Get the Jump on Your Resolutions

Thursday, December 20, 2012
By Philip Hellyer

Laugh more, Hold hands more, Read more

This is a guest post by Philip Hellyer, who has done more in 2012 than he thought possible, with the help of Beeminder. He’s going to get a head start on 2013, and so could you. Here’s how.

It’s approaching that time of year again. People will ask you about your resolutions for the new year. They might even ask whether you’re going to stick to them this year. You’ll have to do the thinking for yourself [1], but the stick-to-it-ness? Beeminder can help with that.

“Beeminder puts you in control of what it means to be successful”

Beeminder puts you in control of what it means to be successful, all the while reminding you to make progress towards your goal. Even better, when you first create a goal, you can ask it not to push you in the first week. That means that you can set up resolution-related goals in the post-Christmas lull, confident that they won’t really come into force until the new year.

It also means that you won’t have to worry about wussing out when you’re nursing a hangover. You won’t have arguments with your friends about when the new year really starts, because you’re already on your yellow brick road. Stay on that road, and you can claim victory, because you’ve successfully stuck to the contract, and you can adjust that agreement throughout the year.

Even if this has been a truly awful year so far, you’ll still be able to call it a raging success if you put support systems in place for next year. [2]

Get the Jump on your Gym Membership

“Beeminder makes sure that I sustain my resolve throughout the year”

I joined a gym last month, and like everyone who signs up for a gym membership, I told myself that I would use it often. My twin motivations? To increase my general fitness, and to not waste the money. I’m confident that I’ll succeed at both.

Here’s why: I took my monthly gym membership (£70), thought about the absolute most I’d want to pay per visit (£10), and set myself a Beeminder slope of that number of visits per month (£70 / £10 = 7). If I stay above my road by going to the gym at least that many times each month, then my per-visit cost will be less than my maximum, and I’ll reap the physical benefits. [3]

Get the Jump on the Unknown

If you’re like me, you don’t always know what is going to be important throughout the year. I’m certainly coming out of 2012 having accomplished amazing things that wouldn’t even have made the list. That means that I’m likely to go into 2013 not knowing enough about the amazement that awaits my future self. How do you set goals for that?

“I can be certain of making tangible progress every single day”

One idea was eloquently described by Alice Harris in her blog post about having one must-do task every day. The beauty of Alice’s approach is that you can vary the difficulty or direction of the task day by day, and still be sure that you’re making progress. That’s the way that the Beeminder folks ensure that the experience of using Beeminder keeps improving. Each and every day (on average) there’s visible tangible progress.

Another suggestion is to keep tabs on a process you already care about. Whether you’re a fan of David Allen’s GTD or Mark Forster’s productivity methods, each of them has maintenance rhythms. [4] Beeminder won’t replace your other productivity tools, but it can help you ensure that you remember to do a weekly review. I’ve also made good use of a goal that tracked how many cycles of Mark’s FV system I successfully completed.

I’m sure that you can think of other meta-goals that don’t need you to be too specific in advance, but that will help you keep on track next year.

Get the Jump on Groundhog day

Even if you subscribe to Dave Seah’s philosophy of skipping straight over the 1st of January, and pursue a groundhog-day style of reviewing your goals, what are you going to do until the 2nd of February? Set yourself a couple of Beeminder-fueled trials that end on groundhog day. You’ll be starting the year with a bang, learn something useful, and be in a better position to set the right goals for the rest of your year.

That’s what new year’s resolutions are all about: making sure that you come out of the year as a better version of the you that went in. Beeminder can help with that.

PS: Except for ungraphable resolutions, for which we recommend StickK.


 

Image credit: Old Sweet Song

Footnotes

[1] Actually, we can help with that too, with our experimental Beekeeper program: $200 a month to get more of a complete life coach experience out of your Beeminder goals.

[2] A support system like Beeminder would obviously be ideal. We gently nudge you to keep making progress towards your goals. And, subject to akrasia, you can adjust your commitment to suit your changing needs.

[3] Actual physical benefits might require that I participate in gym-like activities once I’m there. But even if I only turn up and have a coffee and a shower, that’s a win. Scott Adams and Seth Godin both agree on that. You might also want to read about Jill’s gym commitment, since her math is more impressive than mine.

[4] There’s a lovely quote that I couldn’t track down when I needed it. It goes something like this:
With regular review, almost any [productivity] system will work. Without it, no system will.

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  • Wally

    Happy New Year! I forget how long you guys have been around! I always wondered when you would make an android app.

    I am trying gympact..thats where I saw you with “others have also installed..”

    Have you thought about the moving past punishment and also using reward?

    That’s what made me go over the line and try gympact. Even if it’s a couple of dollars a week….it feels good. Without this, I just feel like people are betting against me. I know that’s not the right attitude, but that’s how it feels inside.

    I am for the new internet where we all get some pie. The whole “you pay the money and do all the work (e.g. instructables ) is sad. It would be great if everybody could benefit, even just a little (e.g. blogger/adsense).

    I know the logistics are a lot more complicated.. Perhaps make it a seperate beta tier and charge more. I don’t mean you must pay out…if everyone is doing great and not failing I think that would feel communally great for all and still feel like a reward even if there is no payout.

    I know there are many reasons I shouldn’t call it punishment..but the goal itself seems soooo far away. I am such a instant gratification person….and this reward system helps that aspect of myself just enough.

    Of course it’s only been a week. I need a lot to get me motivated. I really think that gympact’s method is finally going to work. I’m really excited.

    The proof is in the pudding. I’ll make a comment down the road.

    The reward system is just something to consider.

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    Hey Wally, thanks so much for the comments and thoughts and ideas! We’re really excited about negative reinforcement… :) It’s true that GymPact offers a small cash carrot but we think we offer so much more in terms of the graphs and bot reminders and data import/export and the yellow brick road and the road dial and…

    We like to think of our seemingly perverse business model like this: you’re just paying a fee for a service but that fee happens to be waived if you’re so good at toeing the line that you never need Beeminder’s kick in the pants.

  • Wally

    dont get me wrong, if I can follow through on this gympact, ( its going great, I know its only two weeks, but thats a lifetime as far as commitments is concerned for me) I think I will have the courage to try you out! There are a lot of things I need a kick in the pants on. Like reading and finishing this book on grammar I just bought. : p
    All the best!