I’ve just returned to Beeminder since stopping it in 2020. I thought I’d keep a public record of the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn. These will be in no particular order.
My hypothesis about why Beeminder works
Today 2022-04-08T07:00:00Z I realized that commitment devices such as Beeminder are tools for changing our emotional state at exactly the moment we need it.
For example, I have not been checking my email regularly. I decided to use GTBee to check it for 30 minutes (not how it was designed to be used but how I use it.). In any case, as soon as I put $5 on the line, I can feel the motivation well up within me. I WANT to get through my email during those 30 minutes. I feel satisfaction in clicking the green checkbox before the timer runs out.
I know of many tools that can increase motivation.
Most depend on me remembering to use them when needed. But I may not feel motivated to remember. However, if I set up a contract in Beeminder, I’m very motivated to remember … and I do remember most of the time. And if I forget, I get even more motivated to not screw up again.
I don’t know if seeing Beeminder through an emotional lens has been done before but I thought I’d share as it felt important to me to express this somewhere.
The stupidity that had me leave Beeminder and how I’m fixing it
So I left Beeminder after losing a TON of money on commitment contracts. I can’t bear to review my financial records to see how much I lost … but suffice it to say, I could have bought some really great stuff with that money.
I got tired of losing all that cash and also not feeling successful so I eventually dropped Beeminder.
But why was I failing so often anyway?
It was a case of not solving the problem at hand. Meaning, if you keep screwing up, then you need to reflect on that and then fix the problem. But what I was doing is just making the same errors again and again hoping the next day would be different.
Specifically, I had a bunch of tasks to do daily in Beeminder, my days were full so I had to do a lot of these tasks at night after the kids went to bed. We were having trouble getting them to bed on time each night, so I was very tired. I was also procrastinating. So I had to stay up to get these tasks done. But I also had a contract to get to bed at a specific time each night. I’m sure you can see the problem.
I would succeed at one thing, but then I’d fail at another.
Could I have solved this problem? Yes. In hindsight, I can see several ways to solve it. Chief among them would have been to simply ask others for advice such as on this forum. But, alas, such obvious wisdom escaped me. I gave up in frustration.
So now that I’m back, what am I doing differently?
One, I’m sharing my journey with others so if I screw up, I can ask for help.
Two, I’m making sure my first tasks mutually support each other. So I have a task to get to bed by 11pm but also a task to wake up at 6am and do a Focusmate session.
Three, rely on multiple systems to reinforce each other. I’m naturally motivated to show up to Focusmate sessions so scheduling those for the morning helps me get up on time which also helps me want to go to bed on time. Beeminding my Focusmate sessions makes me want to do those sessions even more.
Another thing, I’m not assuming that my system is perfect. I’m sure there will be flaws. I’m assuming that something along the way just won’t work. But now I’m prepared to face the problem and solve it.
And if I don’t, I can always fire up GTBee for a problem-solving session.
Welcome back! I’m hoping Beeminder works better for you this time. You’ve made some interesting points so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes for you.
I also have trouble with leaving goals until too late at night, so I’ve started slowly setting up a waterfall system, which is helping, although I’ve derailed a couple of times from forgetting a goal was due earlier now.
Are you aware that GTBee is no longer supported and may disappear in future? I’ve been using the excellent TaskRatchet instead - create once-off tasks with a deadline, pay money if you don’t complete them on time. It integrates with Beeminder if you want a goal to ensure you use TaskRatchet regularly.
That resonates with me! One of my biggest problems is getting into such a funk that I can’t do anything productive, and that can last for hours on a bad day. It’s just occurred to me while reading your post that I could have an emergency shell script activated with a keystroke that sends a task to TaskRatchet with a deadline 15 minutes into the future to just do something (maybe make it pick a random task from my list to do just a few minutes wok on). I’m hoping that will change me from a depressed/fearful state into a more productive one. So, thank you for the inspiration!
Thanks for letting me know about the waterfall concept. I wasn’t able to figure out how to do it from the post but I like the idea and will look more into it.
I really love GTBee since I can access it through the app on my phone. But I guess I’ll have to start using TaskRatchet soon. I have it set up but just don’t use it. One advantage of TaskRatchet that I see is the ability to set a specific due date and time. That’s much easier than figuring out how many hours, days, or minutes before a task is due. BUT, there’s no reminder on my phone that a task is due and will cost me money. I’m sure they, or I, or we will figure something out.
Hopefully, you can share this solution with the rest of us. I’m sure you are not the only one that needs it. I would like that as well especially when GTBee is no longer available.
One simple observation.
I used TaskRatchet earlier today to clean the kitchen table. As usual, my motivation was totally on for the task afterward. But, that’s not all. My motivation, in general, was higher and I ended up doing a lot of other tasks with that feeling of full force – all cylinders on.
I’ve noticed this with other techniques that raise motivation as well. There seems to be a spillover effect that carries on for a little while. It eventually fades but it seems that using a tool like TaskRatchet intermittently throughout the day might help me keep my motivation up.
Plus tasks are more enjoyable when done with high motivation.
The journey is nicer and I’m moving faster too.
Push notifications are on the list of features under consideration and are highly upvoted, so you might find that they help in time, in conjunction with running the site on a mobile browser I guess.
My emergency shell script turned out to be super-easy because I decided to make it use a generic task name instead of picking a task for me:
“do 10 minutes on top task or on any one of three random tasks”
That gives me four choices for a task to do in case some of them can’t be done at that precise time or have too much of an Ugh Field. Normally when I’m over-stressed, choices are bad, but I think the looming deadline will overcome that.
The deadline is 15 minutes into the future so I have 4 minutes to faff about choosing a task and making myself Just Get Started, 10 minutes to fulfil the requirements of the commitment, and 1 minute to mark the task complete.
I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. Today at work was so busy I didn’t have a chance to become frozen with horror and despair.
#!/bin/bash # creates a TaskRatchet task due in 15 minutes TASKRATCHET_USERID="...fill_this_in..." # see https://app.taskratchet.com/account for API details TASKRATCHET_TOKEN="...fill_this_in..." date_due=$( date --date="now + 15 minutes" "+%-m/%-d/%Y, %I:%M %p" ) task_name="do 10 minutes on top task or on any one of three random tasks" curl -X POST \ -H "X-Taskratchet-Userid: $TASKRATCHET_USERID" \ -H "X-Taskratchet-Token: $TASKRATCHET_TOKEN" \ -d "task"="$task_name" \ -d "due"="$date_due" \ -d "cents"=500 \ https://api.taskratchet.com/api1/me/tasks xdg-open https://app.taskratchet.com/
@narthur FYI in case you’re interested!
@alys thanks for sharing your script.
I don’t know much about programming. Can you tell me what to do with the emergency shell script? Do I add it to my browser in some way?
Ah, I’m sorry! It’s a bash script for running on the command line on a Linux PC.
But something that runs in a browser would be convenient, especially when procrastinating on imgur. I’m going to try to make a bookmarklet, which you would run in a browser.
Awesome! That would be amazing.
There’s a bookmarklet version here: TaskRatchet bookmarklets