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A bee with an umbrella getting rained on

Last week (or however often we have Beeminder force us to get blog posts out the door) we announced our big Revamped Reminders feature. Today I want to explain my favorite thing about this feature: setting up Beeminder waterfalls. I’ll explain that momentarily.

First let me quote myself from a year ago, in “New Feature and Veritable Paradigm Shift: Arbitrary Deadlines”:

Veritable Paradigm Shift? I know, can we get over ourselves? The reason we’re so excited about this though, is that we view it as a big step closer to the holy grail of Beeminder as nannybot that tells you minute-by-minute what you should be doing. You can have deadlines staggered throughout the day so you’re satisfying the beest hour by hour all day long instead of screwing around all day and flying into a frenzy of productivity as midnight bears down. It’s the same problem Beeminder solves so beautifully at a larger timescale — forcing you to make progress day by day on long-term goals — now on a smaller timescale.

Nick Wolf took that to heart and coined the term “Beeminder waterfall” to refer to a cascade of Beeminder deadlines that are scheduled to happen one after the other. As Nick put it: “Waterfalls help you program your auto pilot. You build a rhythm and flow.” He suggests small goals to start the day and then build to challenging ones. And exercise at the start of the waterfall may energize you for intellectually challenging goals later in the day.

Since we’re slower on the uptake, even for taking up our own advice, Bee and I didn’t properly set this up until last month, when we made a huge grid on a whiteboard (actually it was our dining room window — we often use windows as whiteboards) with a post-it note for each of our Beeminder goals. Then we shuffled them around until we had a schedule that looked reasonable. The daily User-Visible Improvement is now due at 5pm, some easy fitness goals are due in the evening, but mostly our evenings are free. Bee meditates by 9am and clears support and tweets an infrahancement by noon. Et cetera.

Last month that required an obnoxious number of clicks, once you’d chosen the waterfall schedule, to actually set up. But now that reminder settings are revamped, you can do it all on one page, setting reminder start times and deadlines for all of your goals. Hooray!


Image credit: Jen Springall