Beeminder for summer focus?

Back in April I wrote a post about Beeminder. At the time, I was having trouble figuring out how I could use it for research, which was really too bad. I really like the concept behind it. On one hand, it’s great for motivation, because you might fall off your path. On the other hand, it’s great for motivation because you can get a visual picture of your progress.

If you’re trying to lose weight (common at Beeminder), then as long as you’re trending downwards, you know you’re being successful. If you’re trying to get something done (that’s quantifiable), then as long as you’re trending upwards (as fast or faster than the road), then you know you’re being successful.

On Wednesday, as I desperately tried to figure out something that would motivate me to finally get over my editing block, I thought of Beeminder. Unfortunately, while the idea was great, Beeminder doesn’t work so well as a short term motivator, considering it likes to look at least a week in advance. But, when thinking about how I would track my progress editing, I ended up breaking my paper down into about 26 pieces – counting each main section of a chapter as a piece. By doing this, it actually felt much more manageable, when I said try to get through one piece, which may be less than a page or up to a few. I did make a fake Beeminder, just so I would have somewhere to record each time I finished a section and could see, visually, that I was making progress. By doing so, I made it through three chapters on Wednesday, and the final two on Thursday.

Doing so, made me start to think about the rest of the summer. I’ll still have more editing to do on this document, as well as preparing for the actual candidacy (which will likely involve a presentation). And I need to get back to my research. I’ve got data sitting around that needs to be analyzed. I’ve got another piece that I need to continue to work on, with lots of tasks left to do. And starting in July, I’ll have to be on campus every day for most of the day as I’m supervising high school students again.

So I’m thinking I might use Beeminder for the remaining 10 weeks of summer (next week through the end of August) as a motivation tool. I haven’t started it yet, because I want to try and decide on a reasonable goal ahead of time. I’m thinking right now about 2 tasks a day, 5 days a week, 10 weeks, for a total of 100 tasks over the summer.

I’m not sure if that’s going to result in tasks having to be too small (so that I can come up with enough over the weeks). Really, this all hinges on what I decide counts as a task. Is it editing a single section of a document? Or adding all the edits my supervisor gives at one time? Is it completing a renewal form for a scholarship, or completing each section of the renewal?

I’m going to take a couple of days, with the goal of starting the Beeminder on Monday. Worst case, I’ll have to modify my goal as I go – but I can only modify it a week out, so I’ll probably start with a more conservative estimate.

3 thoughts on “Beeminder for summer focus?

  1. Wow, thanks again for covering Beeminder! I think your last paragraph answers your concern a couple paragraphs back. In other words, I wouldn’t call that the worst case. Rather it’s Beeminder’s key selling point that you don’t have to decide what to commit to before you start. You can just start tracking and adjust the yellow brick road to what’s reasonable based on your data so far. Just with the one week delay, as you point out.

    More on the rationale behind that is here:

    Thanks again for the plug!
    Danny of Beeminder

    • I go back and forth on the ability to change your goal a week out. I think it’s great for some goals (like the weight lose), but for other goals (like summer tasks) can possibly give you too much freedom to make it easier on you. Which makes it harder to stay accountable. For example, if I make it too easy off the start, I can end up with a lot of safe days stacked up. And making the road steeper in the future, isn’t really the “right” solution, if your goal is to be constantly productive. I think in those cases, you almost want to be able to do an immediate push on the graph, that changes the steepness so that you can never have more than x number of safe days.

      Either way, I still really like Beeminder, and I did start my graph there today as planned. I haven’t looked around yet to figure out how, but am thinking it would be nice to maybe post it to my blog, as another way to remain accountable.

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