Beeminding starts instead of finishes


Most of my goals are Do More goals to get me to do something. I’ve noticed an antipattern. Let’s say my deadline for a goal is midnight (derailing today) and it will take 75 minutes to do the thing. Then essentially I have a real deadline of 22:45.

I’m pretty akratic, but I do start paying attention when Beeminder starts Zeno polling me on an eep day. However, if I get Zeno polled at 23:00, my only viable reaction is “oh shit, I already derailed, guess I just have to ignore Zeno polls for the next hour”. This is unproductive, since that 23:00 Zeno poll would have actually been pretty motivating.

In reality it’s even worse than that, because I might think the thing will take 50 minutes, but it actually takes 75 and I derail even though I diligently continued working on it starting at 23:00.

I believe I have a solution: enter the data point into Beeminder when I start doing the thing.

Q: In many cases you won’t know what your actual score will be at that point, right?

A: That’s right, I’ll put in an estimated data point.

Q: Arg, fake data! What prevents you from putting it in and then not doing the thing?

A: I’ll put in another (clearly labeled) fake data point for tomorrow that both 1) undoes today’s fake data point, and 2) would make me derail tomorrow if I don’t go back and remove it.

Q: When do you remove the “bad” data point?

A: Any time after I’ve I finished the thing.

Q: How do you make sure to correct the fake data point to what really happened?

A: My intention is to do it at the same time as I delete the “bad” data point.

I’m thinking about calling this “Optimistic Presumptive Reports” or “OPR” for short. I can put that in the comment for both data points so it’s clear when I’m doing this.

My intention going forward is to apply this to all my goals where it makes sense (it can’t work for my Fitbit goal, which uses autodata, nor my Candy Crush goal, which is a do less, and possibly others). I’ve already applied it ad hoc a few times because not doing so would have violated “ought implies can”, made me derail more, made me do fewer things, and IMO not have altered the fact that there is a bright line on my goals at all, just what exactly that bright line is.

One caveat: some deadlines may need to be bumped up to correspond to the expected later time when I’ll actually complete the associated thing.



See also Precommitting to data points