New Year's Resolutions: December Dry Run

Hey all!

In the past, Mary came up with the idea of the New Year Survivor contest, and we saw an amazing number of people stick to their goals for that – we know Beeminder works, and yet I don’t think we expected quite how many people managed to make it the whole year without even derailing. (I know I didn’t expect to with my own goal choice.)

I think part of that was the sense of having a community all sticking to our goals together, as well, so I’d like to tap into that again, and I’d love to invite everyone to join me.

Right now, of course, it’s only December… which is why I’m doing a warm-up. Come January, I’ll invite people to identify just one goal that they’re gonna ride or die with for the whole of 2024, preferably a brand new goal, and preferably without derailing or changing the goal’s rate (this is all going to rely on self-report, though – you’re hardcore Beeminder users, I trust you!). The point of just one goal is to keep the focus, and also prevent people from trying to overload themselves. One goal is fine: we can do that no matter what, right?

Nailing yourself to one goal is difficult, though, and knowing what rate to start out with is tricky. So I’m inviting you to join me in December for a dry run: create a new goal, or multiple new goals, and experiment. What rate can you stick to? Do you run out of oomph after a week? Does it turn out that doing yoga right before bed makes you feel terrible, or waking up at 6am just won’t fly? That’s what we’re here to find out – the only rule is to experiment.

Rules:

  • Create at least one goal to try out in December, to decide whether you can do it in 2024 and what rate you’d like to set.
  • Post in this thread with some commentary on what you’re going to do (or what you’ve already done, if you decide to try first and comment later), and I’ll add you to the list, closing on December 31st 2023.
  • Feel free to come back and do multiple updates about your experimentation process!

Hall of Fame

And now it’s 2024! Join the 2024 challenge :tada:

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And I’ll lead the charge with my own goal experiment…

Short version is: I’m going to start with a goal to eat live culture yoghurt every day. I’ll set the rate to 6/7 a day (6/week), so that I have some room for building up buffer, but I’ll set an autoratchet as well so I can’t earn too much buffer. I’ll start with just one day of buffer, so I can get started right away.

Longer version: I’m reasonably convinced by my course material for my Nutrition & Infections course that I ought to be eating live culture yoghurt. For example, in elderly people a specifically selected strain of Lactobacillus offered a number of benefits, which augmented immune function (through boosting natural killer cell activity) and reduced the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (something to which, though not elderly, I’m quite susceptible).

They’ve also been suggested as beneficial commensals for people with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, which alas, I have, and a finding which I’ve seen elsewhere. There are some other papers that make it all sound very encouraging.

Also, cholecystectomy changes the microbiome in not-great ways, and, you guessed it, I’ve had one. So I ought to try and take care of my microbiome, and Lactobacillus is usually beneficial there.

Now, I’ve yet to do a deep-dive on all of those articles, so I’m not making any recommendations for anyone else here… but I’m uncomfortable enough with my high doses of proton pump inhibitors and daily guzzling of icky sodium alginate products that I’m ready to try any intervention that’s tasty, non-harmful, and has just about any evidence behind it. :laughing: Also, it’s a good snack to replace some of my less healthy indulgences.

Dosage and so on are all hard to judge, and the strains used in experiments usually aren’t available commercially, so I’m just gonna start by eating one yoghurt a day, with some leeway for days when I have an upset stomach or we forgot to order yoghurt in the shopping.

Other ideas: I have a bunch of ideas about adding incremental goals to improve my diet a bit or make tiny life improvements here and there for overall health and well-being, but I’m terrible for starting a load of hares at once and then burning out. So this time I’m going to stay focused and not try anything else, for now, but I am also considering goals for servings of fruit/veg (and not just the same fruit/veg I already eat), picking up exercise again now my anaemia has improved enough to do so, etc. But I think it’s really important for me to go s l o w l y.

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And I’ve created the goal!

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Great idea, @shanaqui! Before I even saw this thread I had just created a new “work out 3x per week” goal which looks like a great candidate for this.

I need to do things like this to stay out of physical therapy–my back, if left unattended, will tend to spasm and put me out of commission for two weeks at a time, followed by months of physical therapy to get back to normal.

I have a small “core exercises” goal but that doesn’t seem to be working well enough. So I’m going back to beeminding a coarser metric (times per week breaking a sweat) instead of "number of sets of core exercises.

I’m also playing around with deadlines, setting the deadline to 4:30 pm so that it’s harder for me to leave it until the evening (after dinner, and possibly an alcoholic drink). I think this will force me to use my work’s gym facilities more, which is a boon, as I tend to work out in a more focused way in a gym with good equipment.

I am setting an auto-ratchet to 7 days maximum, which will allow me to build up buffer for a short vacation, but I won’t be able to take two weeks off like I recently have.

are/workout-resolution

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Thanks for rallying us, @shanaqui! I’ve made one goal for 2024 so far (plus dozens of goals that will be ongoing before, during, and after 2024):

d/readprecipice

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I know I’ll definitely be doing reading goals as well, at the very least, but I stick to those without some extra accountability. I don’t know why I find health-based stuff so difficult – I’m bad about stuff like taking my inhaler too, for example. So that’s why I’ve picked the yoghurt goal as the one I probably want to pin myself to for the whole of 2024. It’s not a huge commitment, like committing to walking x steps a day or something: it’s something I can easily complete in five minutes, and it should have some pretty good effects… so in theory it’s something gentle to start with.

I predict feeling like I hate yoghurt and I hate Beeminder and I want to quit within a month, though, because I’m also picky about food and have a low appetite at the best of times. :laughing: So that’s my challenge. I’m hoping this dry run will help me figure out whether yoghurt six days a week is really feasible – enough to push me and to encourage consistency, without being inescapably insistent on days where I really think I couldn’t stand it.

That said, I should think over my reading goals a bit as well. This year I started off with a pretty easy goal, got ahead by a long way, got ambitious, and then ended up feeling a bit squeezed. I don’t know if I want to have multiple “levels” again next year; in a way I liked it 'cause it’s pretty neat that I’ve finished my original goal, and there’s not much question that I’ll meet my “extreme” goal. But I’m still feeling a bit harassed by the savage reading goal; maybe that was just a bit too much? Or maybe it’d have been okay if I was more consistent through the year? Or maybe I should back off a bit, to avoid getting the sense that reading is a chore? Maybe I want a single goal that I auto-dial?

Choices, choices.

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I will try something weird.

Background

I have many time-tracking goals using toggl—do more, X minutes/day. I am generally glad I have these goals, but one negative side effect is that when I am edge-skating, they tend to promote spreading my time thinner than is optimal—if my work goals for all 3 ongoing projects + my two hobby goals are all in the red, I basically end up having to do all the things today, when it would probably be better to focus on fewer things.

Thus, I would like a goal that explicitly requires me to spread the day over fewer things.

The quantification

For a categorical random variable, something like “variance” is ill-defined. Instead, the standard notion of “how spread out” a categorical variable is is the entropy

S = - \sum_{i} p_i \ln{p_i} \geq 0.

We may adapt this idea to define a daily “entropy” of time spent. If a fraction f of our time (i.e. 24 hours) is spent on each task i=1,2, 3, ..., as S = - \sum_{i} f_i \ln{f_i}.

The point of this quantity is that it generally measures how “spread out” my time is. For example, if I do 6 things in a given day, then S is highest if I spend the same 4 hours on each of them, and lower if I focus on one and only spend a bit of time on the other 5. Similarly, if I spread my time evenly between N activities, then making N higher makes S higher.

The goal

Thus, we make a do-less goal on this “entropy of time spent”. Each “project” in toggl counts as a separate activity. If I have time where I do not record any data in toggl, I will treat that time as split into unique 30-minute activities, which should act as a penalty for not tracking time.

Possible objections

Doesn’t this require you to track almost all your time?

Yeah, I don’t consider this a deal-breaker.

Since entropy increases when you increase the resolution with which variables are defined, doesn’t this disincentivize making more precise toggl projects?

Yes, but that’s effectively a bad incentive that acts on the other side of the akrasia horizon, so I don’t think it’s too big a deal.

Aren’t most of the properties that make entropy useful irrelevant here? So, for example, there is no reason to favour S over any monotonic function f(S)?

Yes.

But I think S grows at roughly the right rate. For example, if I decide to set the rate so that an “acceptable” day was 8 hours sleep, 3 hours each on 5 activity, 1 hour on a 7th, that would be S=1.8-ish. My “no data” day, with the assumption that no data = a bunch of half-hour activities, would give S=3.9-ish, or closer to 3 if I at least logged sleep. So just using S roughly satisfies the principle that a bad day should be about two acceptable days used by the PPR system.

Isn’t it stupid to count sleep?

Maybe, I dunno.

Won’t it be insanely hard to build buffer?

Yeah, kind of. The only way to get 0 for a day would be to sleep all day. Getting even a half-day of buffer in a single day would require something like spending all of my waking hours on only two activities. But who knows, maybe it would be good to sometimes spend a day doing something like that.

Worst case, I will consider replacing S with f(S) for some f that changes rapidly at small values of S and becomes linear for large S, to allow for days with datapoints closer to 0. Or stop counting sleep…

In conclusion

So yeah, I’ll start this goal with a slope of 2.5 nats/day.*

The only issue is coding the script. Unless I make beeminder goals for all of my toggl projects (which would be nuts) in order to use my existing machinery, I’m going to have to learn to use the toggl API. It shouldn’t be too hard…


*Entropy/information sort of has units, because if you change the base of the logarithm it changes the number by a constant factor. Entropies computed with base-2 logarithms are in units of “bits”, and if the natural logarithm is used, “nats”.

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OK, you’ve convinced me! I already have several reading related goals but I still end up reading less than I mean to so I was thinking I should make a book reading goal for 2024.

My books read per year graph makes it perfectly clear that I can read at least 50 books a year even when my life is busy and I don’t want next year to be another gentle downhill on this roller coaster of a graph, let’s get some more climbing in!

I’ve found myself falling prey to the ‘save it until the new year’ syndrome though. I currently have several half read books and if I hold off on finishing them until January then I’ll get an easy start to 2024… but that’s obviously utter cheaty nonsense and I’d rather have a strong end to 2023!

So I’ve made a books goal with a rate that equates to 50 books/year with an immediate start.

This is the kind of goal where I’m happy to add fractions, like 0.2 for having read 20% of the book, but just not to put in the full 1.0 for the book until it’s actually finished, so… well at this point I was trying to work out an argument for the few days of buffer I was giving myself to start but since I’ve just admitted to having several partly read books lying about that I can use to make immediate inroads into the graph I’ve ratcheted them all away and made myself start with a beemergency.

Best go and do some reading! :books: :heart:

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I will run 3 times a week at least for one year.
I will not derail once. Even if I have to run in the worst heat ever. I will run!!! Even if it’s 11pm. I will run. I cannot break this new years’ goal.

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Taking a creatine supplement is good for me (and the science says that’s true for lots of people!). But I’ve been forgetting to take it for a while, and it’s really best if taken consistently for weeks/months to build up physiologic stores. When I’m taking it, I notice better recovery with my weightlifting and better mental focus/energy. The main barrier is that if I take it on an empty stomach, it causes some upset for me. I haven’t tried splitting the dose throughout the day, that might help…

I’ll try out this new goal with 0.5 doses/day, to account for days where I might forget to take it, and I’ll adjust this up towards 1 dose/day based on how I do in December.

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I’m setting commits goal to 4.5 days a week up from 3 I had before.

This goal is about pushing more code in my free time.

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I’m in. Going to declutter one thing a day. I’m trying to be minimalist-…ish. Well I’ll just say my vision is a simplified life. I’ve done rounds of decluttering sessions over the past maybe three years. I’m retired military… there was a tendency to collect things at each duty station. :woman_shrugging: It was easy to not have to consider moving costs when I wasn’t paying the moving bill. Great progress with getting rid of things now though. This goal will be to push me through that last layer (it’s like peeling an onion) and for maintenance. Since I’ve gotten rid of larger items and many other things the count is for no matter how big or small the size of the item.

Declutter 1 thing a day

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Actually… in the cold light of day, the goal I proposed for myself above is just stupid.

I mean, maybe it’s fine. But it’s just stupidly complicated and barely legible. If what I care about most is to focus on a single project at work each day, I should make a goal targeted at that. If what I care about is to not do more than one hobby in a given evening, I could make a goal for that. But the goal I proposed sounds like it will end up taking up an unecessarily large number of brain cycles just thinking about the mechanics of the goal itself, which seems like a waste.

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This post inspired me to do a December Dry Run of my new out-of-bed goal. The general idea is that I want to stay out of bed after my alarm goes off. I consider this a gateway habit to better mental health and productivity. Earlier this year, I kept track of this goal for three months with a physical habit tracker, but I fell off as soon as I missed a couple days (and lost the sense of identity that I am a person who gets out of bed).

Here is my fine print that I developed during those months:

If my alarm (phone alarm or alarm clock) goes off, I am obligated to get out of bed and stay out of bed for three hours. This behavior is equal to a +1. Max of one +1 per day. Sitting (or laying down) in the bed in this three hours period after the alarm goes off disqualifies a +1 for the day. A forgetful, almost-sitting-down but springing-back-up behavior does not disqualify the +1. Falling asleep on the floor is a disqualification. If I wake up and turn off the alarm before it goes off, this counts as the alarm going off.

If I don’t set an alarm, the following rules apply. I am allowed to get up and use the bathroom. Looking at my phone or computer screen is equivalent to the alarm going off. So, I am allowed to use the bathroom and get back in bed as long as I don’t look at my phone or computer screen.

Sick day exception: If I take a sick day from work due to physical illness (i.e. cancel all meetings and obligations and stay in bed most of the day), then I am allowed to add a +1 for a sick day, along with a comment specifying this.

Rate: Right now I set the rate to +1/day with zero buffer. I want this behavior to feel like a hard commitment that is part of how I go through life. I would rather not go through the thought process each morning of (“will I use my buffer today?..”) I think the fine print makes this feasible, but the goal forces me to commit to an alarm time (or no alarm) in advance of going to sleep.

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I’m finding that my current rate on my yoghurts goal is going okay… I’ve gained a day of safety buffer already, which makes me think maybe I should make the goal a tad stricter. On the other hand, that’s perhaps just the enthusiasm of a new goal.

(Enthusiasm might be the wrong word, because I’ve definitely grumped about eating my darn yoghurt.)

It is upsetting my stomach a little bit, but from what I read, that’s not too unusual when you start regularly using something that provides probiotics. Hopefully it’ll settle down soon and I’ll know by the new year whether it’s sustainable from that point of view!

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Working out is going well after a week. I’ve noticed that the higher intensity of working out has caused an uptick in my fasted weight, but I think this is a short-lived change that should balance itself out once the water retention settles.

My back feels limber and less likely to spasm, so that’s good news. I’m concerned about the feasibility of staying on track during a period of extended illness, as I’ve had a week and a half long spate of RSV or something similar recently, but I suppose that’s a good reason to build up my 7 day buffer as soon as possible.

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Okay - I wanted an “exercise” goal I could auto-track with Apple Health or another supported app because I didn’t think I’ve been meeting the recommended 150 min per week of moderate exercise. But when I looked at Health I discovered I’m usually breaking 200 min! So thinking more about what I’m wanting to accomplish I am trying out 50 minutes per week of exercise specifically targeted to benefit bone health for osteoporosis. That can be some 10-minute exercise videos, or walking down multiple flights of stairs, other weight-bearing activities, etc. I’ll need to manually enter these, but that should hopefully make me more conscious of doing them.

nyres-50experwk

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oh, i really should get back into reading all forum posts regularly, i almost would have missed this one!

december’s already half over, and i literally just created a new goal today, but i can’t use it for this because it won’t last the whole year … (it’s a book goal)

however, this seems like the perfect opportunity to finally create a super low rate “fruits and veggies” goal! so here it is: fregs—this is me committing to eating 6/7 servings of fruits or vegetables a week. why so little? because i need to start slow if my goal is as few derails next year as possible (and also i might just bend the rules a little and up the rate after a few months). starting with 7 days of starting buffer, 2 days of post-derail-respite, 7 days auto-ratchet, and no breaks input for any upcoming vacations—which i think is a first for me!

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@shanaqui was I supposed to be added to the list above?

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I will get it updated soon, yes. :slight_smile: It’s something I’m doing on my personal time, though, and I have a lot going on at the moment. Sorry!

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