blog :: Brent -> [String]

Beeminding for fun and profit


I’ve been using Beeminder (which I’ve mentioned once before) for a little over six months now. The verdict?

Beeminder has changed my life.

That sounds dramatic, but I’m not kidding. I am far more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m taking better care of myself. I’m finally taking the initiative to act on various long-held intentions (e.g. learning Hebrew). And I no longer have a constant nagging sense of guilt over all the big goals and projects that I ought to be working on more. It’s not for everyone, but I’m sure there are many others for whom it could be similarly transformative.

So, what is Beeminder? The basic idea is that it helps you keep track of progress on any quantifiable goals, and gives you short-term incentive to stay on track: if you don’t, Beeminder takes your money. But it’s not just about the fear of losing money. Shiny graphs tracking your progress coupled with helpfully concrete short-term goals (“today you need to write 1.3 pages of that paper”) make for excellent positive motivation, too. Another somewhat intangible but important reason it works is that the Beeminder developers are really awesome and responsive, and are sincerely dedicated to helping their users meet goals, not just to making money. (They recently introduced some paid premium plans which I happily signed up for, not because I need the premium features, but because I want to support continued development—in fact, I’ve otherwise paid Beeminder only $5 over the past six months!) If you want to know more, I encourage you to read Beeminder’s own overview, which does a much better job of explaining how and why it works.

Six months: quite long enough for the initial “shiny new toy” enthusiasm to wear off, and long enough, I think, to get a good sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. So I’m writing this post in the hope that my experience will be useful or inspiring to others.

So here are some of the ways I’m using it, which I have found to work well. (You can see all my beeminder goals here.1) I hope some of these may inspire you with ways to make yourself more productive, whether you use Beeminder or not.

So there you have it. If you end up trying Beeminder, or come up with some cool goal-based life hacks, or just have questions, I’d love to hear from you!

  1. You’ll notice that some of my goals are private/hidden. Mostly these are personal or relate to religious commitments, and for various reasons I’d rather not broadcast them to the whole Internet—but at the same time, I have no secrets and would be glad to discuss them with anyone who’s interested.

  2. Well, at the time it was a way of procrastinating from working on my thesis proposal

  3. This is completely self-enforced, of course, but it’s ten times harder to actively choose to lie to Beeminder (which I have never done) than it was to “just check a few emails first” before I had any sort of external accountability.