Sunday, 5 June 2016

Update: Day 5

So, how’s it been going, you ask? Well, I’m already floating quite close to my spending cap for the month! I have a lot of monthly spending items (mostly subscription-based services, like Spotify, Zapier, etc.), and this means having to be careful with my money in other budget categories, because I’m going to need to reallocate some of that to spending (like from my relatively small “travel” budget, for example). This also provides a lot of incentive to really reconsider these items and trim the fat a little so that in future months, it will be a little less tight.

Meanwhile, I’ve derailed two goals already. I derailed my Work goal (measured in hours), and a goal set up to encourage me to eat meals and items from a pre-planned menu, rather than willy-nilly throughout the day. (More on that in a future post.)

What I’ve learned from the first few days:
1) I already knew that the bulk of my spending money goes in the first days of the month, when my subscriptions renew, and that I have room in other budget categories to absorb these, but I hadn’t really been considering how consistently I reallocate money from budgets meant to save up for longer-term spending items, like travel, in order to pay for some of these. I’m going to start dropping a few of these items here, since I’ve got my spending limit set relatively low for the length of this experiment.

2) Really big Beeminder goals, the kind that require all-day vigilance (like the Work goal, which spans a 6- to 9-hour chunk of the day), require a number of supporting pieces. Once they get behind, it’s very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to catch up later in the day. (And when I’m not paying attention, like today, I can wind up discovering that it’s too late to catch up before I have even realized I was starting to get behind.)

Two Solutions:
a) A Better Beeminder Reminder Setup
Beeminder has reminders and, for many, that will suffice and the second method below will be overkill. I have over 90 goals, however, and have become quite skilled at tuning out the SMS reminders. Part of the problem is that I’ve set most of the reminders to start at the same time in the morning. They’ve become less “reminders” and more “an SMS to do list.” A better way to set them up would be so that each starts a short time before you really, absolutely, must get started on it unless you want to derail. Chances are, you’re checking in in the morning to see what you have to get done today, so you probably just need another little nudge later in the day, to remind you that now is the time to start on that goal.

This isn’t quite enough for my purposes, since my goals sometimes collide, but it certainly would make the reminders a lot more useful than they are now, with them all starting in the early morning and getting progressively more cacophonous throughout the day until I silence my phone!

b) Simple Recurring events in a calendar
While my own setup is a little more complicated (it uses a blend of a number of services to automate getting my Beeminder deadlines into my calendar) a more simple solution is to create a new Google Calendar just for time blocks in which to do each of the tasks backed up by a Beeminder goal.

Make recurring events and, in the description, note the task and the deadline (so that if you shift things around, you won’t ever unknowingly shift it past your deadline) and have it recur at the same frequency as your Beeminder goal requires. That way, your calendar will provide visual reminders (to go along with Beeminder’s reminders) to make sure you get to your task on time!

Remember to take into account just how long each task will actually take. 5 hours of 25/5 pomodoro time, for example, is going to take at least 6 hours, so plan your events accordingly!

Having these in a separate calendar will allow you to hide them when you need to view your uncluttered appointments calendar. And having them visible when you plan your day will allow you to see that the dinner that’s scheduled on Thursday is going to interfere with your evening run and cause you to derail, so that you can plan do it in the morning instead.

Hopefully, making better use of Beeminder’s reminders and paying more attention to my calendar reminders can prevent me from allowing any future derailments caused purely by inattention for the rest of the month!

TL;DR Version
I’m reallocating too much from long-term spending items to the regular spending budget. I derailed a goal because I’m not paying close enough attention to large goals that will take may hours. 

My solutions: 1) Cancel a few subscriptions. 2) Set my Beeminder reminder for each goal for when it absolutely needs to be started, rather than at the beginning of the day, so that it *reminds* me, in case I’ve forgotten. Also, use recurring calendar events on a separate calendar so that I can make sure my Beeminder tasks don’t clash with each other and with other scheduled events.