Success with 15-minute cleans

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Sean Fellows

Aug 25, 2014, 8:35:00 PM8/25/14

My wife and I have had good results in the apartment cleaning department by Beeminding what we call "15-minute cleans".

How the goal works:
* A 15-minute clean is exactly what it sounds like. You clean for 15 minutes (with a timer) and then enter a "1" into Beeminder.
* You can only do one per day. You can't clean for 30 minutes and enter "2".
* If the apartment is completely clean at the end of the day, you get to enter a "1" without doing anything.

Why we like it:
* We think it is easier to keep a clean apartment clean than to clean a dirty one. (See Broken Windows Theory).
*** There is a built-in reward for getting the apartment all the way clean. It's rare that it actually happens, but it is good motivation.
*** Binge-cleaning isn't rewarded by the goal. The optimal way to get points is to do a 15-minute clean every day, and that prevents things from spiraling out of control.
* Beeminding by "minutes of cleaning" sometimes presents you with gargantuan amounts of cleaning to do in a single day, but the most you can ever need to do for this goal is 15 minutes.
* You don't need to Take a Break for vacations if you get the apartment completely cleaned up before you go. In a way, choosing not to Take a Break is committing to cleaning up before you go. Then you get to come back to a clean place.

I'd be interested to hear if anybody does anything similar.


Daniel Reeves

Aug 25, 2014, 9:07:22 PM8/25/14
to akratics
I mostly love this but I think I'd like the simpler version -- beemind
15 minutes of cleaning per day -- even better. In the akratic steady
state (always skating the edge) that also results in exactly 15
minutes each day. And it's a more meaningful graph -- you see total
minutes of cleaning, which might be useful to decide about
outsourcing. Or just be interesting.

(Pro-tip: Beemind hours of cleaning because you can still enter "0:15"
or "0:20" which gets translated as .25 or .3333. That makes it
compatible with the built-in timer in the Beeminder Android app as
well. Super-pro-tip: You can convert an existing goal from minutes to
hours by rescaling everything by 1/60 in Terrifyingly Advanced

Anyway, why I think the simple version is at least as good as your
version, Sean:

1. You can retroratchet (or autoratchet if premium) to avoid rewarding
binge cleaning.
2. Reward for hitting a Totally Clean state: I'd say just dial down
the road if that can ever happen, since I anticipate diminishing
returns on cleaning effort anyway. But I'm a slob so don't listen to
me. You could also just have projects in reserve like finding things
to donate that could count towards the goal if the house is ever
already Totally Clean.
3. How could a "15 minutes/day" goal ever require more than 15 minutes
in a single day? I don't think that can happen!
4. Is it hard to remember to schedule a break for vacations? We want
that to be super easy, and we think it's good for the graph to reflect
reality in that way.

I hate to discourage creative beeminding though. I'm just hung up on
the Quantified Self aspect of it.
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Goal tracking + Commitment contracts ==

Sean Fellows

Aug 25, 2014, 9:23:54 PM8/25/14
Thanks for the detailed response!

I omitted a bit of history, which is that our 15-minute clean thing pre-dates our use of Beeminder. When I started using Beeminder, it felt natural to start keeping track of it. But maybe you're right that tracking hours of cleaning (thanks for the pro-tips) is just as good / better.

0. To begin with, simpler is always better by default. :)
1. You are probably right that automatic retroratchet on the "minutes per day" goal is the equivalent of this. So in some ways this is my way of working around the lack of premium features.
2. You're right that Totally Clean is sufficiently rare that it doesn't need a lot of consideration in designing the goal.
3. Er.....right. I still goof this up in my head sometimes, that the units on the Road Dial don't actually matter (that is, the goal is enforced daily even if the units are set to "weekly". You would think I would have internalized this by now lol)
4. Really the only thing that is hard about Take a Break is that I have to do it on all the goals individually. Being able to select multiple goals and apply a Take a Break to the selected ones all at once would be nice.

I appreciate you taking the time to discourage pointlessly complex Beeminding. It is fun being creative and all, but I think you are actually right that it would just be the same difference if we track hours and retroratchet. So I suppose I can just scale up this goal by 1/4 and then it is in hours.

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