Read more books less news etc?


I was wondering how one might make a goal to read more books instead of surfing/news/YouTube… While I want to stay informed I think Id be better off spending much more of my online time instead reading more books (many of which are ebooks, another challenge)

I’ve tried a few beeminder goal attempts and am now trying to set up tagtime but I was wondering if there’s any other threads or faq or setup instructions either on tagtime or on this type of goal in general

Thanks for any help!

1 Like


I have a “less news” goal that’s specific to news about the coronavirus.

I just add a +1 on any day when I’ve looked at any relevant news.

My self-isolation sidekick and I take turns checking the news for actionable items. I check, and then he checks 2 days later, giving each of us 3 days off in between while allowing us to make sure that we’ll know if something action-relevant comes up, since the other person will let us know. In the meantime, the graph makes sure I’m only allowed to slip on checking pandemic-related news from time to time.

I don’t find myself slipping into taking too long or checking over and over on the days that I do look at news (at least, not enough for it to be something I beemind), so I don’t have anything set up to solve that, but I’d probably use RescueTime to beemind my news time. (Or I’d stick with the +1 system and use to block news during most hours of the day so that there was only a small window I could dive in on the days where Beeminder allows me to check. In fact… I might do just that to keep my news time from taking up more than it needs to.)


Thanks a lot @mary, that’s a nice straightforward solution!

I can’t really use rescue time because I spend a majority of my workday on a company computer where I can’t install it but I can read news and surf.

For tagtime it seems I can link tags to beeminder goals and if I tag a ping with a linked tag then that goal gets a +1… so it can be a kind of “caught you reading news” ping which could push me over and charge me… but it seems like tagtime is meant to be more of an overall time tracker than a “gotcha” system…

Also I wonder how tagtime deals with real changes in time allocation… In a few months or years maybe I really will be spending more time on books but it would see months or years of earlier pings?

1 Like

I think TagTime typically adds 0.75, instead of 1, since it assumes that you’re using a 45-minute interval. So if you go the TagTime route, you can just set your graph to the number of hours per day/week you want to allow and change that rate in the future if you want to change the time allocation. (I might have misunderstood what you were saying, though; in which case this was probably unhelpful!)

1 Like

I beemind reading books by tracking my reading at Goodreads, which I set up to automatically tweet when I put in a reading update. Then I use Zapier (or maybe IFTTT?) to beemind tweets that contain Goodreads links. (This involves using my ‘random datastream twitter’ account, through which I hack a lot of integrations like this – it’s not my actual personal account, just a bunch of different automatic tweets.) I have to make 7 “updates” a week, which means that many days Beeminder is my nudge to read just a page or two of something. I prefer it to tracking time spent reading, since I prefer consistency to quantity. I’d rather read five minutes every day than four hours once a week, especially since reading more often prevents me from forgetting what’s happening in the book.

I like this method because it feels almost completely frictionless (I already tracked my reading in Goodreads, for a lot of reasons, so updating my reading progress there feels seamless) and it’s very flexible. I read whatever books I want, however much of them at a time as I want, audiobooks count too, etc – but it builds a habit of every day finding some time for an actual book.

By the way, to help reinforce this kind of shift in default behaviours (which I’ve periodically needed to do myself to re-set), I recommend two additional things:

1, Find some way to constrain your pool of potential books to read, so that step one of “reading” isn’t “evaluate the merits of every book that has ever existed” – set up specific books to reach for. Make it as frictionless as the next youtube video would have been. Some good ways of doing this are borrowing a couple books from your library (Libby is a real game-changer), physically placing appealing books in different parts of your house, etc.

2, Read the books that you actually, personally, right now, want to read (not the ones that you wish you wanted to read, or seem like they’d be good for you, or that you want to have read – the ones that make you want to pick them up again). This is another way to reduce friction and make reading appealing as a substitute for braincandy.

Best of luck with your reading!


I track (but don’t beemind) my reading time with TagTime! Apparently I’ve spend 108 hours reading in 2020. That doesn’t sound like much, now that I see that. Beeminding based on TagTime is stressful and maybe only works for things you want to spend multiple hours per day doing, so I don’t recommend it for reading. (See But beeminding pages read with an odometer goal works wonderfully. These days I create a new goal for each book and it works really beautifully for me and you’re inspiring me to find additional books to beemind my way through.

Also relevant here:

1 Like

Doubling down on @oulfis suggestion of using Goodreads from me - I have a target to read a certain number of books a year, and every time Goodreads shows me as completing a book, it gets added automatically (via the RSS feed checker mechanism, iirc) to my goal.

Also, incidentally, I find Goodreads a great source for new book recommendations. I befriended some people who like the sort of things I like, and often pick up something from their reviews. You can then add it to your “to be read” list, which again Goodreads will hold for you, and just pick something off there when you’re ready.

I like @mary 's trick of having a “less news” goal, adding +1 when you’ve read some (or spent too long on it for your comfort - admittedly a soft criterion, but I think one generally knows if one has failed on this sort of thing).


@oulfis What are some of the other twitter integrations with beeminder have you got going? Thanks

I do want to pull together a meta-observation about what folks are saying, (which is the same meta-observation as always, really) namely, that the metric you beemind has a big impact on the specific behaviours you want to change. Beeminding time spent reading, books completed, pages read, and “instances of picking up a book”, will all encourage different kinds of reading.

You can try narrowing down which one you actually want by thinking about which weird edge-cases you’d find unacceptable. If you spent a lot of time slowly reading and re-reading your favourite book, would that miss the point? What if you only ever read very short books that were easy to complete? Or if you read very infrequently, but churned through lots of pages when you did? Or if you picked up a book every day but never read more than a page at a time?

Of course, again, hand-wringing about the absolute perfect metric is another classic procrastination technique to avoid actually doing the thing you want to start doing :stuck_out_tongue: So you can probably pick one arbitrarily, whatever seems easiest, and adjust course later if it’s not having the impact you wanted.

I think I used to use twitter to beemind things in toggl and github but now I use native integrations or Zapier, so it looks like goodreads is actually my only twitter-hack beeminder goal now! Mostly, I now use this twitter account to output information that I want to end up recorded in the diary app I’ve been using for eight years.

I think RescueTime and their Beeminder integration is really great for monitoring your internet usage, you can get really specific of what exactly you want to track and minimize your time on with a harsh “do-less” goal.

I’m currently just beeminding the books I’m reading with manual input, since they only require a data input once a week or less. (I’m a slow reader, hah.) KISS, right?

1 Like

Can someone just follow me around for a month re-reading this quote to me over and over?