How I Use Beeminder

I am bad at using productivity systems. I know this because I’ve tried a bunch of them, and they almost all last somewhere between a week and four months before I drop them entirely. I’ve tried Habitica, Complice, a simple daily “what can I do tomorrow” in Google Keep, a written journal… All of them work for a little while, but only that.

Beeminder has stuck. I now have several intermittent goals set up in it that I’ve regularly accomplishing. This is how I use it.


Beeminder is a goal-tracking app. You set a target (“at least X <entries> per week” or special settings for weight loss/gain. It’s more flexible if you pay for a subscription.) and a starting fine collected (by default $5). Then you enter data; it tracks your overall progress, and if you slip below the rate you set, it bills you for the fine and then raises it.

When I started it, I was in a slump, and used it for two things: getting out job applications and remembering to take care of basic hygiene. It sends reminders at an increasing rate if you forget, so it helped a lot with remembering to take showers before it got late enough that I’d wake up my house to do it, and to brush my teeth regularly. And since I was contractually obligated to try hard to find a job, having finished App Academy not long before, a regular reminder that also helped me track when and where was very useful. These were all very frequent goals; my minimum was two applications per day, brushing my teeth twice a day, and showering at least 3x/week. This was pretty good at keeping me on track, but didn’t ever use much less willpower than it did at first.

Currently, I use it somewhat differently. I still have the brushing-my-teeth goal, but the only time it’s been at risk was a period where I broke my brush and didn’t get a new one for several days. It’s now the only daily or near-daily goal I have; its function is mainly to keep me looking at Beeminder regularly. As I vaguely remember from a certain game designer repeating it many, many times, structured daily activities are key to building a routine. I seem to be less susceptible to routine than most people, but it still helps.

With the regular check-in goal in place, I can hang longer-term goals on it. Right now, that’s getting back into playing board games regularly and continuing my quest to learn more recipes. Both of these are things that I am happier and better-motivated when I do, but forget to do from day to day. In writing this post, I also decided to add a habit of clearing out my Anki decks more regularly, since I’ve gotten out of the habit of using those.

This way isn’t the only way, but it’s an effective one, and distinctly different from how the Beehivers themselves do. So if their ways sound alien but this seems appealing, consider giving it a shot.

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