Simplifying Beeminder

Lately, I’ve been simplifying and integrating various systems and parts of my life. In the past, I’ve been dabbling with many different Beeminder goals, but often it would be too much and too complicated and overwhelming, keeping track of everything became a task on its own.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with using just one general Do More goal: +1 if I do something productive/healthy/genuinely fun or relaxing. And -1 if I procrastinate or slack off or just surf the web or something. This has made me much more conscious in how I spend my time. But I’m still searching for the best ways for this to work. Do I count only the activities? Or per hour or half hour? How do I count it when I’m having classes, or when I’m traveling?
Do others recognise this problem? How did you fix it? Or any tips for my experiment? :slight_smile:

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I think you hit the nail on the head: being “much more conscious in how I spend my time” is the true goal.

Like a lot of folks at Beeminder, I use TagTime for this. I’ve got a collection of tags that I count as ‘productive’ that update a do-more goal. And I’ve got a collection of tags that I count as, um, less than productive, that update a do-less goal. And there are a bunch of tags that aren’t in either collection; i.e. they’re neutral.

Having said that, apart from to support a specific intervention that might be needed, I’d advise against <gasp!> creating Beeminder goals for these. I get more out of increasing my awareness than I would out of aggressively beeminding them.

I’m also more interested in how I spend my discretionary time. When scheduled stuff happens, that’s possibly neutral. It’s when I get to choose how to spend the next chunk of time that I need to care about being productive vs procrastive.

In part, that takes away the pressure of how to categorise things that don’t fit. If I’m goofing off in avoidance of doing something, that’s a point against. If I’m in a class, well, that’s part of my job as a student, not discretionary time. Equally, you could monitor how ‘present’ you are in meetings or classes.

I count traveling as part of the time spent on the activity I was travelling to do. In my world, that usually means that traveling is counted under productive or neutral time. Traveling in order to goof-off is slightly harder to imagine.

I seem to have a bunch of Beeminder goals that aren’t specific about what I do or even how much, but that make sure that I regularly do something useful around the house, for example. A bunch of folks have got good use out of Alys’s mustdo idea.

And I’ve got a handful of meta-goals that force me to use other systems. e.g. actually doing a GTD-style weekly review, or getting to the bottom of the day’s todo list, or through all the flashcards, etc.

None of which may be directly relevant, but it seems that you’re in the realm of meta goal setting. Good luck, and let me know how you get on, because we’re all figuring this stuff out, and our internal landscape keeps shifting while we make progress.


Thanks for the detailed answer, @pjh. Discussing these things helps one to think more clearly.

I like your thoughts about scheduled stuff. My thinking was that I needed to account for this somehow. Since if I’ve had a long day, I ‘deserve’ to wind out for a bit. But maybe not counting these things at all is easiest and takes away a lot of the anxiety with how to deal with it. And as long as I consciously choose to relax a bit (read or watch a movie or something) and go on doing something else when I’m done, I guess it’s OK too.

This weekend I’m going to spend a couple days with my girlfriend, who is studying abroad, so I probably won’t be doing much productive. But I guess I should’ve thought about this beforehand and scheduled a break for an instance like this.
In general, it seems much more simple to split the ‘productive’ and ‘mindless/procrastive’ parts into two separate goals. However, the idea I had was that on days with much free time, I would tolerate much more slacking off, as long as it would be compensated with enough productive work. Maybe this is actually fixed by trying to look ahead more, crank up the rate if I have a week off, flatten it when I’m planning a trip. I don’t really know how to handle weekdays vs weekends though.

Thanks for reminding me of the mustdo goal. In the past I’ve also had a goal for my Most Important Task of the day (inspired by Zenhabits), quite similar, but stopped doing it a while back. I’ll probably pick it up again. Picking the tasks/projects that I haven’t worked on the most also seem good candidates to me for this.


would love to hear about your tag system/how you came up with it (that might deserve its own thread for others to chime in too). i finally got tagtime working but now i’m just not sure exactly what i want to do with it yet – there’s so many interesting options and i don’t know what’s most important to me yet!

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This is a good idea, trying to beemind too many things on the same goal is going to cause you difficulty.
I think you need 2 ‘do more’ goals, a productive goal and a relaxing goal. If you set the rates the same then you can make sure you are spending equal time on things, if you have a busy (productive) day one day you’ll have some buffer for the days that you need to slack off more. Over time you should be able to adjust your road rates to find a good balance.

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