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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Some things beemind better than others

Winy and her water by Tambako the Jaguar from flickr (CC-ND)

I'm in the middle of long overdue full GTD review, and one thing I've noticed was that aspects of my life that have a Beeminder goal connected to them tend to do a lot better than those that don't.

This doesn't necessarily mean it's thanks to Beeminder - there's also a lot of reverse selection, since only things I have clear goals and metrics for can really go to Beeminder, and that alone usually means they might go better, but it sure is a suggestive correlation.

What doesn't work too well on Beeminder

Anyway, I'm in the process of archiving one goal. I was very reluctant to add it, and pretty much all my worries about it were confirmed. It was a "do less" goal to try 80% paleo diet I wanted to try for a while. Now the goal was never in any danger of derailment, but it felt really wrong all the time.

A "do more" goal is something you need to think a few times a week, requires minimal data collection, and all that data collection corresponds to a successful outcome on the graph - you're getting some awesomepoints! You need to think about it sometimes - but vast majority of your time you can completely ignore its existence.

A "do less" goal on the other hand is something looming over you 24/7. It requires constant tedious data tracking (I only sent daily summaries to beeminder, but total number of data points collected for it was much higher than for all my other goals combined), and is associated with negative rather than positive emotions all the time you collect data for it. There are no redeeming qualities here.

About the only thing worse than a "do less" goal would be a weight loss one - not only you get all the negatives of a "do less" goal, you don't even have any reasonable amount of control over the outcome.

Now I never bothered to look at Beeminder's data to see if "do more" goals have higher success rate than "do less" and "weight loss" goals, but I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case. And even if they don't, they're sure much more fun and less stressful.

As for paleo diet in particular, it's fine when you can cook at home, but it's rather impractical otherwise without seriously stretching definitions of what counts as "paleo". There's huge choice for people who for some reason want industrial waste from soybean processing and similar garbage (also known as "vegans"), but if you want real food, you're on your own. Maybe it will change one day but for now full paleo is just too much effort and the best one can do is avoiding the worst of industrial crap.
Yawning tiger cub II by Tambako the Jaguar from flickr (CC-ND)

Goal Status

I don't really have any hard long term targets - I adjust them based on how difficult it currently is and how important I feel the goal is - if the goal is important but current target is too easy that's a good reason to ramp it up.

Anyway, goal status, from hardest to easiest:
  • Try new fun things - That's a new goal I added recently, so it has no data points yet. I'm not really worried about meeting this goal, but it sure is fun to get some points for things I want to do anyway (2/week).
  • Pomodoros of important things - Another new goal. Initial target at 7/week, but it will need to go a lot higher once I get used to it. I have a lot of projects I want to move forward without good goals or measures, so rather than ignoring them or adding 20 or so separate goals of dubious quality, I'm adding a catch-all "pomodoros spent on doing any of them" goal (anything covered by another goal doesn't count here). This might still end up leaving half of the projects without any significant progress, but that's better than all of them. 
  • Exercise - This goal has been suffering from serious difficulties. Early on I managed to get sick, last week my exercise equipment broke down (fortunately ebay was pretty fast as shipping replacements). I'm about right on track for 3h/week target, and I might consider increasing it to 3.5h/week someday, but for now I'm just going to stick to current target.
  • Online Education - I found a lot of resources other than Udacity, so this goal is safer long-term than I was originally worried. I still feel it's relatively hard to find quality resources in subjects that interest me, and in a few months I might run out of them, but for the time being 3 lessons/week is just fine.
  • Play Magic - No troubles here, but I don't feel any major reason to ramp this up from 10 games/week.
  • Open Source contributions - This has been going surprisingly well, and I'll soon post about some of the things I've been working on, and since this is really important I'm going to increase the rate from 7 commits/week to 10 commits/week.
  • Blog posts - It seems I accidentally wrote a post that got into top 10 of this blog ever just a few days ago. It's so random which posts become popular and which posts almost nobody reads... Anyway I've got ton of things I want to write about, and I really like this blog being much more active, so I'm increasing the target from 2 posts/week to 3 posts/week.
  • Books - I feel a bit like a Soviet factory manager here since I went through my list of things to read, sorted by shortest first, and I'm focusing on these first. But then correlation between length of the book and its intellectual value is not that high, so it's a totally reasonable behaviour. I'm going to increase the target from 2/month to 3/month since I still have a huge stack of things I want to read, and it's going to take me years to get through it no matter the target.

Future goals

There's a lot of things I want to improve, but they don't have obvious good goals. I tried a dubious goal with paleo diet, and that didn't go too well, so I'll stay away from other "do less" goals.

Doing new fun things sound like a good catch-all goal to make sure time spent having fun still feels like achieving something, and it's important to have some balance in life. Goals are self-correcting, since ones that have lowest "days until derailment" feel most like an achievement to focus on, so there's no worry I'm just going to play new video games all time next month for some nice points.

Another area that really benefits from adequate focus, and which I often got bad at taking care of in the past is maintaining my GTD system. Unfortunately none of the metrics are sensible - my GTD inbox will invariably go way above 0 (and likely >200) since I tend to do reviews using "dump everything into inbox, then dump all my thoughts into inbox, then process one item at a time" system and it can take a long time to get it together. Even not counting reviews inbox often gets temporarily flooded by new content, and that's perfectly fine, as long as it all gets processed within reasonable time. I have no idea what to do about it all.

Of all the projects currently covered by "do more pomodoros" goal - some of them might end up having their own goals if I can come up with any, or they might just get completed or blocked for longer time (another reason why I don't want to put them all onto separate goals). I'm not sure if the pomodoro goal will really work or not. If not - I'll have to come up with some other way of ensuring these things are moving forward.

See you next time.

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