(This is a guest post from Louie Helm, CFAR alum April '13 and the founder of Rockstar Research Magazine.)
Like many people, I have goals. And because I care about my goals, I try my best to track them. Therefore I use the standard tool for tracking goals: Beeminder.
With Beeminder, I can see in an instant exactly where I stand on several of my longterm health and productivity goals since they keep constantly up-to-date graphs of my progress and helpful enforcement mechanism in place to make sure I don’t give up.
But now that Beeminder has become an indispensable part of my personal goal-achievement system, I’ve spent a bit of time optimizing how it integrates into my day-to-day life. I want to make sure it’s as light-weight and automated as possible so I can focus on my goals, and not on getting side-tracked out of flow states to do the tracking itself.
Especially since I’m tracking 6 goals on BeeMinder, I’ve had to find handy ways to automate the input into BeeMinder so I didn’t have any overhead once I setup my goal tracking.
EASY: OFF THE SHELF AUTOMATION.
Obviously, it’s easiest when you can use the built-in automated goal tracking that BeeMinder provides for a few services. You probably want to take advantage of that for any services that could be used to track your own personal goals too.
I find that RescueTime and the Gmail Inbox Zero are good for roughly tracking my productivity and conscientiousness. And the Fitbit, Withings, and Jawbone integrations are all things I’ve used for tracking health goals at one time or another.
MEDIUM DIFFICULTY: IFTTT FOR BEEMINDER INTEGRATION.
For anything that doesn’t have a built-in integration, try combining Beeminder’s Trello Goal with a nice third-party service called IFTTT ("If This, Then That").
For example: I track if I write an article on Rockstar Research every day. BeeMinder has no built-in way to track that even though a Wordpress plugin seems like it would be pretty obvious to me. Anyway, instead of complaining to BeeMinder or forcing myself to constantly login to Trello and note if I’ve blogged, here’s how I got BeeMinder to track my goal automatically instead. This procedure works for almost anything you can think to track:
1) Setup a Trello account and create a new board with any name you want (for example: “Blog Tracking”).
2) Then create a list inside your new board with any name you want (for example: “Posts”)
3) Also within this new board, click on the “Menu” drop-down on the far right. Selet “Email-to-board Settings…” and copy the email address that Trello lets you use to send emails directly to this new list.
4) Setup an account with IFTTT. Once you’re logged in, click “Create a Recipe”.
5) For “this”, select “RSS Feed”… or whatever triggering event it is that you actually want to track. Then connect the appropriate credentials (if required).
6) For “that”, select “Gmail”, then connect your account, and fill in the info so that IFTTT sends an email to your newly created Trello board any time you do the specified action.
7) Login to Beeminder and setup a Trello Goal that’s linked to your new Trello board.
This works for any service that IFTTT integrates with, which is something like 100 services right now. But what if something you want to track isn’t available there? I have two other recommendations for easily generating email events that are triggered by other things you’re doing in your life:
MEDIUM DIFFICULTY: ZAPIER TO THE RESCUE.
Zapier has another 250 web apps and services that it integrates with.
Also, if you’re a bit more of a hacker, there’s pretty much always a way to automate tracking anything.
PROGRAMMERS ONLY: ALL ELSE FAILS? TRY GITHUB.
Github actually has lots of bootleg scripts for Trello integration. For instance, when I wanted to track how many GTD items I completed every day, I didn’t give up just because Beeminder doesn’t integrate with ActiveInbox and gmail doesn’t even natively support removing labels from my “Done” tasks and emailing them to Trello. Instead, I simply searched GitHub for “trello gmail”. Lo and behold, the first hit is actually a rough Google Apps Script that I could retrofit into an automated GTD tracking solution that updates my “Completed TODOs” goal twice a day.
So when in doubt, put “trello [thing you want tracked]” into Github. There’s probably a terrifyingly complex script for whatever you need that will only require you to wrestle ti into submission for a couple hours. All else fails, you can even break down and write your own endpoint to connect to BeeMinder’s API. The folks at BeeMinder are hackers themselves so if you make a good enough integration, they might even start supporting it natively, or at least add it to their gigantic list of third party API integrations.