I’ve been using Beeminder to track my goals lately. With Beeminder, you set a goal, then you pledge a certain amount if you fail to meet that goal. The site is a data nerd’s playground, with lots of really cool charts to show where you are in your progress towards your goal. I have goals, but I’m not going to tell you what they are. To be honest, I went a little wild with Beeminder, setting five goals just to see what would happen. I’ve long had a problem with long term motivation, often requiring some kind of external push (like, “it’s my job” or, “it’s school, and I don’t want to flunk”) to get me to do stuff.
The pressure might be social. At my office, we have a yoga class every week, and I’m often the only person who shows up. I would feel terrible if the yoga teacher came to the office and there was nobody there to take the class, so I always attend to avoid that unpleasant outcome. This social pressure has kept me going to yoga every week (except when I’m out of town) for more than a year.
With Beeminder, my suspicion that if I failed, I would be so mortified, even if I had to pay only 5 bucks, that I’ll keep up with my goals. So far, it’s worked, but it’s still early days. Nevertheless, it seems to be working. Every time I get close to the danger zone, I’m happy to commit the 25 minutes (I picked one pomodoro as my daily commitment for each goal) necessary to get myself back on the wagon.
When I fail to meet one of my goals, I sometimes tell myself that I failed because I’m too busy: because I’m a guy with a full time job and a family. In reality, that’s probably not the problem, because I still find time for Twitter and Facebook and the like. So if I blame my family for my own failure to achieve my goals, I’m just being a jerk. Also, my wife and kids have gone out of town a couple times, leaving me a temporary bachelor, and I still had trouble getting everything done that I want to get done. I guess I’m just a slacker. No, seriously, I’ve read that everyone has a limited amount of willpower every day, and if you’ve spent it all, you can’t motivate yourself to do more work. It seems to me that the key is doing the stuff you want to do early, rather than late in the day. It seems a little weird to practice guitar before work, but it’s probably the only way it’s going to happen.
One thing I’d really like to do is go to bed early every night and get up at like 5am, so I’d have a couple of hours early in the morning to get stuff done when I have a lot of will power. So far, I’m still not that much of an early riser. I keep on staying up late, decieving myself that I’ll get more stuff done by staying up later, but I don’t. Stop that, nighttime me!
Unfortunately, I’ve fallen off the wagon with regard to blogging, something I’m not using Beeminder to track. I’m supposed to have posted five blog posts by now, and I’ve only posted three. For that failure, I deserve your shame and disapprobation.