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An etching of a monk working on a journal with obligatory random bee

I’ve kept a Beeminder journal in the forum for over five years now. I don’t remember who initially inspired me to do it, but it’s a practice I’ve faithfully kept up every week since February 2019. You can check out all my Beeminder journals still — they’ve been separated into threads by year, of late, to keep them fresh, but you can find all of them in the first post of the most recent thread.

But what is a Beeminder journal?

Good question! And the annoying slippery answers are “it’s what you want it to be” and “whatever you feel you need”. (Those might not be quite the same thing — we don’t always want what’s good for us, after all!)

The longer answer is that it’s for keeping track of your Beeminder goals in some way. Perhaps it’s a weekly or monthly record of your derailments, or a progress log of the things you’ve achieved. Maybe it’s the process that works for you (in which case, a private record works) or maybe you need the accountab­ility on the forum, where other Beeminder users can see (and comment).

How do you use your Beeminder journal?

Thanks for asking! I’ve done a few different things with my Beeminder journal over the years. The constants have been that I post on a weekly basis, and I write about

  • my derailments,
  • the new goals I’ve created (if any), and
  • the changes I’ve made to my goals.

In fact, that’s made it tie in beautifully with another concept: calendialing. We have a whole blog post about it, but in short, calendialing is all about settling down with your calendar and your Beeminder goals and setting the breaks or rate changes you need to fit in with upcoming events. That might mean dialing up your study goal before an exam, for example, or reducing the slopes of your bright red lines so you can build up buffer to cover a vacation. It might mean outright putting in breaks with rates of 0/day.

So each week, writing in my Beeminder journal has been a ready-made reminder to set the breaks I need. It’s also a good way to prompt regular reflection on your goals. Are the rates right? Is the pledge high enough? Is this goal helping me?

Of late, I’ve been setting myself an intention for the week ahead at the end of each review. Thanks to that, I’ve reviewed all my pledge caps, reviewed all my goal rates, planned out new goals, reviewed whether my current goals are necessary, and staked out space for catching up with my goals after realizing I was a bit snowed under.

Aaand I’ve remembered to put breaks in on time, too. Mostly.

Any practical tips for us?

Over the years of doing it, I’ve obviously come up with some preferences and ideas about how a Beeminder journal works best. My first rule though is flexibility. If you look at how my Beeminder journals have been set up through the years, they’ve taken different forms. At first I didn’t use headings, and which headings I’ve used has varied a lot over time. If something doesn’t work for you, ditch it!

That said, how do you figure out what might work for you when you’re starting out? I’d sit down and figure out what you think you want to record. Maybe you want to keep track of derailments, so you’d have a derailments section the same way I do. Maybe you want a prompt to check in on your calendialing every week, in which case maybe you actually have a section just for that. If you want to set a goal for yourself each week, like “this week I will: review my goal rates”, then make a section for that! If there’s something that prompts you to create a lot of transient goals (like I have in the past with my reading goals) then a section for that might help keep things tidier, and easier to refer back to in future.

Another thing to think about is how often you want to do this review. For some, once a week is way too frequent — with only a handful of goals, sometimes you just don’t have anything to talk about after a week. I probably wouldn’t recommend more often than once a week to ensure you check in. But maybe for you it’s worth using the space to talk about any resistance you’re encountering in doing your goals, or any revelations that strike you during the week, so you want to do it a bit more often than once a week. As with the content of your journal, in the end it’s all about what you might find useful.

You also probably need to think about whether you’re doing this publicly or not. I do, because I don’t have much I keep under my hat, and because I find the accountability helpful. You might prefer to do it on paper, or in a private journal somewhere.

Finally, are you going to beemind it? Again, I do and I find it helpful to have the regular weekly nudge to go and add my entry.

You might want to automate beeminding yours using URLminder — if you want to automatically beemind the wordcount — or RSSminder, if you want to automatically beemind number of posts in your forum thread. Neither of these necessarily induce you to do this on a set schedule though, which is why mine is a manual goal. See again the calendialing post which has step-by-step instructions for the kind of manual goal you’ll want.

But it’s all down to what you find useful, and what you find comfortable. You’re the person who has to use it, after all!

Final tip: head to the Life category of the forum, check out examples of other people’s journals, and create your own!

Why should I do this again?

A Beeminder Journal makes a good complement to thoughtful beeminding. It’s a way to notice trends, notice stuff you’re struggling with, and also keep you touching base with your goals. Sometimes when things are going smoothly, there isn’t a lot to say. Sometimes when times are rocky, you’ll need to write more. In the end, your Beeminder journal might not look like mine (or anyone else’s) and that’s fine! But it’s definitely a practice I personally recommend.