TLDR: Use Beeminder, or don’t use it, in a way that best improves your overall energy level.
After the jump, this post reviews some lessons from my experience with the “Beeminder” app. If you already are familiar with Beeminder, jump away.
To get you up to speed, dear reader who isn’t familiar with Beeminder, but wants to be… Beeminder is an app for your browser/phone/etc. The main use of Beeminder is to tell Beeminder what counts as messing up, and have Beeminder take your money if you mess up, so you mess up less.
In more flowery language, the point of Beeminder is to experience the joy of the power trip you can experience toward your future self, who becomes like clay in your hands when you unlock the power of pre-commitment. Or, if you have a past-self who used Beeminder that way, then Beeminder is the app that steadily nurtures you on a golden road toward prosperity and happiness. All you have to do is make a totally realistic promise to–for an example–spend an average of 30 minutes practicing a foreign language every day, enter that promise into Beeminder, along with your credit card. Now laugh, and sit back and wait for your future self to hail your boldness/curse your name because every time future-you falls short on that promise, Beeminder charges that credit card $10 or so (it’s customizable, and if it stings too much, just cancel anytime), until the sting of it all forces your future self to admit that he or she is a weaseling weasel who weasels too easily.
I think that’s the main reason people sign up for Beeminder: forcing yourself to really notice that you’re a weaseling weasle who weasels too easily is the first, hardest step toward weaseling less. A little bit of sting makes it real that you are your own worst enemy. Plus, because Beeminder makes several other good steps toward less weaseling either automatic, or very easy. (For example, Beeminder allows you to set your goals publicly, which probably helps somewhat with not weaseling, because y’know, peer pressure. Likewise, Beeminder defaults to daily accountability, which is probably a much better approach for procrastinators than big intermittent deadlines. Plus there’s features and customizations and suchlike.)
There are many generally better places to read about Beeminder than here, such as Beeminder’s own “Start here” introduction for new users. For third-party reviews, out of the many online user reviews out there, I particularly recommend these three: 1, 2, and 3. I think these three span the gamut of user experiences, and especially if you read them together, will nicely demonstrate that your mileage may vary because the main thing that will determine whether / what benefit you might get from Beeminder are factors specific to you.
Okay, you’re up to speed on what Beeminder is… now for some comments from my own experience.