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Why Beeminder?

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Published at 13:26:18-0700 Updated
Tags: philosophy, quantifiedself, goals, computing

I vigorously encourage you to use Beeminder for tracking, maintaining, and modifying habits.

Several people have recently asked me to explain why I like this service so much. This page is my evolving answer.

So, why Beeminder?

Design

The core feature of Beeminder is the "bee sting." The service charges you money if you fail to meet a certain rate of progress toward a goal.

For instance, if I declare to Beeminder that I will meditate 5 minutes per day, and I fail to perform meditation at that rate, Beeminder will "derail" me, charge me a small amount of money, and -- after a weeklong grace period -- rearm the sting.

Why Beeminder? It assigns meaningful consequences for not living up to your stated goals.

The good news about the bee sting is that Beeminder is totally self-driven. You1 do the data reporting, you set the starting and maximum penalties for the bee sting, and you choose how fast you want to make progress on each goal. You are even responsible for confirming with the Beeminder team whether or not a derailment was legitimate.

Why Beeminder? It trains you to build honesty with yourself (and the support team!) when you succeed or fail. This calibrates a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, while giving you the information you need to ramp up or ease off on a goal.

Philosophy

A Beeminder user must break down his or her goals into atomic, numerically-measurable steps toward a large goal. Goals like "chinups performed," being both numeric and precise, are a perfect fit for Beeminder. To perform 100 chinups, set your target rate to 1 chinup per hour/day/week; set your target number to 100; and do chinups whenever you can. That's it: as long as you keep your average rate above 1 chinup per chosen time unit, Beeminder will never charge you, and you'll be making steady progress.

Why Beeminder? It trains you to reframe your life goals, especially ones that seem monumental, as nothing more than piles of little goals, steadily achieved.

While goals that are easily quantified are the best fit for Beeminder, even nebulous goals can be tracked and nudged in the system. One of my goals is called "selfserve", and its target number is 100 -- where "100" means "has ported 100% of this website to self-administered web servers and infrastructure."

Few methods of calculating exact progress on this goal would be worth the time they took to administer. However, since I know the scope of the task and its subtasks, after completing each subtask I can add a few percent here and a few percent there into Beeminder's tracker.

Why Beeminder? Whether your goal is concrete or abstract, Beeminder puts you on a schedule which will achieve it.

What's more, merely declaring "I will be 100% done with this hairy task by such-and-such date" was enough to spur me into action. My original target date was 100% completion by mid-December, but as of today, before even reaching October, my "selfserve" goal sits at 60%! I'm months ahead of my original pessimistic estimate, and it never once felt difficult to get there -- but if I hadn't promised myself, via Beeminder, that I would do so, I'd probably still be sitting around griping about my crappy old website infrastructure.

Why Beeminder? It builds the self-confidence and self-trust that can only come from diligently working toward success.

Finally, I realized recently that Beeminder has instilled in me a new and creative instinct: the impulse to judge any new opportunity by determining how I might realize its potential in steps of Beemindable size.

It is one thing for the latest self-help book or productivity guru to tell you that anything is achievable in small steps. It is quite another for that mantra to develop into a deep-seated instinct which influences your worldview. Thus Beeminder is empowering in the truest sense of the word: it grants new abilities.

Why Beeminder? Extended use installs the powerful meta-habit of noticing opportunities to achieve goals by "mere" effort -- and as a Beeminder user, you'll be ready to exploit such opportunities because you've practiced doing so.

Proof by Existence

The Beeminder founders, Danny and Bethany, use Beeminder to supercharge the development of Beeminder itself. They've set up the Beeminder user "meta" to publicly display business metrics, which they've committed to Beeminding just as you or I might Beemind pushups or calories.

The "meta" goals include typical metrics like revenue and monthly active users. That Beeminder openly publishes these figures makes them is noble, but I want to draw attention to a non-financial indicator: a very, very important number called "UVIs."

UVI stands for "User-Visible Improvement," and they are the gold-standard, AAA, totally-unfakeable indicator that Beeminder works. One point on the UVI goal means the Beeminder team has directly improved your experience using Beeminder, and at time of writing, the Beeminder team has added one new UVI every day for ten years.

Why Beeminder? Its own existence is a massive proof of its ability to motivate you to fantastic heights -- like, say, creating a program which has helped tens of thousands of people achieve their goals.

Conclusion

I've said my piece, so don't delay: go try Beeminder for yourself. Set your goals to the minimum charge until you figure out what works for you, and if you want help getting started, email the ever-helpful support team, or check out the forums.

I'm just a happy customer with a blog, and Beeminder didn't ask me to write this post. That said, Danny and other staff members encouraged me to write on this topic after I mentioned it over email.

If you liked this, leave a response! In a future post, I'll investigate my own Beeminder successes and failures as case studies for others to learn from. Thanks for reading, and never ever hesitate to email me.

  1. To lessen your data-entry work -- and to make it harder for you to rationalize away failures -- Beeminder can automatically retrieve data from many programs, including Gmail, Duolingo, Github, Fitbit, and Slack.