Saturday, January 12, 2013

Akrasia

This isn't a post about hearing loss or steno. It might be relevant if you're a freelancer, though, or possibly even if you're not. To be perfectly honest, this post is a meta-post. See, I've got a goal in Beeminder that makes me blog once a week (on either the StenoKnight Blog or the Plover Blog), and I'm currently 4 hours from derailment. When I finish this post, it'll reset and I won't have to blog again for another 7 days, though I'm going to try not to let it skirt so close to the edge next time.

What is Beeminder? So glad you asked, since over the past year or so I've turned into a frothing convert. It's an online self-binding tool. What's self-binding? It's a technique to help guard against akrasia. What's akrasia? Ah, now we're talking. So I'm firmly of the school that believes happiness is not a state of mind, but a habit. Doing things consistently, improving at them incrementally, and eventually realizing that you've become pretty good at them and that their presence in your life is actually really satisfying. Akrasia is the force working against all of that. It's what makes you break your resolutions, dodge your commitments, succumb to entropy, and spend your entire life on the couch eating Goldfish crackers and playing video games. Self-binding is a really effective way to make you realize that you're not getting as much done as you think you are, and to keep you honest as you slowly and gradually lay the groundwork for the great things you want to achieve in the future.

I've found that having a system to nudge me when I'm not doing anything to help with my long-term goals is really helpful. Similarly, having a graph to show my history of doing the things I want to do over the long term makes me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something, and gives me more incentive to keep it up even when my initial enthusiasm for it has waned somewhat. I've found Beeminder to be a really good way to combine both the nudge and the graph. It's free to make commitments, but they get their money from people who break their commitments and then want to try again. Currently I've got eight open goals:

* Blog more often
* Eat more fruits and vegetables
* Go to the gym
* Learn Python with Codecademy
* Answer my email on a regular basis
* Eat less junk food
* Practice for the RMR Q&A (Yeah, just learned that I didn't pass my last attempt, sigh. Next time for sure, though, if I can keep those blasted nerves in check. I've definitely got the speed.)
* Sort through my email every day

I'll probably add another goal pretty soon so I can have a nice even grid of nine, but I'm not sure what it'll be yet. (Suggestions welcome!) For now, I'm managing them all pretty well. I haven't had to pay Beeminder money yet. The Gmail Zero goal is especially nice because I don't even have to enter my data manually; it just counts all the read messages that are in my inbox several times a day, and if I don't clean it out completely at least once a day, I lose. My Reply Zero goal, on the other hand, is a bit more flexible; I send it to my reply folder, and I have to get it down to zero at least once a week.

Anyone who finds that their daily habits are not quite what they should be, or that they're not achieving their long-term goals in the timeframe that they'd like, might like to try Beeminder out for a while. I don't receive any compensation from them; they've just helped me enormously with building good habits, and I like spreading the word about them. Let me know if you start up your own goals! I'm always curious about what things people are invested enough in to start tracking.

Okay! Blogging goal achieved for another week. See you guys in fewer than six days! (I hope.)

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