Beeminder is especially good for things that are easy to do consistently when reminded. However, I have ADHD, so for me everything is hard to do consistently even when reminded. I also get dejected easily when something doesn’t bring immediate improvement.
Not to mention that when I have fifty goals, at some point I start really, really hating midnight. Heck, currently I only have Duolingo and I already kinda dislike midnight.
I made a tool that works for me, and I’ve been using it for the past half a year. You can use it too.
I think it will be particularly useful to people who like the “public” aspect of having Beeminder goals.
It is called “Wind of Change” for some reason or other. This is a long name, so let’s roll with WOC. It’s available at https://windofchange.me/.
It’s a diary, but designed for keeping hundreds of diaries at once.
Here is an example.
I have recently moved to a new city (Warsaw) and I want to have more social life there. I made a board called “ Social pipeline” and every prospective social event gets a separate card:
- Organize a board game evening with friends
- Go to the cinema with people from a local Discord group
- Have lunch with a friend
- Go for a coffee with another friend
- (…ten more things)
Some are easy to organize, some are more involved (have to choose the board game, have to agree on the date that suits everyone, then order the game from Amazon and wait till it’s delivered, etc). Some of those things might not happen at all. Sometimes I think I want to hang out with somebody, but then realize I don’t. Etc.
If I tried to make a quantifiable goal like “one social thing per week”, it could have worked. However, there are a bunch of failure modes:
- There’s a Couchsurfing meetup every week, so as long as I keep going there, I don’t have to do anything else.
- Also — realistically, what would happen is that every Friday I would spend an hour scrolling through the list of “social event ideas” and frantically trying to organize something on the weekend.
With WOC, I take a different approach. Whenever I take any action towards making any of those social events happen, I write it down. That’s the only thing I do.
In the example below, on March 18th I got the idea of go somewhere with Monika. On April 6th we actually went to an art museum. That’s ~20 days between “want” and “happened”.
It’s hard to consistently work on arranging social events, especially because I might have a week when I’m just tired and don’t want to have any social events at all. So the pipeline has a huge latency, about 2-4 weeks. But once the pipeline starts rolling, I have a reliable stream of social events without having to nudge myself to make them happen.
“Right now it looks like a task tracker. I suppose task trackers work sometimes. Keep explaining yourself.”
Funny you should mention a task tracker, because I actually used Jira (an enterprisey project management tool) for my life and it also sorta worked.
The problem with Jira is that it has the ability to mark things as “to do”. So now I’m forcing yourself again to do things that I potentially don’t even want to do. Like, maybe I don’t actually want to have lunch with [whoever], I just don’t know myself well. If I knew myself well, maybe I wouldn’t have this “akrasia” thing in the first place. Ahem.
Let’s look at another example. I want to have a happier life:
We’ll get back to this screenshot in two paragraphs, but for now bear with me.
A beautiful thing about Beeminder is that my graphs can be public, either fully or “progress but not the datapoints”. It’s not even that I get to brag — in reality people are probably not looking. But I still feel differently, more responsible in a way. I can’t just go ahead and cheat.
WOC goes one step further — is the only note-taking / tracking tool I know that can mix public and private datapoints at every level. By default, everything is public, but I can mark any comment, card, or board as private. I still see it but others don’t.
So, I want people to know about my courageous fight with hyperfocus (e.g. when I spend eight hours making a giant list of everything or whatever), but I don’t want people to read about how my neck hurts. So one card is public and the other is private. Private things are in gray, because gray is the color of crime.
I might also have a public card with some comments marked as private. Public: a card where I discover that I can actually have preferences:
Wait! Actually it’s not that sightseeing is shit, it’s just that I personally don’t enjoy sightseeing. Huh.
Private: a comment in that card where I notice that I don’t like having unwashed hair. Because nobody can know that I have ever skipped shower in my life, ever.
As a side-note, for me “noticing things in written form” is also more efficient than making myself do things. If I was using Beeminder for this specific thing, I would have probably created a goal called “Shower daily”; raise your hand if you have a goal like this. However, it turns out that just by noticing that I don’t like having unwashed hair, in about two weeks I stopped skipping showers. Because “Hey, but you know you will suffer later today. You wrote it down even”.
This tool has average therapeutic potential, but average is the new immense.
For example, I have a card that’s called “Looking at things objectively”. Objectively, I will die. Objectively, I don’t have the fluency of a native English speaker. Objectively, it’s not likely I will be an Elon Musk. Objectively, I like sex. Huh.
In my experience, a fully-private diary incentivizes some form of complaining (“why is my life bad”), and a fully-public Twitter incentivizes having insightful takes. WOC incentivizes writing down things that you want yourself to remember. At least that’s how it works for me. So I write something down and in a month I internalize it. It’s like a giant internalization pipeline.
I have also implemented a CBT-like thing with WOC. “I think something bad will happen? Well, I’ll write it down and later we’ll see whether I’m right”.
It turns out that when I expect bad things, I’m right about half the time. Somehow knowing this actually helps.
Finally, an unexpectedly cool usecase has been a card where I just write “I don’t have to listen to my inner critic” whenever I remember about that card. That’s literally it. Two months later, I don’t have nearly as much of an inner critic as I used to have.
I wanted to make it even longer, but reconsidered. If there’s interest, I might write a part two where I describe more usecases I’ve found for this “writing things down” approach. For now let’s wrap it up.
And done. It’s wrapped up.
This is a good example where I think WOC would work better for me than Beeminder. I would make a card named “Do anything at all while watching TV”. The first ten entries would be “shit, forgot again” and “this is hard”, spaced over a month; by the end of the second or third month I would have figured something out; and in another month the card would not be necessary anymore.
 ↩︎
You can also use the same technique with Roam or a paper notebook or whatever, but my thing has some properties that, to my knowledge, no other tool has. ↩︎
You, personally you, can know. But nobody else can. ↩︎
This time not even you can know. Sorry. ↩︎
This “for me” is important. Generic-purpose tools work very differently for different people. How you react to stress, how much self-control you have, etc, all play a huge role. ↩︎