Weasel Heart-To-Heart

Monday, July 27, 2015
By Chelsea Miller

Old painting of Russian Czar Mikhail Fyodorevitch Romanov

Chelsea Miller is Beeminder’s Support Czar, meaning she’s in charge of making sure the rest of us at the beehive stay on top of all the email you send to support@beeminder.com. And in fact she answers a huge amount of it personally. Pretty much everything she writes to users puts a huge smile on my face. This blog post is no exception.

I recently-ish had my one-year anniversabee! I first stumbled upon Beeminder around March 2014, but I went back and forth with myself about whether I should sign up. Was I really the type of person who needed to pledge money to strangers to get things done? Isn’t that just sad? Couldn’t I develop some willpower instead? (Yes, sometimes; no, I don’t think so; and no, I could not.) Anyway, as you can tell, I signed up, and then I achieved all my goals immediately and lived happily ever after…

Just kidding. I’ve derailed plenty. In fact, I have paid Beeminder more than $300 for the privilege of its motivation (and $82 for the privilege of pledgeless goals, but more on that later). I’ve paid more in derailments on my Fitbit goal than my Fitbit originally cost. Some of my goals have been easy to keep up with, but others have cost me quite a lot. There have even been cases where I eventually got sick of throwing away money and archived the most expensive failures. The magical motivation point that Beeminder relies on was nowhere to be found…

****WEASELS ONLY FROM HERE ON****

Is it just us now? If you’ve never been a weasel get out, seriously, you’re not welcome to this party. Okay, so, shameful admission time — I have totally been a weasel to Beeminder before, on all those goals that didn’t work.

“WHAT!?” you say. “YOU ANSWER ALL OUR SUPPORT EMAILS AND REPRESENT AND ADVOCATE BEEMINDER AND YOU ARE IMPURE?!” Yes. It’s true. I have ventured into that dark side, and I have also escaped it and reentered the light. And that experience has helped me get even more value out of Beeminder than I did before. (Also, it gives me a pretty good idea if you’re weaseling when you ask me to undo your derailments. You’re not fooling anyone, weasels! But I’m still nice to you, because customer service.)

Into The Dark Side

It probably started really innocently, right? You had a goal to do 100 pushups a week, and you were doing pretty good for awhile. But one day you were really busy, you didn’t remember Beeminder, and then you got a zeno polling email while watching Game of Thrones. Well, you’ll definitely do the 15 pushups later tonight. You’ll just enter the data now while you’re thinking about it, but you’ll definitely do them before bed. Not just yet though — you’re in the middle of Game of Thrones. Except you forget, and you don’t do it before bed. And the next day is another eep day, and you already owe 15… might as well owe 30. You’ll do them. Really. You’ll catch up. [1]

Except you never catch up. And then you’re entering the bare min every day just to avoid paying Beeminder the $5 (or $10, or $30…) but never doing anything. After a while, the numbers and graphs are meaningless. Beeminder is now a chore (a threat, even) that provides no value. Eventually you figure out how to archive or perma-flatline your goal, and you walk away. [2]

“Set it up with an autodata integration this time, so you don’t have to enter data — you just have to do your goal.”

Lying to Beeminder is a horrible, slippery slope. If you ever do it on one goal, you’ll always have it as an option in the back of your mind. Beeminder loses all its power over you, regardless of the pledge level, because you’ll think “well, I can just fudge it.” BAD. Beeminder can be incredibly helpful (though it’s not the right tool for everybody). Even if you’ve been weaselly, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t use Beeminder. One reason for weaselliness is that you just didn’t care about that goal as much as you thought you did. That’s a great thing to learn! Archive it, banish those nagging “should” feelings from your mind, and go about your life without regret.

Reentering the Light

So let’s talk unweaseling. We need to get your faith in Beeminder back! Here are a few things I’ve done to drag myself back into the good and pure…

1) Hide your past shame

I think the graphs are even more motivating to me than the pledges. A pledge gets me to do the bare min every day, but the graph gets me to do more. I feel good when all my graphs are green and I’m jumping up by huge amounts every day. I do not feel good when I have 10 red days at once. Use the x-min setting to hide your previous weaseled numbers. The lies will still be in the past data, but your graph image will be fresh and clean, ready to fill with real data. Keep it that way!
(The hardcore version of this is to archive away all your dirty goals and start brand new ones.)

2) Acknowledge reality

Now that you have a nice clean graph, let’s get real about your goal rate. Was it truly a one-off bad day that started you on this treacherous path, or was your initial rate maybe a liiiiittle too optimistic? (This totally happens to EVERYBODY. Even the founders.) Often our initial rates are harder to stick with than we’d thought — after all, we had to beemind this goal just to get started doing it! So use the road dial to take it down a notch to an amount you can and will realistically do. Even if that realistic rate is 1 per week, if you were originally doing 0 per week, you’re coming out ahead.

Again, don’t be afraid to admit the alternate, but very common, reality: you don’t actually want the goal. For years I’ve told myself I should try to finish C25K. Only recently have I accepted the facts: I despise running, and I do not care about completing C25K. [3] If the goal doesn’t matter to you, archive it! You can always restart it later if you have a change of heart.

3) Earn it

Just because you weaseled in the past and you’re trying to start over doesn’t mean you deserve to get off scot-free! If you really want to do the thing — let’s do it. How many pushups did you lie to us about? Create a goal to make up for them, and repent for your weaselly sins. [4] And see, we got you to do the pushups you wanted to do originally! Aren’t you proud of yourself? It’s like the weaseling never happened. (But for heaven’s sake, don’t weasel on the unweaseling goal.)

Ideally, set it up with an autodata integration this time and get the responsibility for telling Beeminder your numbers out of your weaselly paws. Check out the current integrations and see if there’s one that might work for you. Or ask in the Beeminder forum! Odds are at least one of our users has an idea to get your goal as automatic as possible.

4) Make it irrelevant

After 7 months of beeminding, venturing into Weasel World, and coming out alive the other side, I decided to invest in a Plan Bee subscription. The key benefit for me is the fully pledgeless goal. This means you can start every goal at $0, step any goal down to $0, and cap any goal at $0 — potentially making every derailment penalty-free. Of course, this also makes every goal potentially motivation-free, so be careful! I still let the pledge schedule climb on the goals that matter most to me, to ensure that I keep making progress. [5] But if you’re more motivated by the graphs than the pledges, Plan Bee might be worth checking out.

Doing things your short-term self doesn’t want to do is hard. Beeminder really helps, and I’m so glad that I found it. But it’s probably not a silver bullet for every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do or change about yourself. (I mean, I’m eating Doritos as I write this. I’ve still got some problems I’d like to solve.) It’s taken me a while to figure out how I can best use Beeminder — and what’s best for me is probably not the same as what’s best for you. Try out as many goals as you feel you can handle, but always bee thoughtful about it. The more you can avoid even considering weaseling and burnout, the more useful Beeminder will be for you. And email me at support@beeminder.com any time if you need or want some help figuring out how to make Beeminder work best for you!


 

Footnotes

[1] At this point Danny was still having trouble understanding why you would ever expect to forget to enter pushups later but not forget to do them later. It’s like when your mom says “go clean the table” and you’re all “give me a minute i’m DOING something gosh” and then you forget immediately, so she yells at you again 30 minutes later. You’re getting nagging Bee-mom-der off your back by entering data before doing the thing. (Danny still thinks this is too obvious of a slippery slope to fall for but it sounds like Danny shouldn’t be reading this far anyway.)

[2] We lose (your money, and your ideas to improve our site) and you lose (you still wanted to achieve those goals, right?). You also lose the reminders, the graphs, and the community.

[3] …right now. Future Beeminder goals or lack thereof subject to change.

[4] Incidentally, this is how Mark Forster advises to work through pretty much any backlog. Draw a line under it, and mind the backlog separately from new commitments.

[5] But remember, it doesn’t have to climb forever. Pledge caps aren’t exclusive to premium users! It’s another way to limit Beeminder’s threat potential, if you know that the higher pledge levels aren’t right for you or some of your goals.


 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • TracyW

    Great writing!

  • Stefan Noack

    There is only one beeminder goal that is consistently working for me: Earn money. It’s amazing how much more I work, and therefore earn, due to beeminder. All the other things either generate enough motivation by themselves, or I don’t actually want to do them. In other words: The only way for me not to be a weasel is to be a capitalist. Maybe that’s why capitalism works in real life and gets so many things done, despite being “evil”?

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    I love this comment so much (even though I might be confused about how you’re using the terms “weasel”, “capitalist”, and “evil” :))

  • Stefan Noack

    weasel: makes fake commitments, says to do something but does not do it.
    capitalist: money (and stuff that generates money!) is no. 1 priority
    evil: does harm to others (or does not care if harm is done)

    But after all: Beeminder is a great tool to either get things done that you care about, or else find out that you don’t want to do them after all. If you find yourself weaseling, it is a great way to get rid of all those half-hearted commitments we sometimes are pressured into making…

    I wonder what the world would be like If everyone would be more honest about commitments. And if people would accept a “no, I won’t do that!”. Instead, there is so much nagging until someone says “fine, I’ll do it next week…” (and does not do it, of course!) … :)