Nine Greens

Friday, August 7, 2015
By Mirabai Knight

Screenshot of Mirabai Knight's goal gallery with 9 green goals.

This is a guest post by Mirabai Knight, who beeminds many aspects of her life, in many creative ways. She’s been a proponent of Beeminder in the popular press as well as writing about it on her blog. Here she discusses — along with her latest Beeminder goals — an unanticipated (at least by us!) source of motivation that she derives from Beeminder. (Well-deserved plugs: If you’re a stenography nerd you’ll be very excited about Mirabai’s work. She’s the cofounder of the Open Steno Project. If you want to hire her, head to White Coat Captioning.)

I’ve had a Beeminder account since 2012, and in that time I’ve used it for everything from practicing Baroque recorder to learning Cued Speech to finally passing a 260 WPM stenography test on the fourth try. When I’m trying for a particularly high stakes goal, I find the escalating pledge system invaluable; even though my steno test goal got up to $90 at one point, passing it kept me from spending another $160 in registration fees, so it was definitely worthwhile from a financial perspective. These days, though, my life is in more of a maintenance phase. My wife and I are currently trying for a kid, I’m trying to move more of my business online so that I can work mostly from home, and all in all, we’re both sort of treading water while waiting for the next big thing to come along. I don’t need the knuckle-biting stress of waking up in the red every day; making sure my good habits don’t atrophy is enough for me right now. To that end, I’ve narrowed down my goals so that they fit into three major categories: Staying healthy, keeping up my household, and looking after my business.

Most of my work this summer has involved hanging out at my desk on standby, waiting for a client to text me. I keep my cell phone in a little dock with its screen perpetually on, and this is what sits in my peripheral vision throughout the workday:

Screenshot of Mirabai's homescreen on her phone, with her nine green Beeminder goals

See those nine squares up in the left hand corner? Those are my nine active Beeminder goals, and for the first time ever, I’ve managed to keep them in the green for more than a few days in a row. Nine is the perfect number for me. It’s symmetrical, it’s compact, I can take it in at a glance, and most importantly, whenever any one of those nine squares is out of the green, it drives me absolutely bananas. None of these goals is high stakes enough to have a top dollar pledge. They’re all about the long term. So color has become a bigger motivator for me than money. I love green, like blue, hate orange, and despise red. Before I had the widget grid on my phone, I let most of my goals drift into the blue or orange as a matter of course, because I didn’t usually look at my Beeminder dash unless I was on an emergency day. Now, though, it’s the first thing I see when I get up in the morning, and waking up in the red is enough to throw off my whole day, so I’m forced to plan ahead and stay far more disciplined than before.

These are my current goals:


Reply Zero
Answer all emails tagged with a @reply label. Beeminder has cured me of Inbox Sprawl by training me to achieve Inbox Zero several times a day, so my only remaining challenge is to reply to everything requiring an answer in a timely manner.
I get a point every time I make an entry on one of my two work blogs. Though guest blogging counts too! Totally getting a point for this post.


Food Money
I’ve been using You Need A Budget to keep track of my expenses, and it’s become increasingly clear that I spend way too much money on food. This is a reverse odometer custom goal that keeps me under a set amount spent on groceries + restaurants + delivery.
Cheaper Groceries
I love expensive grocery stores. It’s a terrible habit. This goal gives me a point whenever I go to an affordable grocery store, and takes away a point whenever I go to one of the absurdly pricey fancypants stores that abound in New York City.

“[Habitica] is a perfect complement to Beeminder”

Beeminder only tracks to-dos, which I reserve for apartment cleaning tasks, but I’ve been using HabitRPG [1] to track other small domestic activities as well, like reconciling my budget and making dinner and updating our fridge inventory. It’s a perfect complement to Beeminder.


Swim or Gym
I get a point every time I go swimming at the pool downtown or to the cardio room at the gym across the street.
Straightforward mile-based cycling goal. Just bought my own bike last month, so I don’t always have to use Citibike anymore! Instead of only biking on my daily commute, I can actually do it for fun, in my own neighborhood. Beeminder’s RunKeeper integration makes it simple.
Every day I give myself three points. If I choose to consume red meat, crunchy fried things, sugary stuff, caffeine, or alcohol, I have to give back a point. I need 16 points a week to stay in the green.
Sleep as Android
Another great automatic integration. Every night I press the little moon widget to start sleep tracking, and every morning when I turn my alarm off, my sleep duration gets sent to Beeminder. I’ve been getting to bed way earlier and sleeping way more since I started tracking it!

There are no words to describe how happy it makes me to see those nine green squares every day, and how annoyed with myself I get when one or more of them is another color. Even though the difficulty is cranked pretty far down right now, it’s been having a considerable influence on my life. I’ve found myself eating fewer cookies, bringing lunch to work, tidying up barely messy rooms, and dragging myself off the couch just so I can keep all my greens for another day. Someday soon I’ll crank up the difficulty on my goals a bit, or add another goal that I need to start pledging big money on, but for now I’m just exulting in the green.



[1] Breaking News: While writing this blog post, HabitRPG renamed itself to Habitica!


Tags: , , , , , , ,