Beeminder’s Achilles Heel

Tuesday, December 15, 2020
By dreeves

A bee on a Beeminder graph with a calendar and an initially flat yellow brick road

Beeminder’s Achilles heel is that you need a meta-Beeminder to get yourself to create a Beeminder goal in the first place. (We sometimes call it Beeminder’s bootstrap problem.)

Here’s a trick to mitigate that problem: Create a goal as soon as you think of it, but with an initial flat spot of a week or a month or however much time you need for it to not feel daunting.

You might even want to do that now, with a 17-day flat spot ending January 1st, for any new year’s resolution goals you might want to create.

(Important: When creating the goal, pick an aggressive slope for after the long initial flat spot. Otherwise you may keep your head in the sand indefinitely, with the goal never forcing you to do more than you would’ve anyway!)

The idea is to overcome the activation energy. Lock yourself in, but in a way that you don’t have to actually do anything until next month. You know, “when you’ll be less busy”.


Auto-Dialer Foreshadowing

Adam Wolf (who also had the original idea for overcoming Beeminder’s Achilles heel) pointed out that it’s kind of like an auto-dialer:

You create a goal with 30 days of initial flat spot and start adding data at whatever rate feels comfortable. After a while, retroactively steepen that yellow brick road with the road editor to match your data. At that point you can decide: Do you want to commit to maintaining that rate? Push harder? Back off? You now have data to support the decision!

This was meant to be a nice simple blog post encouraging people to think ahead to their new year’s resolutions but I seem to be incapable of writing posts like that. So now I guess it’s about retroactive road adjustments and hypothetical auto-dialers. At least I circumscribed the excessive nerdery in a sidebar!

The point is, our future auto-dialer is going to be amazing but you can have a slight taste of it now: Start your goal flat, gather data, and adjust the slope retroactively to what turns out to be realistic.


Speaking of new year’s resolutions, remember the 2019 Survivor Challenge? We’ve been crowing about this in various places but we should do that here on the blog as well!

We’ve sent out all the prizes, which we think are pretty great. Congratulations to the winners! And thanks for proving that Beeminder is drastically better (than the alternative of resolving really hard?) for new year’s resolutions!

How much better? Well, Survivor goals (counting the runners-up who derailed but got back on the horse at a higher pledge) had a 44% success rate. 44% may not sound like much but in terms of fraction of new year’s resolution goals that last an entire year, that’s pretty dang good, right?

Finally, an extra shoutout to the runners-up AKA penultimate survivors: As we argue in “Derailing Is Not Failing”, they might actually be the most impressive. They’re the ones who set goals ambitious enough to sometimes derail on! Anyway, the real prize is the friendships we, no wait, the real prize is doing more of what’s important to us. Still schmaltzy, still true! Beeminder is life-changing stuff, as you all know. But also congrats one more time to the 2019 Survivors!

Now go create some goals for 2021!


 

Image credit: Faire Soule-Reeves

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