Journal.Bar —A Metasystem Experiment
It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day, that’s the hard
part. But it does get easier. —Bojack Horseman
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Hi, I’m Brennan. I wrote two guests posts for Beeminder back in 2017– Tao and Sting. Although I felt as though they were good pieces of advice (I had a lot of helpful editing from Daniel and Bee!), I ultimately fell short and failed hard with Beeminder, and subsequently life. I wrote another long post reflecting on that here. Now that’s all rather general and abstract, so I’ll get to the personal stuff.
I have been working as a cook at a children’s hospital for the past four years, and due to a contract ending, I was laid off last month. By the sheer grace of the universe, I landed a full-ride scholarship to a full-stack web development program. I previously had to drop out of university due to lack of finances, so this is a kind of Godsend for me–and I don’t want to squander it.
I will be a lot busier during this program than I was before when I was seriously slacking off–and I’ll probably be just as busy for the rest of my life. Which is exactly why I’m amping up my workload. I need to adapt and adjust to what I ought to be doing.
One reason I think I failed at Beeminder was simply not using Beeminder for Beeminder, or in other words, creating a system that would track daily check-ins so I can be mindful of where I am with all my other systems. Or having a weekly write-up in the way of this Beejournal for meta-accountability. I really cannot believe I did not think of this sooner. I am dumb.
- Atomic Habits (for now): I’m taking a page out of James Clear’s fantastic book and starting out very small and slow. I know I have a habit of getting the initial rush of motivation to jump into things only for them to fizzle out. A consequence of this is going to be large safety buffers, but I’ll figure that out later.
- Anti-goal Framework: Unlike a lot of people that use Beeminder, I do not intend on having any systems in play that are temporary. In other words, systems that would eventually end in a succeeded goal. All of my beeminders will be tracking things I want to theoretically do for the rest of my life. Maybe one day my brain will be able to comprehend shorter-term goals.
- Essentialism: In the addition to the above, I want to make sure my systems only track what is truly important and meaningful to me. Getting lost in the weeds of small habits is too easy for me, so I’m going to utilize the 20/80 rule as best I can.
- Anti-Circle: I really need to stop repeating myself as well as my same stupid mistakes. Looking back at the goals I set for myself back in 2014, when I was still in high school, I notice there’s a bunch of stuff I’m still hopeful I’ll be achieving this year.
- Redundancy of Efforts / Cohesive Database: A solution for being anti-circle is simply not letting my plans exist in a bunch of different notebooks, cloud drives, laptops, etc. and instead have a single place that I regularly review (this forum post!), as well as having a redundancy of identical efforts–a single USB drive backup, a single Git repository backup, etc.
- Automated vs. Manual Input: Initially joining Beeminder, I solely chose to create systems where the data could be automated. This seemed like less work and thus less-likely-to-fail than manual input, however there are sneaky efforts that some things still have.
- Eg. I have to start up Runkeeper whenever I go for a walk, for instance, and which means turning on my LTE, GPS, etc. and it’s probably more of a hassle than just recording the amount of time I was outside for.
- Habitual vs. Resistant: There are some things that I am naturally good at doing, thankfully, so I do not have to Beemind them. However, I should write them down elsewhere for the sake of having all of my habits/task items in the same place.
- Burnout Paradox: I am still figuring out a way to avoid burnout and maintain my efforts through Beeminder. It is kinda paradoxical in nature because having to add more data would negate ease, so I need to think of more creative ways to do this.
- Work/Life Balance: Being a well-rounded person is essential to me. The last thing I want to do is dedicate all of my waking life to a single thing. So, I have to make sure there’s balance in my systems between all the major categories of life
- Eg. Work, Relationships, Mentality, Physicality, Spirituality, Finances, Fun. More Information.
- /Productivity: Tracking the amount of my productive time in front of a computer via RescueTime. It’s pretty generic but works out well.
- /Courses: Tracking the courses I take through online learning platforms manually. Will also track assignments when I start my program.
- /Github: Tracking the commits I push to my GitHub account via Gitminder. I have a repository for my course notes which is currently what I usually commit.
- /Blog: Tracking the posts I publish to my Medium account via IFTTT. I probably consider this my most important Beeminder.
- /Poetry: Tracking the posts I publish to my Tumblr account via IFTTT. I have two self-published collections and I just restarted my poetry blog to start working on my third.
I will be implementing these systems slowly, to minimize chance of failure and burnout.
- /Daily or /Meta: Tracking daily check-ins to Beeminder itself for the sake of intentionality and consistency. Will be manual.
- /Beejournal: Tracking weekly check-ins to this forum thread, as well as eventual Jekyll website that will contain all of this. Will include Beetuning, Next Actions, Derailments, New Systems, Current Systems Updates, Life Updates, Etc. Will be manual–and I’ll need to write up a template.
- /BulletJournal: Tracking daily check-ins to make sure I write my daily to-dos, as well as other mundane things, etc. that aren’t important enough to Beemind in my bujo. I like writing on paper a lot! Will be manual.
- /Tweets and /Photos: Tracking my Twitter and Instagram posts. I have recently deleted all social media and restarting again. I have many harsh criticisms regarding social media (see: Deep Work by Cal Newport) however it is a necessity if I’m going into technology, and I need to demonstrate to myself that these services are not inherently bad, and I can use them as a way to track my own personal progress at the very least.
- /Gratitude: Tracking one (or possibly more) thing that I’m grateful for daily. Studies often show this makes people happier. Will be manual.
- /3Things: Tracking the three most important/interesting things that happened during the day. I think this would be better in my bullet journal. Will be manual.
- /WordCount: Tracking the amount of words I write per day. Will either be manual or via Draftin? I don’t use Draftin which is why this system failed in the past, maybe if I just manually enter it’d be easier.
- /Books or PagesRead: Tracking the amount of books I read. Didn’t work out before because I don’t read enough :( Will be manual.
- /Duolingo or French: Tracking the amount of XP I gain using Duolingo. didn’t work because it’s pretty exhausting to use for little actual language learning. I think I need better resources.
- /Runkeeper or Outside/Walking: Tracking the amount of distance or time I am outside walking. Might be easier to record manually.
- /Meetups or Networking: Tracking the events that I attend. This is actually a good idea, I just need to get out more. Will be manual. (Wouldn’t a MeetUp API connection be cool though?)
- /Spending: Tracking the amount of money I spend per day, and on what. Only downside is that it’s a lot of info to track, but would be really helpful. And it wouldn’t be a lot of info if I just spend no money! Will be manual.
- /SleepSchedule: Tracking the amount of sleep I get, as well as wake-up and sleep time. I need a fitness watch to automate this or something.
- /Weight: Tracking my weight. No real need since I’ve maintained for months and don’t know how to lose, lol.
- /Workout: Tracking work outs I do. I need to do research into this.
- /FoodLog: Tracking the meals I consume. A good idea, but a lot of work.
- /AnalogTime: Tracking the amount of time I’m away from electronics. A good idea, but rather nebulous in practicality. Ideally no electronics before or after 9, though.
- /NewMedia: Tracking new media (movies, albums, podcasts, etc.) that I find and find interesting. Would be better for a bujo spread, I think.
- /KeepingTouch: Tracking the amount of time I keep in touch with family and friends. Again, a good idea but difficult to pinpoint concrete datapoints, I think.
- /Recipes or Cooking or MealPlanning: Tracking new recipes that I find or create. Seems like more work than it’s worth.
- /Monthly or YearlyReview: Tracking my monthly and yearly reviews, which would be expanding upon my already existing daily and weekly reviews. Not sure what info would be in these that would be useful, but I’m sure there’s something.
- /Podcast or YouTube: Tracking the amount of episodes(?) I put out. This is a total backburner idea and nowhere close to being started, but maybe something with Anchor?
- /Sobriety: Tracking when I’m sober. I rarely drink so not really needed. But would be good for tracking being clean and whole in general
- /Veganism: Tracking when I eat entirely plant-based. Don’t know how to construct meaningful data points other than binary “yes (1)” or “no (0)”.
- /Prayer or Meditation: Tracking when I meditate. Seems both nebulous and counterintuitive to the point of the practice.
- /OpenSourceProjects: Tracking when I contribute to other people’s open source projects. Could be useful, but I need to become competent enough to start.
- /Prose: Tracking my writing outside of my poetry and my main blog. Don’t have anything else going on right now, though.
Thanks for reading all of this! I’d love any comments or criticism, as I’m sure I have abundant blind spots and bias that are reasons why I’ve hindered myself in the past. Also feel free to ask any questions or take any of my ideas. I also apologize for being so long-winded–it’s something I need to work on.