal? It seems to have obvious advantages over events actually occuring (which would practically require “green is the new red” to avoid derailing due to insufficient planning-ahead) and ordinary social pressure is probably enough to prevent trying to back out after already inviting people over.