The Zed Sched Fire Trial: I take Mary's scheduling challenge!

@mary wrote a great post about an experiment she’s trying: locking herself into a routine of 33 daily items for 30 days and making $5 goals for each.

I am really inspired by this and am going to try a similar scheduling challenge! Thank you @mary for the inspiration!

Having 30+ daily items sounds insane but the key is that I only have to start the tasks. I can just do them for a minute and then stop - and I probably will a lot of the time, at least at first. Also, many tasks just take a minute or two: lock up my phone, set my alarm, brush my teeth.

The point for me is to get back into doing stuff instead of lying in bed all day - I’m trying to use this trial by fire :fire: and the power of the new year to pull myself out of this slump I am in.

With 30+ daily items, I can’t afford to make them $5 each, as that’s over $150 a day or over $4500 at risk for the 30 day period. So I’m making them 50 cent goals, which still means there’s over $500 at stake here - still nothing to sneeze at!

I hereby commit to continuing this for 30 consecutive weekdays beginning Monday, January 4, 2021 and paying 50 cents for each datapoint not entered before the deadline during the entire 30 days.

Because Beeminder doesn’t have an option for 50 cent goals, I’m implementing this by making all the daily items freebee goals, and then adding helping payment goals at $5 each. I can enter one datapoint in one helping goal if I enter data in 10 freebees before the deadline.

I’m also making my goals disjunctive, so that I can enter a datapoint if any one of the following are true:

  • a) I start work on the task.
  • b) I am doing work on another important work obligation during that time (upcoming deadlines, client meetings, work phone call)
  • c) I have some kind of important administrative task that can’t fit into the time allocated (dealing with car repairs)
  • d) prescheduled event at that time
  • e) calling in sick / sleep problem
  • f) previous task wasn’t started for reasons (b) - (e) and I’m off track.
  • g) my 30 day period has ended and I’m reevaluating, reorganizing, figuring out what comes next, or trying something new.

This also has the advantage of not taking up Beeminder support time when that could otherwise be avoided, since I’ll be determining this myself instead of emailing Beeminder. It’s sort of like a home-grown self-serve legit check.

In keeping with the Quantified Self principle I will also note in the comments for each datapoint entered which disjunct was true.

More notes to follow!


@mary was kind enough to provide a lot of detailed info and answer some questions, which I very much appreciate.

Like her, I’m assigning each goal a block of time, with reminders 45 min before the block starts, and deadlines 1 hour 15 min after.

I’m also going to add a couple goals with larger penalties to keep me honest: a “no snoozing” goal to make sure I don’t snooze any of the deadlines, and a “true start” goal to make sure I don’t enter data on a goal before I actually start the task!


Good luck!

One thing to keep in mind is that I rigged up a two-click process on my phone’s home screen that is triggered by a single icon and that moves me smoothly through my routine without me having to interact with anything else other than that quick workflow when I start. It also provides reminders through the to-do app it interacts with (OmniFocus).

That reduction in friction will, I suspect, play a big role in the sustainability of this if it turns out to be sustainable. If you have any way of automating things, that might make your experience easier. I think the reminders and cueing from my to-do app will also be key to not just seeing something shiny and waking up to 27 derailments.

YMMV, though!


I use the Android widgets, so I’ll have widgets for all goals, in order, right there on my home screen, so I can just tap them to enter data, and I also have the list widget which will list all upcoming goals in order.

The Android widgets make things really easy.

I’m still thinking about blocks of time. Leaning towards something like:

12:15 - 12:20 set alarm and lock phone for the morning
8:30 - 10:15 morning tasks
10:15 - 11:30 breakfast, protein, meds
11:30 - 3:30 work block
3:30 - 4:30 break time
4:30 - 5:30 meditation block
5:30 - 7:30 break time
7:30 - 8:30 meditation block
8:30 - 9:30 whittle down / work block
9:30 - 10:45 break time
10:45 - 12:15 growth and bedtime block

Do you have something like this?


Changing disjunct (g):

  • g) transition/recordkeeping issues: goal was left over and isn’t at $0 yet, need to realign/adjust records, or my 30 day period has ended and I’m reevaluating, reorganizing, figuring out what comes next, or trying something new.

So I am now in the process of creating or reviving all the goals I need for this challenge, which starts on Monday: all the daily goals, plus the helping goals for payment and keeping me honest.

I made a checklist for myself to make sure I get all the settings right for each goal:


  • rate 1 per day

  • due on Mon Jan 4

  • pledge 0

  • max 0

  • mercy 0


  • weekends off


  • goal name has 2-digit number

  • fix description, units, and label

  • remove any fine print

  • fine print private

  • start alerts time

  • deadline time

  • SMS reminder


  • make widget

And here’s the checklist for creating new goals:


  • Do More

  • 1/day

  • units = days

  • extra buffer 3

  • goal name has 2-digit number

  • description

  • pledge 0

  • max 0


  • due on Mon Jan 4


  • weekends off


  • fine print private

  • start alerts time

  • deadline time


  • make widget

I’ll post my spreadsheet and list of goals here when it’s done!

And everyone (e.g. @philip @phi @apolyton @zzq @alys @shanaqui @lanthala @adamwolf or anyone else I’ve missed) feel free to ask any questions, make any suggestions, or flame me :fire: since this is a trial by fire!!



Interesting technique for handling payment! If I’m understanding this correctly, you have Beemium or whatever it is that lets you keep goals at $0 forever, correct? And then you manually run all your derail “payments” through a separate goal that keeps a tally and “derails” when it totals $5? If so, is there any reason you don’t just let your daily goals derail whenever they don’t get accomplished, and move the complicated bookkeeping for when it “doesn’t count” due to fine print to the payment goal?

Another question-suggestion: have you already done/considered doing a couple “dry runs” of this daily routine before you actually start the 30 days? It seems like a LOT of habits to start all at once, and like you said, the failures could cascade quickly. Alternately, you could start with say, 10, and add a couple more every day (ideally in chronological order by schedule), so you could more easily adjust to the increasing workload, and also adjust your planned routine as it hits reality more gradually. I’d just hate to see such a burst of productive energy burn out early due to overload!

(FWIW, I love the idea of block scheduling, but every single time I’ve tried it it ends in complete and utter failure, so I’ve just had to accept that my brain does not work that way. As someone who loves color-coded calendars, this is very sad for me!)


Well I just revived and created a whole bunch of goals, adjusted the settings for them, and created widgets, and boy are my arms tired!

I made the nosnooze and truestart goals worth $270 each, and put a sticky on my phone to remind me of the $270 penalty for snoozing or pre-checking (entering data before I start the task).

The four $5 payment goals also have a sticky to remind me of at what point I can check them off.

The whole thing looks like this (personal details redacted):

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Just wanted to thank @adamwolf for doing such a great job on the Android app! I seriously love the homescreen widgets.

Next up - going through all goals in the Android app and coordinating the reminder times with the ones from the website. As great as the Android app is, for some reason it has its own set of reminders that have to be configured, which is a little tedious.

In @mary’s post, she wrote

Now, I am especially likely to let things drift so I’m pushing up against the deadline, so I have some concerns about the way I put the deadlines 1h 15m after the start times. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

This is also why I made my rate 1/day for all daily goals (but with weekends off), rather than 0.8 or 0.9 or something, since I think I’d use up buffer as fast as I accumulated it.


I do have Beemium (lifetime member baby! woo hoo), which allows for freebee goals. I highly recommend Beemium!

It’s not quite that I run the derails through a separate goal that keeps a tally - instead I just made some $5 goals so if I derail on 10 I can easily charge myself.

I’m sorry but I’m not quite sure what you mean - can you elaborate? Remember, these are 50 cent goals and the payment goals are $5 daily goals, so I need to keep track of which goals I owe money on on a per-goal basis.

A dry run would be nice but there isn’t time! I have too much to do this weekend and it starts on Monday!

Also, I’m trying a new viewpoint on the “adding more every day” thing. @mary talked about this in her post:

Here’s the theory I’m testing out: most alleged “good behavior-changing advice” is total crap and @mary has the right idea.

The theory is based on my observation that when I change environments, like starting a new job, a new school program, go on vacation, to a workshop, a conference, or a retreat - and there’s a schedule provided for me - it’s effortless to fall into the new way. It just sort of happens. I respond to the new cues.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s easier to throw yourself into a new system than to inch in little-by-little.

Also, don’t forget (bolded so I remember): I only have to start each task! I can just do 1 minute on it! And this is not an “ice-cream-truck loophole” - I fully intend to make use of it, especially at first. So I can adjust to the increasing workload by going longer and longer on each task.

Oh, me too! And I also love color-coded calendars! But I want to see if I can do it, and I think this is worth a try.

So I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to do the payments. @lanthala, maybe this relates to what you asked?

My sticky note says I check off 7 goals to check off the payment goal pay1, 17 for pay2, 27 for pay3, and all 37 for pay4.

But that’s not quite right… say I get 35 goals out of 37. I then owe a dollar (50 cents each for the two I missed). If I don’t check off pay4, I’ll be overcharged - it’s a $5 goal.

So it seems I have a few options - I could round up to the nearest $5 and make it so that I pay the full $5 for each day I owe at least 50 cents. (I don’t like this, because then there’s no incentive to do the rest.)

OR I could check off all four pay goals so I am not charged, and keep track of the $1, letting myself derail on the $5 goal when my total penalty exceeds $5.

OR I could let myself derail on the $5 and give myself $4 credit, and keep track of that, charging future derails against it.

I’m not really sure how to handle that.

Yeah, that’s fair. And good luck!

What I meant re: the payment goal is that, if you’re going to be manually adjudicating every derail already, why not let the individual goals derail based on only condition a)? And only consider the b-g) conditions when it comes to deciding if it’s legit for payment. I guess I’m not sure what is gained by the additional per-goal bookkeeping, compared to doing all the “was this failure to do my daily legit” thinking only when you’re deciding if you should pay. Although having written that out, I guess the benefit is in being able to track how often you failed to do your daily because you were working, compared to being sleep deprived, etc.

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Well, how am I going to calculate the amount I owe? I have to do that per-goal bookkeeping anyway, in order to calculate the amount owed.

If I don’t derail when conditions (b) through (g) apply, keeping track of what I owe becomes easy – I owe only for goals that derail. I just look at the derailments and multiply by 50 cents.

If I let the daily goals derail when conditions (b) through (g) apply – that is, when I don’t owe money – how will I easily be able to tell which derailments are ones I should pay for and which derailments I don’t owe for? I have to keep track of that somehow. I’d have to:

  • write down somewhere separate whether each derailment was legit or not
  • when it’s time to count up, go back through each derailment, and look at what I wrote down at the time
  • separate out the legit from the nonlegit derailments and count the legit ones, then multiply by 50 cents.

Yeah, I was originally thinking that your payments goal would be tallying the number of “legit derails” itself, but it sounds like you’re manually tracking all of that on a per-goal basis, which makes sense (I actually can’t figure out how to have a beeminder do-less goal that triggers derails on a total value, not a per-day value, once I sat down and tried to think about it).

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Wait, follow-up question: how are you going to keep track of which daily derails you’ve paid for, and which you haven’t (since you can only pay in units of 10 derails)? Add a comment to the derail, perhaps? That would seem to require you to open every goal to check though. Edit: oh, I bet you’ll just keep track of the derail emails, and archive only the ones you’ve paid for, won’t you :laughing:

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That’s a really smart idea, thank you! I don’t think I would have thought of that. That basically solves everything! I’ll make a separate folder for derails, so as not to clutter my inbox, and then archive in groups of 10 each time I pay.

I always love your Beeminder comments, by the way!

Still a little confused about this - I’m not using do-less goals. How were you envisioning them working? Can you make them total vs. per-day with the cumulative setting?

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Here is the complete list of my goals, descriptions, start and end times, reminders, and deadlines!

As a random aside, it was a pain to get Excel to do the times how I wanted them (in the 12 hour format, as Chronos intended, and without the AM/PM indicators). For some reason, without the AM/PM indicator in the format setting, Excel wants to put time in the horrid, painfully ugly, and difficult-to-think-with “military time” format (24 hour).

I finally found this suggestion to modify the format string to put the AM/PM indicator on the second line:

This was just what I was looking for!

Just wanted to rant about how much I hate the 24 hour time format!


Ok I thought of an easier way to do this, so I’m changing how I do payment goals.

Instead of having four $5 payment goals and having to enter data every day so they don’t derail, I’m going to use a do-less goal, so I only get charged when I enter data. It’s called “chargeme.”

Then, I set up an IFTTT applet so every time I enter data in the “chargeme” goal, I’ll get charged. The minimum amount I can charge through IFTTT is $1 (a limitation of Beeminder’s payment processor), so I only have to enter a datapoint in the “chargeme” goal for every two derailments.

I’m going to use your suggestion and keep track with an email folder. Every derailment email will be moved to a “Zed Sched Fire Trial Derailment” folder. Then whenever I enter a datapoint in the “chargeme” goal I’ll archive two emails from the folder.

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