Beta Test Your Life

Feb 22

While monkeying around on Twitter the other day, I mentioned one of my methods for coping with perfectionism. The idea struck a chord with several people, so I dug up an old post on the topic. And yes, this idea is still in beta, too!

Beta Test Your Life

Oh-Fish-Ol Beta Tester!

Originally posted on MindTweaks,
MARCH 2, 2007

A few days ago, an acquaintance was telling me about his latest artistic endeavor: a taxidermy fish kit. He asked if he could give me one of the kits, to try, let him know if his instructions were good enough.

“YAY!” I exclaimed, “I get to beta test a fish!”

Ignoring the disturbing reality that I actually know people who create build-your-own-fish-kits, it was all very exciting, even though I had to explain what a beta tester is.

I’m not entirely sure he understood, but he figured that sounded pretty good anyway, and I began plotting how to best display my new-found, ever-so-official title, “Beta Tester for Aquatic Life, Stuffed And Mounted Division.”

That’s when Synchronicity struck, in her guise as the LifeHacker Archives.

Buried among the dust and crumpled DayTimer sheets was a suggestion that beta testing your goals could be a useful productivity tool.

I’ve fallen in love with the idea, and hereby declare that my life is in a permanent beta test.

If you live under the same rock as my fish-kitting friend, you need to know that a beta test is a stage in software development.  It’s when a product is released to potential end-users, so they can find bugs, find problems, give feedback, and so forth. Products in beta are generally considered good enough for people outside of the company to see, but are expected to have problems, glitches, and room for improvement.

Beta Testing goals and projects might just work for me, because:

  • Feedback is important, but only when I’m in a near-final stage of a project. Before that point it’s intrusive, and after that, its irrelevant.
  • It would give me a way to tell people “This isn’t finished”without getting the inevitable “You’re too hard on yourself!” replies.
  • A designated Beta Period allows me to *think* about things with more freedom. I tend to have goal-setting anxiety, and the idea of setting goals as “beta” or to test them out really relaxes me.
  • It would let me to start the many projects in my files, without feeling obligated to succeed. As the LH article put it: “You can avoid major disappointment and frustration if you plan ahead and consider the early stages of goal-setting and goal-accomplishing as just that – an early testing period that can potentially bring success, but, regardless of the outcome, is nonetheless a great learning and testing ground.”
  • The stranglehold of perfectionism loses its grip when I can declare “of course it’s not perfect, it’s still in beta!”

Yep. I like that.

And while my life being in permanent beta testing may be a bit absurd, I do plan to start setting up beta tests for my various goals and projects.

Maybe I’ll issue reports as various projects move out of pre-alpha.

Maybe not.

Either way, this should be interesting.

Follow Up: Until I pulled this out of the archives, I didn’t realize what a big impact the idea has had on my life and my work. Always knowing that a “next version” is coming seriously kicks my perfectionism and fears of judgment right in the procrastination jewels.

And you, my dears, are my beloved beta-testers!  If you spot typos, formatting errors, or navigation glitches, do please report the bugs, won’t you?

Oh, and I never did get to beta test the damn fish.  Sigh.


  1. I think I caught part of that conversation…

    And did you ever find it punnily amusing the idea of BETA testing a FISH (Betta being the Samurai Fighting Fish, but pronounced the same as beta the stage)?

  2. Love the phrase – “It’s still in beta!” What a relief 🙂

  3. Ah I like it! Many, many blog posts fall by the wayside because an even better idea is in the offing. Beta-testing is it!
    It ain’t perfect, and nothing is never finished. As soon as one version is out it’s time to beta test the next. Yes, that sounds right 🙂