Beating Beeminder Burnout

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
By dreeves

A 1968 Dodge Charger doing a burnout

Here’s a perennial topic on Akratics Anonymous: How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed by all the myriad things you’re beeminding?

I’m going to repeat my advice buried in a previous blog post, which is actually to beemind less. Not necessarily fewer things, but beemind everything less so. When you’re first starting I recommend that you pick one thing (or a handful, maybe 5 at most) that you’re blatantly, egregiously akratic about and focus on it. That may also be good advice for veterans who are feeling overwhelmed. Dial down all but a handful of goals so they’re no-brainers, put them below the fold in your gallery, or even archive them.

“Beemind less… Beeminder is the nuclear option.”

Not everyone views it this way but to me Beeminder is the nuclear option. Try every other lifehack in the book to get yourself to do what you want to do. Establish habits, set up environmental triggers, success spirals, social support, you name it. Beemind everything as well, but whenever possible find ways to keep that sword of Damocles securely tethered to the ceiling. Think of Beeminder as your insurance policy against falling below a minimum awesomeness threshold.

More and more people are excited to beemind every aspect of their lives (like this person or this person or this person or this person) and we’re obviously beside ourselves about that. But one of the above people is the one who brought up the topic of feeling overwhelmed by beeminding so much.

In my experience, you can beemind myriad things at once without it feeling overwhelming as long as you have other ways besides Beeminder’s looming sting to keep you on the good side of your yellow brick roads. Beeminder will feel overwhelming when your expectations for yourself are out of whack with reality. That’s your cue to scale back.

UPDATE 2014-07-22: Related reading on Inconsistent Universe, in particular “Beeminding Mental Illness”.

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  • Adam

    I suggest you ask yourself if you really care about achieving the goals you’ve set in beeminder. If you don’t care so much about the goals, then you’ll have a hard time staying motivated, even with something like Beeminder. If you really want to achieve your goals, then beeminder

    is just a minor detail that helps you remember to do them. You could do some mental contrasting to check how important the goal is and to remind yourself about it.

    You have to be ruthless about archiving goals that don’t inspire you, or Beeminder will end up being an overwhelming chore and you’ll stop using it even for the goals that do inspire you.

    There’s an old newsletter from Steve Pavlina about Awesome Goals vs. Crappy Goals that emphasizes this point. You can find it in various places, such as here:

  • presleyp

    This happened to me. I was all about Beeminder for a little over a
    year, and slowly went up from 1 goal to 10 or more at a time. Recently
    I flattened out all my roads because I just didn’t want to deal with
    it anymore.

    I think it was a combination of two things. One, I got busier –
    instead of having a ton of things to do but always having the chance
    to sit and think and prioritize, I went through a period of not having
    time to figure out what I was forgetting. Dealing with Beeminder
    became really annoying. Goals that automatically update are way better
    in that situation than goals you have to enter data for yourself, but
    it also meant that my lower-priority goals became less of a good idea.

    Two, Beeminder worked. I didn’t need to be reminded to try to eat in
    because I’d been trying for so long that I already knew to try. I
    learned how it feels when I floss regularly and now I just want to.
    I’m not as good at these things without Beeminder as I was with them,
    but I’m better now than I was before I started it. I’ll have to think
    about what kind of balance I want to strike that way.

    I can’t really say what works to cure burnout because I haven’t cured
    it yet, but I think one of the best things about Beeminder is that it
    forces you to be rational, not just about how your cheating matters,
    but also about how the goals you think you want aren’t always the best
    ones for you. So I think it’s best to make things easier to assuage
    the burnout, which is a demotivating force, and then think about what
    you really want – what you’d be happy to work towards, even when you
    factor in all the other pressures in your life.

  • Kate

    I pick just a few (~3) that are very important to focus on. For
    everything else (I have ~15 others), I set my road to some fixed
    fraction of my actual “goal.” Right now I’m using half (so, I want to
    run 3x/week, but I have the slope set to 1.5). That way all my
    beeminders are still sorted by how much I’ve been slacking on them so
    I know where to focus my attention, but I’m not overwhelmed by
    everything being on fire all the time.

  • Daniel Reeves

    Well put! I’m curious how much the Awesome vs Crappy goals advice overlaps with the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals, which we talk about here:

  • Daniel Reeves

    Really good heuristic to simply start with a fraction of your real goal!

  • Adam

    I think they’re different concepts. My awesome goals generally aren’t very SMART; they tend to have ill-defined and hard to measure finishing criteria, often could be argued to be unattainable, and I don’t generally think in terms of a very specific deadline (though that last one should probably be corrected). Once I have the awesome goal, I come up with a bunch of subgoals that are much more in line with SMART principles, and that can be beeminded. The awesome goal gives me the motivation to stick with the SMART goal.

    As an example, another one of Steve Pavlina’s awesome goals (not mentioned in the linked newsletter) was to have the best blog on personal development. Specific? Measurable? Attainable? Time-bound? Not obviously. Yet I certainly wouldn’t argue with him if he says he achieved that.

    Another sound bite for when beeminder goals start to seem overwhelming: discipline is remembering what you want.

  • Jeff Alexander

    This sounds entirely separate from Beeminder; more a general motivation / happiness / enthusiasm issue.

    For me at least, that’s not what Beeminder is about (supplying motivation). I want to X, Y, and Z already, and without a reminder to regularly measure progress, I know I am more likely to miss my targets for progress, and even occasionally backslide a bit without realizing. So I beemind to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    I agree with Daniel Reeves that Beeminder-as-prosthetic-motivation works best (and maybe only) in the drastic, last chance type of scenario, wherein you pledge so much money that it would be far too painful to fail. (If that’s what he was saying; that’s what it made me think of at any rate.) An escrow option would work even better in that case, so people can’t weasel via denying the charge or closing a credit card right before D Day (B Day?). But I digress.

    If you are feeling unmotivated, I recommend The Motivation Hacker, energetic music, a reassessment of one’s life and goals and values, more time around people who are already doing the things you want to do (digitally and in meatspace, if possible), caffeine, nicotine gum, and a good night’s sleep.

  • Kenzi

    ++++ to this

  • Michael Hopkins

    Wow, thanks for reminding me about that guy. He used to write so intelligently and ambitiously, and it was said when he went full nutter.

  • Adam

    In what way did he go full nutter?

  • Michael Hopkins

    Off the top of my head:
    – cancelled/ended all the affiliate programs he was doing because they were boring
    – left his wife for a younger women, bragged about how divorce makes his kids feel normal
    – shut down his forums so he couldn’t be criticized there
    – went even further into manifestation/the secret/power of the universe
    – went on a juice “feast” and proclaimed social meals and digesting to a waste of time and energy
    – delved into the world of self-help pick-up artistry, which seems to be his market now. Doesn’t sound nuts except that he used to have a broadly challenging appeal and threw it away

    I’m sure I am missing things; I couldn’t take anymore around 2009 and only checked in rarely since then. I think his peak was the publishing of his book, which I thought to be a very good synthesis of his better articles into a cohesive theory. I guess he felt he had to keep going into new material and life experiences even if he couldn’t top it.

  • Adam

    I like the full nutter version. The old version was good but not great, and relatively conventional. Now he’s great.

  • Adam
  • Michael Hopkins

    Ha – I forgot about that. I see what you mean; I guess I thought he already stood out as very different. I agree an antonym of nutter is conventional or even boring.

    It will be interesting to see what he is talking about and doing ten years from now, that’s for sure.