Scheduling not scheduling

Sounds either anti-beeminder or super-beeminder – anyway I think it’s quite compatible and even if not something you’ll directly copy, good food for thought if you think you may be missing some spontaneity / inspiration / motivation / fun / rest / etc.

The last Focused podcast episode is on “sabbaticals”, with Sean McCabe. His rules (of course way easier for some people than for others, but the ideas can be adapted I think):

  • block out a “sabbatical” week in which you have no scheduled work EDIT: I should say no scheduled ANYTHING
  • schedule that to repeat – he suggests every 7th week
  • do what you feel you want/need to do in the moment – play video games, work on “work” projects, work on other projects
  • don’t schedule anything for that week – not even after the week has started
  • stick to routines like exercise and sleep patterns

How does this map to beeminder?

I do currently rely on it for telling me what to do when for a lot of things, which is a kind of scheduling in the sense he means it: it’s telling you what to do when, for things you may well not want to do in the moment.

So I guess in beeminder terms it’s just:

  • Schedule a break for most goals except for “routine” ones (floss teeth, exercise, etc.)
  • I’m sure it helps to reinforce habits for sticking to a routine in the absence of other scheduling (including beeminder-scheduling) – so for those goals maybe move more towards beeminding habit triggers (did I floss my teeth right after getting out of the shower), with high frequency (say once per day) and low safety buffer.

I think this is wonderful.

I have done the beeminder equivalent multiple times, with a week break from 90% of my goals. I wish I had the courage to push my life around to do it outside of beeminder too!


I really don’t understand this. Routines are basically all my goals, and everything I have scheduled, so I don’t understand how you could both have an unscheduled week and stick to routines.

So I like this idea but I’d schedule a break from all my goals.

Can you explain the distinction you’re thinking of between “routine” and “other”?

I really like the sabbatical approach and I think it would be really helpful for getting back in touch with what you want and what your mind and body need. So thank you for this - I’ll do it.

I also think this is a great idea for anyone trying to lose weight, for similar reasons - helping you get in touch with what your body wants.


It’s his distinction really but: I didn’t intend to refer to all routines, but rather ones like the ones I listed. As I understand it he’s saying don’t mess with the basic structure of your day. It’s a good thing if those things are habitual and you don’t break those habits, because if you do everything else goes… bad :slight_smile: Of course, there’s some judgement required here.

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So you could delete the “work” part of your routine but keep the eating, showering, exercising, meditating, walking outside, and so on.

I just don’t understand the point of that - if it’s a sabbatical you should take time off from everything. It defeats the whole purpose if you still have to schedule half your day.

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That depends on what the purpose of the sabbatical is, doesn’t it? You seem to be talking about a sabbatical from goals/scheduling things; Sean McCabe seems to be talking about a sabbatical from work. Both could be helpful in different contexts.


For me, keeping some routines makes sense. My morning routine includes cleaning the cat’s litter tray, watering plants, taking food scraps out to the compost bin, eating a decent breakfast and preparing vegetables for lunch, washing the dishes - all things that are either essential or highly beneficial, regardless of what else is going on. I wouldn’t want to stop doing them, and I’ve found that getting them done before anything else makes the rest of the day more peaceful.

The routine also includes bathing, meditating, and a little housecleaning, which could be dropped during a sabbatical but I’ve only recently got myself into the habit of doing the complete routine EVERY day reliably, and I’ve found myself so pleased with that. I’d be reluctant to break the habit for any reason.


You could still do them all!

So if you felt like you wanted to do any of those things you still could under this regime!

No, McCabe was at pains to point out that he’s not talking about a sabbatical from work, but rather from scheduling things :slight_smile:

That includes scheduling both “work work” activity and “fun” / “side-project” activities, for example.

He was just also adding to that there are some basic structure-of-your-day things like sleep, exercise, etc. that if you stop, you’re doing yourself no favours, and keeping going with them doesn’t really get in the way of his sabbatical goals. I imagine there are others too – ones we do so automatically that we can’t call them to mind, but they happen. They don’t get in the way of his goals, which are along the lines of encouraging:

  • Motivation
  • Creativity (in his case, for example: starting new businesses or developing
    existing ones rather than keeping his existing business operating)
  • Fun / joy / whatever
  • Rest
  • Freedom

“It’s work if you have to do it” – so, depending on your life situation, it’s possible you might for example sometimes end up doing the same or similar “work work” activities (if you run your own businesses like him) but with a different psychological backdrop. Or you might work on some new side project, or an old one – depending on what you WANT to do in the moment. Or you might rest or play in one way or another. The boundary between work and play is blurred with any kind of creative activity of course, and that’s part of what he’s trying to encourage in himself.

But I recommend listening to the podcast for a better idea than you get from me.

Re fun/joy: Slightly random related link: What is the 'Fun Criterion'? (David Deutsch – behind the scenes) - YouTube Warning: though I’m a fan of DD and I think this is interesting, not his best exposition of a subject IMO, and there is a lot behind anything he says in terms of epistemology that you won’t notice, or that you may misunderstand, if you haven’t read his books, because he does tend to talk in everyday language overloaded with technical meanings – and because epistemology is a tricky subject. Hm, I didn’t know he had a youtube channel, haven’t watched any of these except “Why are flowers beautiful” and this one, so can’t vouch for them. Recommended but unlike the video above, really totally unrelated to this forum: on youtube, his first two TED talks, and Robert Kuhn’s “Closer to Truth” short interview snippets with him, and on vimeo the Nautilus pieces (short), the longer of the two “David deutsch on optimism” videos, and “apart from universes”.

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Everything you say here in your post sounds to me in the spirit of his “don’t drop your daily routine” advice. I guess he’d have a different spin on it than you, like everybody else, so mapping that to beeminder goals is certainly not a mechanical process.

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Oh certainly I could do them all at any time of the day, but the major benefit of my morning routine now is that I always do it all before I do anything else, freeing up the rest of the day for (if I want to) completely unscheduled time with no mandatory tasks. My routine habit has reached the point where I feel a strong distaste to the thought of not doing the routine, which is frankly rare and astonishing for me, and very valuable. There’s a good chance that if I would let myself get out of that habit for a short sabbatical, I wouldn’t be able to get back into it.

Exactly! That advice resonates with me. And this from you is a great way to phrase it too: “he’s saying don’t mess with the basic structure of your day.”

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The power of “a break from scheduling” probably differs a lot person to person based on how their life is structured and how much is “scheduled” in a usual day. I find this sabbatical concept incredibly appealing, even though (or because?) almost all of my scheduled activities are actually my social life. Although I love my friends, I have truly enjoyed the times when I cancelled all of our hangouts for a week or two; maybe because anything one has to do starts to lose some of its appeal.


Yes, I was intrigued by this idea, I only listened to the first half hour of the podcast and came away thinking that these were ideas for people who live very different kinds of structured lives to me. Even though there is structure to it I think my whole life is basically a sabbatical by their standards. I probably won’t go back and listen to the rest of it now.

I forget exactly how they phrased it but they mentioned something like scheduling being the product of your past self giving you the wrong things to do whereas I think Beeminder is generally a tool where your past self is thinking things through and giving you the impetus to do the right things now. I mean, Beeminder could be used to fuel workaholicism I’m sure, but the way I use it is to get the building block routines of my life out of the way and make sure I balance the work & life bits. I like to see my Beeminder deadlines approaching for the week so that I have a rough idea what needs to be done. Rather than scheduling what I’m going to do each day in advance I can see how much buffer I have for work hours, reading pages, craft projects, exercise etc and decide what’s best to do in the moment, especially with regard to wanting my future self to be able to pick and choose what they fancy.

Also I can’t believe I’d never before made the connection between sabbatical and the sabbath being the seventh day of rest so a sabbatical was originally a “seventh year” rest. Seems so obvious now but I never connected the words up before!

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I’m not sure I understand this - why is that? How are they thinking of structure?

My takeaway was that “routine” was good but “scheduled” was bad. Routine was the teeth-brushing, veg-preparing, exercising etc everyday building blocks that need doing even if you don’t feel like them. Schedule was the irregular things that you plan in advance but don’t necessarily feel like doing when they come around, even if they are ostensibly fun things. I felt like there was very little in my life that I’d file under “schedule” in that dichotomy. My social stuff is pretty routine regular get-togethers. My work is done more-or-less when I feel like it, just taking into account the akrasia horizon bounding towards me.

I felt the podcast-people were people with the kind of meeting packed colourful calendars you see in calendar app advertising screenshots, whereas mine shows birthdays and a reminder to put the bins out every week, and my business meetings are almost entirely unscheduled phone calls. The unscheduled phone calls tend to take place on weekday mornings, but they aren’t scheduled other than sometimes being preceded by an email saying shall we sort this out on the phone. Their definition of sabbatical was “not scheduling anything more than 24 hours in advance” and I don’t much do that anyway.

The bit of the podcast I listened to didn’t seem to have anything about taking a break from caring responsibilities etc, seemed to think if you weren’t actively working you could always be resting. They’d started to talk about how to deal with clients expectations that you are always there for them by the end of the bit I listened to, but my attention was waning by then. Interesting food for thought though all the same.


All true for me too.

I know what you mean. But.

I think Sean doesn’t have caring responsibilities. Both of the podcast hosts have kids. Polarisation notwithstanding, I don’t conclude that they think that nobody has caring responsibilities, or that they don’t care about the rest of us peons :slight_smile: (I didn’t hear you as saying quite that about them either, but I guess you know what I mean). I also don’t expect any of them believe that what he recommends is easy, nor that everybody will succeed in doing it – I think that was discussed in the podcast, though I may misremember.

I don’t think it’s necessary to judge the relative ease/freedom of Sean doing this compared to me for me to get something out of it.

Personally, I do “beeminder-schedule”, and from the amount of time I spend on this forum and messing about with related ideas I think you’ll be able to tell I’m signed up to the ideas you mention in your first post! (“I can see how much buffer I have … and decide what’s best to do in the moment”) But that doesn’t prevent me finding in these ideas food for thought about leaving room for creativity, basically (not as simple as just creativity: see the longer list of things I posted earlier). I can think of ways to apply the same ideas to my own life.

Specifically: in my case not all my “routine” goals are “structure of my day” goals. For example, I have a goal that’s about sorting out the mess that’s my financial affairs – that’s something I plug away at gradually, so it’s easily possible to take a week or longer off it. I usually have other goals that are much more “personal development” than “structure of my day” – for example, read more. Again, I can take a week off that. The same applies to a lot, perhaps most, of my goals. So I might try scheduling breaks of a week or two in most of my goals.

In my case I’m more likely to use a “beeminder sabbatical” to play with my new coloured pencils that arrived today (for sketching beeminder UI ideas!) than I am to start a million dollar business as Sean might, but that’s still progress :slight_smile:

Yes, exactly: The useful thing about this podcast to me is that it gives me ideas that I can try to apply to my own life. I basically never transplant them whole, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (I’d say that’s even almost the explicit theme of the podcast as a whole).


Having not listened to the podcast (ever), and just responding to what’s above: I’m with @k1rsty; (especially with quarantine!) my calendar is pretty unscheduled anyway. Right now I only have one obligatory scheduled social event (online Pathfinder game every Thursday night), and the other regularly scheduled non-work appointments I have are therapy and exercise. So clearly I’m already living the sabbatical life :stuck_out_tongue:

That being said, I have a toddler, so my life is actually HIGHLY scheduled, regardless of vacation or otherwise – I’m up by 8am, weekday or weekend, my morning routine is set in stone, and lunch, naptime, dinner, and bedtime are all within pretty tight ranges (or else). I have this week off work for the holiday, which is great, but the underlying structure to my life doesn’t change – I’m just sewing instead of writing python in the times between my toddler-based appointments. Parents, unfortunately, don’t get sabbaticals – certainly not WEEK LONG ones! I think this advice is aimed towards people with a very different relationship to both their families and their calendars.

(To make this very vaguely beeminder, though, I kept all my beeminder goals except non-work ones active during my week off work, but my only “non-routine” goal is doing my daily to-do list, which I decide on the night before. I’ve definitely kept my to-do list short and consisting of only necessary tasks this week!)

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I believe everything you say but: as I said, both of the podcast hosts are parents, and both are enthusiastic about the ideas and have already started applying it to their lives in one way or another. One of them – David Sparks, the one with the older teenage kids, it’s true – kind of has three careers going, by my count, in two of which he’s a one-man-band.

From my perspective it sounds like you’re already applying the same sort of ideas off your own bat :slight_smile:

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