I’ve been a very active user of Beeminder for over a year and wanted to
share some of my thoughts on it.
First things first, the past year has been the most productive of my life
and Beeminder played a significant role in this. I learned about it in Nick
Winter’s (excellent) book and I’m very glad I did. My interactions with the
Beeminder team in various support emails have also been outstanding and I
feel a more personal connection to Beeminder than to any other company I
can think of right now.
Yet, over the past months I have gradually been moving away from Beeminder.
I’ll describe the reasons why.
In August I worked extremely hard on finishing my Master’s thesis and I
derailed on various goals during that time. I wasn’t procrastinating about
them. It was simply that I had one project that was more important and more
urgent and I made the decision to neglect everything else. I tried to
anticipate these by adjusting the road beforehand but I was not very good
I know this was my fault, but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat resentful
about it. More broadly, I often felt that the short-term rigidity of
Beeminder often meant that the ‘punishment’ of derailing was not really
aligned with my bouts of laziness.
Initially, I found the graphs and staying above the road very motivating.
But over time this effect disappeared entirely. With hundreds of data
points the graphs had become very difficult to read. I might have felt some
satisfaction looking at how far up I had come but they just stopped working
for me as a motivational tool.
I have tracked 24 things overall on Beeminder and at the height of it I was
probably tracking around 17 things simultaneously. This became difficult as
they pertained to completely different areas of my life. Some were things I
wanted to do daily. Some were logs of things I do occasionally anyway and
just wanted logged somewhere. Some were automatically pulled from other
applications. Over time, this just started to feel very confusing and I
didn’t like that the only effective organization to this was how many days
I had left until derailment.
Following up on the Clutter point: The broader problem, for me, has been
that Beeminder doesn’t really align (anymore) with overarching goals or
with the structure of my day.
One solution to this, I think, would be to allow categorization of goals.
e.g. Beeminder might have partially kept its usefulness if I had been able
to group goals by ‘Morning Routine’ or ‘Learning’ or ‘Weekly’. Then I could
have looked at the relevant place and it would have provided a clear
overview of where I’m at in this area. Instead, coming to Beeminder feels
like coming to a cluttered inbox with (now) a jumble of relevant now,
relevant some other time, not relevant anymore, and or in undefined
It’s not pleasant and there are ten things that take away your attention
when only a small subset is relevant at that moment.
Minor: No Derailment/Expenses Tracking
A very minor misgiving I have is that I can’t see anywhere how often I
derailed, when, on which goal and how much money I have spent on these
derailments. I find that a bit against the spirit of a self-tracking
service, particularly one of the high ethical standard that Beeminder has.
I am not quite sure what I will do going forward.
I will most likely continue using Beeminder particularly for sporadic
activities. For example, I log how many books I read and put author, rating
and title in the comment. This works fine for me and I like that I can
export the data and analyze it at some point if I want to. There are a few
more similar trackers and I’ll also keep up things like the fitbit
integration as it is frictionless.
But when it comes to my daily habits, the thought of restarting some of the
habits makes me feel as if I’m about to take on some unwieldy, untameable
octopus. The only thing I can imagine is using something else to give me
structure and use Beeminder to keep a data log. But then that would be
Beeminder without its core behavior change functionality…
I know these are my personal experiences and feelings right now and that a
lot of you are getting a great deal out of Beeminder. That’s great and I
really hope the Beeminder and its great team will have a very successful
future. I might also change my mind and restart with Beeminder somehow.
But I wanted to share these thoughts as I hope they might be useful for
Beeminder itself and because I would love to get some reactions from the
knowledgeable folks of this list.
Have some of you had similar issues and dealt with them successfully?
Should I have adopted a different approach somewhere that would have