Beemind Easy Things

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
By Chelsea Miller

Person about to make a very easy soccer goal

It’s almost New Year’s Day! Since I am both an eternal optimist and obsessed with productivity tips / planner Instagram / life improvement stories, this is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE holiday of the year. For the last week or so, I’ve spent a decent amount of time [1] fantasizing about how I will turn into a better person when the calendar turns into 2017. And since I am here writing this on the Beeminder blog, you might not be surprised to learn that I’ve been thinking about what new Beeminder goals I should start up.

Improve All The Things!

My first instinct is, of course, to create hardcore, no-mercy goals to fix everything I wish I was better about. Do 60 minutes of HIIT cardio every morning! Eat three homecooked meals a day — and nothing else! Read one current NYT bestseller every week! Send a percentage of every paycheck to charity! All starting January 1st… or maybe January 2nd. (I find Mondays are more inspiring for self-overhauls, don’t you?)

The problem is, of course, I tried this last year. And it all crashed and burned around… January 4th. It turns out the reason I don’t do all those things already is because they’re hard for me to do. As soon as I slip up on any of my hardcore goals, the goal of perfection is no longer attainable, and a house-of-cards-style collapse soon follows on the rest.

Is this irrational? Of course. Have I done it billions [2] of times in my life anyway? You betcha! So my first resolution for 2017 will be to not make sweeping grandiose resolutions in 2017. Feeling pretty good about this one, you guys.

(Now, someone is definitely reading this saying, “the hardcore approach worked just fine for me!” Not denying it! People are different, and goals are different. I’ve succeeded at some of those cold-turkey goals too. But they aren’t a magic bullet for me, and one day, you might find a goal you struggle with too!)

Looking Back on 2016

2016 wasn’t a super-duper productive year for me. I didn’t set or achieve any fun interesting goals worth mentioning in this blog post. [3] (This sounds depressing. I swear I’m not depressed.) But I was using Beeminder the whole time regardless, and looking back on it, I’ve actually had success with some pretty boring goals!

Case Study 1: Cleaning my bathroom.

Graph of Chelsea's tub-scrubbing progress

This is quite possibly the most boring Beeminder goal out there, and I’ve seen a whole lot of Beeminder goals. I made it back at the beginning of summer, and I haven’t derailed on it once. When that emergency day rolls around, I’m always slightly annoyed, but not annoyed enough to pay the $5 for the privilege of not scrubbing my tub for five minutes. And it’s never that dirty anyway, since I’m cleaning it once a month. I started this goal on a whim, and it turns out I feel weirdly great about myself for being so conscientious about my bathroom cleaning! I recently took this inspiration into the kitchen to break a bad habit in there: leaving dishes to “soak”… for days at a time. No more!

Case Study 2: Stepping on the scale.

Chelsea scale-stepping goal

Not beeminding weight — just beeminding recording my weight every day I’m at home. I’ve got a Beeminder weight goal too, but it’s got a flat road and a $0 pledge, so I’m at no risk of paying up. This didn’t inspire me to lose much weight, but it did prevent a god-awful “surprise! you’ve gained 10 pounds since you last stepped on this dusty, abandoned scale 4 months ago” moment. A year’s history of weigh-ins automatically recorded in both Fitbit & Beeminder and not wasting a $100 scale purchase — I’m counting this as a 2016 win!

Case Study 3: Stocking my savings.

Graph of Chelsea's money-saving progress

I set a pretty ambitious savings goal this year, more as a personal challenge than anything else, and I hit it! Turns out I’ll procrastinate forever on this type of thing without automatic deposits, so I’ll be keeping those enabled for the foreseeable future. Now I’ve got a nice stash of cash to blow on Beeminder derailments in 2017 give me a bit of Real Life Safety BufferTM.

Looking Forward to 2017

My accidental successes of 2016 were all easy things. I almost feel silly for counting them as successes, because they weren’t that difficult for me to accomplish. For 2017, I’m going to keep on with that learning and beemind more easy things.

Instead of spending hours drawing up an elaborately planned zero-waste menu for the entire month of January, I’ll commit to try out 2 new recipes a week. Instead of researching and choosing the best 8-Week Fat-Busting Muscle Burn Tone Firm Plan System to follow, I’ll commit to go on a 30-minute daily walk. If these easy things become enjoyable habits, I can up the ante by dialing my road to a higher rate. Or maybe I can add a goal to go on a weekly run in addition to my daily walks. Who knows? Whatever feels easy.

Starting a goal that you don’t actually think you can achieve is a baaaad idea, for a number of reasons. There’s appropriately challenging, and then there’s unrealistic. (I wrote about this a little before — see #2!)

This year, I’m going to try to tone down my enthusiasm a bit. Creating easy goals that I feel good about sounds like a more promising road to success than expecting one day to inspire a total 180° in multiple habits and areas of my life. By beeminding easy things, I might finally achieve some of the hard goals I’ve never managed to conquer before.

I mean, this time I wrote a public blog post about it. So like, I really can’t fail now. That’d be so embarrassing.


Related Reading

  1. The Anti-Resolution Resolution
  2. What To Mind
  3. Resolutions For Real
  4. Get the Jump on Your Resolutions
  5. Year-long forum thread on 2016 resolutions
  6. Beating Beeminder Burnout


[1] Potential Resolution #1: start using TagTime regularly again

[2] Potential Resolution #2: stop exaggerating so much

[3] Potential Resolution #3: set more fun interesting goals

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  • robfelty

    Excellent tips! Setting reasonable goals is really important. As for the 2 recipes per week, I actually think that is pretty ambitious. I tried 1 recipe per week back in 2009, and only got to about 45 or so, which I am still proud of. Of course, I had a new infant at the time, so that complicated things. But the best part about this kind of goal is finding new “standard” recipes to put in your rotation. There are probably about 5 or 10 from that year that I now make several times a year, depending on the season. I also blogged about them all on, so now when I want to make them again, I know where to find them.

  • Daniel Reeves

    Ooh, yes! Here it is, carried over from the Kibotzer days:

  • Ron

    It’s good to have ambitious goals, but I take them one at a time so they can get the attention they deserve. Changing your eating habits is hard, because that can intersect with how you spend your time and your money, how you socialize with friends and family, or how you respond to emotional distress. That seemingly simple change incorporates a lot of other changes. Then once that habit has become second nature, I can work on something else.

    As for the other stuff, you’d be surprised at how much progress you can make by consistently putting in 15-20 minutes a day.
    – With twenty minutes of moderate exercise you’ll burn about 100 calories. Do that every day (and don’t overeat to compensate) and you can lose ten pounds over the course of a year.
    – Spend fifteen minutes on Duolingo every day, and by the end of the year you’ll have some basic skills in another language.
    – Read for twenty minutes each night before bed, and over the course of a year you’ll finish 10-20 books.
    – Spend fifteen minutes tidying up each day and your house may not sparkle, but it’ll at least keep the clutter from piling up.

    None of these are earth-shaking changes, but I find that I’m a little happier and more energetic when I’m getting regular exercise, I’m knocking out a book every few weeks, and my house is reasonably clean.

  • Lanth

    I feel like I’m an outlier, but I actually have a harder time with ‘slow and steady’ type goals than with ‘just do it all at once’ goals. I do better cramming all of basic Japanese in a month before my trip than trying to do 10 flashcards a day; I find it super frustrating to only spend 15 minutes picking up; and I am actually physically incapable of reading only 20 minutes of a book and then stopping. I’m just not very good at not diving headfirst into a thing and Doing All Of It. There’s sadly not a very good way of using beeminder to STOP doing a thing (or perhaps I don’t really WANT to stop doing a thing!).

  • Cameron Harris

    I am a huge proponent of beeminding easy things. The best book on the subject is Mini Habits. Essentially, you should set a very low min (e.g. one push up) to do every day. You can do more if you are motivated but you are only obligated to do 1 push up.

    Auto Ratcheting goals are great for this because you can just reset it every day.

  • lola jones

    Good reads… I am thinking about making my own list as well base on this… I am into couples retreats and meditation and somehow I can make use of this. Thanks a lot.