Chasing Waterfalls

Monday, October 12, 2015
By dreeves

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

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  • olimay

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who uses arbitrary glass surfaces as whiteboards. ^_^ (In my case, it’a big closet mirror)

  • Markos Giannopoulos

    This sounds interesting but since I can’t yet set custom deadlines for goals with autodata, I can’t use this workflow :) An ETA for this? :)

  • Daniel Reeves

    We’re gradually adding arbitrary deadlines to autodata integrations. So far we have these done:

    1. Code School
    2. Duolingo
    3. Runkeeper
    4. Trello
    5. Withings
    6. IFTTT

    Let us know which ones you’re chomping at the bit for and we’ll priority++ them!

  • Markos Giannopoulos

    RescueTime :)

  • Markos Giannopoulos

    By the way, for the waterfall concept to work, you need to be on a emergency day all the time. Or not? :)

  • Daniel Reeves

    Oh, ha, I’m so beemergency-driven (or deadline-driven, I guess normal people would say) that I didn’t even think to clarify that.

    But If you establish these habits — gym by 9am, trello to-dos by noon, tweet UVI by 5pm, etc — then you can do them whether or not there’s a beemergency. Just that without the actual beemergency there’s nothing preventing the deadline from slipping and the waterfall can quickly unravel. So I kind of just embrace the panic and wait till the beemergency’s bearing down on me. The real power of the waterfall, then, is ensuring that I don’t get multiple beemergencies bearing down at the same time.