DRAFT: The Abacus Bracelet

Abacus Bracelet

This is a future blog post draft and also where we’re collecting a list of wearable counting gadgets and a list of things you might want to tally with such a thing.

Analog counter things you can wear

  1. Knitting Abacus Bracelet
  2. Maybe nicer looking abacus bracelet (HT Betty Widerski)
  3. RedVex Pace Counter Bead Paracord Survival Bracelet
  4. Clicking Counter Ring
  5. Ranger Paracord Pace Counter Bracelet

Things to beemind with a wearable counter

  1. Calories (each bead is 150cal)
  2. Servings of junk food
  3. Making eye contact with people or talking to people
  4. Nail biting
  5. Hitting your alarm’s snooze button
  6. Unproductivity (opening a site like Facebook on autopilot)
  7. Skin Scratching (HT Pavlok.com)
  8. Hair Picking
  9. Swearing
  10. Negative Thoughts
  11. Smoking
  12. Drugs
  13. Pornography
  14. net calories (sliding beads one way for calories consumed and the other way for calories burned)
  15. compliments given
  16. smiling
  17. expressing gratitude
  18. executing trigger-action plans
  19. Swim laps (from Cyndi Goeser; I can confirm it works great underwater)
  20. Either instances of losing one’s temper with one’s kids or refraining from losing one’s temper with one’s kids (from Caitlin Patton)
  21. Dreams or number of times you awaken at night (from Geoff Hubbard)
  22. Interruptions (Kingdon Barrett)
  23. Drinking water (HT Melanie)
  24. Positive thoughts that negate self-sabotaging negative thoughts (HT Melanie)
  25. Pages read/studiend (HT Leigh Ann Hildebrand)

Ideas from Marcin Borkowski

When I saw it, my first thought was “wow, what a fancy rosary!”. Then I got a few more ideas.

  1. If you had a few of these, you could use them to keep score in a boardgame. Especially in one with hidden scores.

  2. “Did I take my medicine today or not?” This might help, especially for things you have to take, say, 3 times a day.

  3. Some time ago I helped my father to move a heap of wood from point A to point B with a wheelbarrow. We could never keep track of how many wheelbarrow-fuls we did. This could help!

  4. And this is maybe a bit out of the box, but if you had the colorful one (with every bead a different color), you could use it to help memorize parts of a public speech (see Method of Loci).

Ideas from Adam Wolf

  1. hugs. I already beemind wife-hug-days and son-hug-days.
  2. swearing. I already beemind this, but I would certainly be more accurate. I also log the phrase, which makes me laugh when I read the comments on that goal.
  3. cuticle picking. Once again, already beemind this.
  4. grumpiness-in-action. When I am grumpy, and say something negative because of short-temperedness, I mark it as a “grump.”. I am already beeminding this, and it is possibly the most beneficial thing, even more than the 35 pounds I have lost since February. I almost derailed the other day, and I had to disengage from Twitter for a bit.
  5. touching your face. I am going to a convention this weekend and am hoping to avoid concrud, but this should also help folks with acne.
  6. Unintentional eating, like eating from the office bowl of M&Ms
  7. My personal favorite: getting your phone out when you shouldn’t! Logging that in beeminder on your phone is the worst, worst kind of unproductive, as you’ll get sucked into a million other things—instantly putting it away and toggling a bead on your ablet, on the other hand…

Ideas from Alex Strick van Linschoten

  1. tracking tasks done on PhD work / or tracking pomodoros with a manual kitchen timer
  2. tracking how many moments of mindfulness you manage to achieve in a given day
  3. tracking how many tasks I manage to get ‘done’ from my physical on-a-wall kanban board
  4. tracking moments of gratitude

Ideas from Oliver Mayor

The bracelet seems like it’d be great for anything that’d benefit from positive reinforcement that you would also want to track.

Here are some things that come to mind:

General pattern here: upon receiving cue or noticing situation, follow through with beneficial behavior.

For my do-more goals, data entry seems to act as a kind of positive reinforcement, yet it is sometimes too cumbersome to send data to Beeninder in the moment. So an instant intermediate counter would be really helpful. But I suspect the association likely works both ways and that the physical sensation of the abacus bracelet could act as a cue in itself.

I think a beneficial pattern for inhibition [TODO]

The abacus bracelet could also used to count down if you have a max quota for a behavior. I think this might actually help do-less goals work for me. I think I’ve given up before because I had trouble being cognizant of how many lapses I have left before derailing at any time. The abacus bracelet would act as a kind of HUD in that case.

Here are some do-less things:

For behavior change, though, it does seem that replacing with an alternative, incompatible behavior is more effective. Even while tracking lapses, I think it would also help to reinforce a subsequent desirable recovery behavior that can eventually preempt/replace the unwanted one once noticing a trouble situation becomes more automatic…

A version of this I call “pay the toll” has worked for me. You couple an infrequently performed desirable behavior and a frequent/compulsive less-desirable behavior. Before you are OK to perform the less-desirable behavior, you must perform the desired behavior — this is the toll. If you notice you are performing the less-desired behavior without having paid the toll, you must stop immediately and pay the toll. Eventually, the desired behavior increases and the less desired behavior decreases in frequency.

In my case, using Facebook was the less desired behavior, and the toll was doing one review in Anki. To use Facebook or continuing to use it for more than 2 minutes, I’d first have to do one review in Anki. Many times I ended up paying more than the toll — my daily reviews shot up and my compulsion to use FB was diminished. (I don’t do this anymore because I’ve mostly stopped using FB… might need to do this for browsing English language websites / checking social media messages outside of designated uses.)

Anyway: this ended up being a big digression — I’ll keep it here since I’m typing on my phone.

Back to the topic:

I think an abacus bracelet might be of even more help for Habitica than Beeminder, since the entry for Habits is +/-. I also tend to want to use Habitica for lots of fine-grained stuff — having a very conveniently accessible input method is of even more importance. (I can actually be a bit faster with Beeminder because of my input shortcuts). I do think this would make my layering Habitica and Beeminder more likely even though there’s only To-do support right now.

More not quite Beeminder uses:

General pattern: replacement for writing things down on paper or holding things in memory, HUD approximation

Ideas from Mark Wilson on augmenting self-awareness while offline

Idea from David MacIver

A use case I have that doesn’t map well to beeminder (it’s not a goal so much as a dependent variable in an experiment) is that I’m currently trying to track a medical problem - a persistent dry cough, and I’ve been wondering about just maintaining a daily count of number of coughs. I have a mechanical clicker counter somewhere that I was considering using for that, but I really like the idea of something wearable.