I was inspired by this great comment of @adamwolf’s:

I would love to have this, but I have had trouble getting Beeminder to do this for me, so I thought I’d ask for some help, as well as writing this post in order to think it through and brainstorm in the process of writing it.

I have selected six major tasks that I have been procrastinating on for weeks or months now. I want to get 10 hours done on each of the six tasks in the next two weeks, or finish the task if it can be done in less than 10 hours. (This is my “day job,” and there isn’t much else I have to do, so doing 60 hours of work in two weeks is very reasonable.)

I tend to work best in small units, and I have a really hard time getting started, but once I get started I usually keep going for a while.

It is now the evening of Wed Apr 29, so my goal is to get the 60 hours in by the end of the (calendar) day on Wed May 13.

60 hours is 240 quarter-hours, so I’m thinking of making a paper chart with 240 boxes to check off, and adding a ninth Beeminder goal for this project.

Maybe it should be a whittle-down goal for the 240 units?

I’m going to call it proj240.

I’m going to make the pledge large enough so it really motivates me - \$810 should be good.

I’m also thinking of making use of @alys’s suggestion:

So I’m going to take 240 slips of paper, write each goal on 40 of them, and pull one randomly - except that two of the goals are more critical than the others, so I’m going to divide the 240 slips of paper into three groups:

• group 1: 40 for goal 1, 10 for goal 2, 5 each for goals 3-6 [total 70]
• group 2: 30 for goal 2, 5 each for goals 3-6 [total 50]
• group 3: 30 each for goals 3-6 [total 120]

I’ll start with group 1 and randomly select a piece of paper until group 1 is done, and then move on to group 2, and then group 3.

I’m also thinking about making use of @narthur’s Task Ratchet for my mini-pomodoros on a daily basis - it’s great for that.

So, all you lovely productivity gurus and hackers - thoughts on how to set this up? Is a whittle-down goal good? Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated!!!

8 Likes

Good luck! Now that you’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about it and writing about it, go do some of it and let the rest of the forum ruminate

3 Likes

6 down, 234 to go!

I had to make a couple changes to the random selection part of the system, making it slightly less random:

• There was a portion of Task 2 that needed to be completed today, so I just did that, and then looked in and pulled the appropriate number of Task 2 slips out of the envelope.

• One of the tasks, Task 4, is actually already a Beeminder goal for me, so I need to make sure it gets done every day so I don’t derail on that goal. So I did the same thing - after I did it I just looked into the envelope and pulled a Task 4 slip out.

@narthur’s TaskRatchet is helping me a lot! I set up a “gauntlet” of mini-pomodoros in TaskRatchet (15 minute blocks of time scheduled 20 minutes apart) and with the TaskRatchet window open I end up getting a lot done!

2 Likes

Here is a project 240 update!

As you can see, there’s a big adjustment in the road today. I had YBHP off because it wasn’t working due to bugs. But I realized that the way it was going, I’d be a day behind on the goal, because I was edge-skating, staying on the top edge of the road! This seems like a bug in non-YBHP whittle-down goals.

So at @phi’s helpful suggestion I enabled YBHP again, but it derailed me! I had to go to support to fix it - thank you Jon Courtney! I’d do an @thing here but I don’t know if he’s here on the forum like @shanaqui is.

With YHBP enabled you can see how far behind I’ve been! At least I have been making some progress every day instead of procrastinating for months like I did before! I’m now over 1/3 done.

86 down, 154 to go!

This is how it used to look before YBHP was on - as you can see, I was staying on the road the whole time:

1 Like

I also made a couple modifications in the random draw thing:

• the random draw is optional - if I want I can continue with what I’ve been working on, or work on one of the 6 tasks which has a subtask due or which particularly calls to me in that moment, as long as I haven’t hit the 10 hour limit on that goal

• if I do that, I need to remove a slip for that task from the highest numbered envelope that still has a slip for that task (so Group 3 if it has one, then Group 2, then Group 1)

• exception for task 4, which is already a separate beeminder goal and which I already need to work on for 15 minutes every day - so I have to leave at least one 15-min block per day remaining (otherwise I’d procrastinate on the others by maxing out the 10 hours on task 4 now, and then end up having to do more on task 4 in each day to come!) Once I’ve hit that limit and there’s only one 15-min block per day remaining, I can’t work on task 4 anymore (I mean, I could, but it wouldn’t count towards the project).

• enlarged the scope of one of my tasks to include related tasks that really needed to be done

One interesting thing I noticed is that before, I was procrastinating on all these tasks, but now, I’m procrastinating on some of them by doing others. Like I haven’t even started 2 of the 6 yet. Pretty soon I’ll have checked off all the boxes on the others and I’ll have no choice!

1 Like

Classic structured procrastination!

2 Likes

Update time! Very exciting - I’m over half done!

130 down, 110 to go!

3 Likes

Update - I’m 60% done! 144 down, 96 to go!

I haven’t been using the random draw very much, though it was helpful at getting me started on a few of the projects early on.

This system has forced me to work on goals I’ve been procrastinating on, and made it easier to do by letting me work on the easier ones first so it’s just like “ok, now it’s this one’s turn.” Like I started working mostly on goal 4, and external deadlines pushed me into working on 1 and 2. But now that I’ve done almost all 10hrs on them, I had to start on others.

I was considering extending the system by adding more hours on each goal, which would let me work more on goals 1 and 2 now. There’s a lot more to be done on them, and they do need to be done soon. But then I realized the other goals were also important, and that’s why I made this system, to force myself to work 10 hours on each!

So the last couple days I’ve been working on goal 6 almost entirely - something I’ve been procrastinating on for months and months, and now it’s almost finished!

I really like this system - it really is giving me that blinding clarity of a deadline that @adamwolf was talking about.

Having it as a whittle-down goal really helps a lot, for some reason. I just find it so much more motivating to get rid of things I have to do than to add on to a list or chart of what I’ve done. I wonder if there’s behavioral economics or loss-aversion-type research on this?

I think I’m gonna continue making whittle-down goals for my work every week or two, and maybe even convert some others into whittle-down goals. Like I could try to meditate 20 hours a week by making a whittle-down goal for the time remaining!

1 Like

Very exciting! I’m over two-thirds done!

164 down, 76 to go!

Today I finished an invoice I had been procrastinating on for months and sent it to the client. Amazing to get that done! And I’ve only done 8/10 hours on that task, so if I don’t hear back from the client I’ll use those blocks of time for one of the other tasks. Also got almost 4 hours in today on suing my old employers, which I’ve been putting off for over a year now!

One thing I’ve realized is that doing it this way (where my daily goal is just to work a certain amount of time on the task) is oddly really helpful and relaxing, because I don’t have to worry about anything else, like doing things wrong or not maxing out efficiency. All I have to do is just put in the time, even if it’s not the best or most efficient way to go, and I’ll have done what I need to do. Which is how life works, after all.

2 Likes

“There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore. My pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYlCVwxoL_g

2 Likes

Thanks for that link and quote - that’s a good one.

Success!!! Project 240 is done and I managed to get 60 hours of work in on these 6 projects!

7 Likes

Congratulations!

1 Like

Thank you! And thank you so much for inspiring the project!

So I am going to repeat this - I’m thinking 42 hours over the next 8 days, or 5.25 hours a day. Not sure if that’s too much.

I may also move the deadline time - right now it’s at midnight and I’d like to be done earlier in the day.

1 Like

Ok - I did it! Restarted the goal so I have to do 42 hours in the next 8 days, starting tomorrow. I gave myself a break today.

Here’s the new graph - the isolines look weird after restarting though.

This time I’m not going to use slips of paper - let’s see how it goes.

I also moved the deadline to 9pm so we’ll see how that goes. I’m gonna try something where if I have an appointment or sleep problem and I get it done by midnight instead of 9pm it doesn’t count as a derailment. I posted here asking people’s thoughts. Bracing myself for flames

I put a little sticky note to remind me.

1 Like

I’m very interested in this idea! You seem to have figured out a good system for yourself If you don’t mind me asking, what are some (possibly generic/fake) examples of the tasks you’re doing? I guess it’s difficult to comprehend what exactly is going on here with just simple units.

1 Like

So the 6 original goals in the first round were:

• look for new roommates
• work on the complaint against my landlord (I’m suing him) and email to my landlord
• go through all of my cases in my law practice, make a binder for them, and review them all
• work on the “stack” of things that need to be processed and clarified and entered into my GTD system, and come up with next actions
• email with my old boss about the money they owe me, and work on collecting that money
• finish the invoice for one of my clients, and work on collecting that money

I got 10 hours done on each!

2 Likes

Round 3 is going really well and I moved the deadline earlier and banned snoozing so I don’t stay up till 6am!!

1 Like

Finished with round 3! Hurray!

There was a slight hiccup on the last day. I had moved the deadline a couple hours earlier on Thursday, to 9pm, and then moved it back to 11pm. I don’t consider this a violation of the snoozing ban since the idea was to be done by 11.

I’m starting round 4 - 30 hours in the next 3 days, or until the project is finished! I have a deadline Monday night and this has to be finished by then.