A few different questions.

Hi guys,

I was wondering if someone could possibly give me some help in relation to the Yellow Brick Road and basically whether or not I am on it. The goal in question for me is reading a book. I have several questions, so we shall start off with the deadline and the green circle (see screenshot) that for me is in green right now. The suspicion I get is that unless I finish reading my whole book in 13 days, then I will derail. Is that correct? Now in relation to the green circle, you will see a +4 and underneath it a 31. I do not understand what the +4 or 31 corresponds to. And the final question for the +4, is if I read four pages and then enter that into the data point – does this totally protect me from derailing? I suspect not, but if not then what is it telling me about +4 for?

Yellow Brick Road

One thing that has me particularly confused is how my green dot sits way off the YBR. Is this normal?

Many thanks for reading, and all help will be appreciated!

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What that screenshot is telling you is “You need to read 4 pages in the next 13 days, 10 hours or you will derail. If you read those 4 pages, you’ll get a bonus day before you derail. And by the way, if you read those 4 pages, you will have read a total of 31 pages since you started your goal, isn’t that neat.”

You’re way off the road on the “good” side of the YBR. That’s why the screenshot is full of green and you’ve got almost 2 weeks where you don’t need to read your book at all. The space between you and the YBR is your safety buffer.

Some people find the YBR metaphor with “lanes” useful, and the Beeminder founders are among them. If you do nothing for the next 13 days, 10 hours, that green will change to blue, then orange, and eventually red, corresponding to the lanes on the road. But there’s only two states for Do More[1] goals, either 1) you are in the red and will derail in less than 24 hours if you don’t do the bare minimum (read 4 pages) or 2) you aren’t in the red and don’t need to do anything today[2] to avoid paying money.

[1] Do Less goals are more complex.
[2] This can get more complex if your deadline time isn’t midnight.


To try to be super clear, if you read your pages one at a time (and entered the data points one at a time), you would see the dashboard change:

13 days / +4
13 days / +3
13 days / +2
13 days / +1
14 days / +4
14 days / +3
14 days / +2

Every time you do the bare min, you get a “bonus” day added to your safety buffer before you derail. But you are never totally protected from derailing unless you reach the target for the goal (either by end date or total). That is to say, you have to complete the goal before you are off the hook for it.

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Since it looks like you might be looking at an eep! right now, your other goal:

Is telling you that you need to drink 1.15 bottles of water in the next 4 hours. Since that’s robot talk, it really means 2 bottles unless you are measuring fractional bottles of water. You can fix this using the API but I’m hoping they will make it easy soon.


Well unfortunately I have already derailed on my bottle drinking. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing when I set it up. Hehe.

Every time you do the bare min, you get a “bonus” day added to your safety buffer before you derail But you are never totally protected from derailing unless you reach the target for the goal (either by end date or total). That is to say, you have to complete the goal before you are off the hook for it.

I am a bit confused by that, so even if I do the bare minimum – and am granted a “bonus” day of safety. I can still derail?

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Let me try taking a step back. Suppose you announce you have a New Year’s Resolution to “Go to the gym every week this year.”. There’s a few ways to interpret that:

  1. You literally have to go to the gym once during each week. Going twice in a week is pointless. If there’s ever a Sunday - Saturday period that you didn’t go, you derail.
  2. You need to go to the gym 52 times before the end of the year, but it doesn’t matter when. At December 31 24:00, you derail if you went fewer than 52 times.

The problem with #1 is that it’s awfully inflexible. It feels like you ought to have a little wiggle room. Suppose you’re going out of town. It seems natural that you should be able to go to the gym on a Monday and a Friday of the same week to “cover” your travelling week.

The problem with #2 is that you are almost certainly going to fail. At the start of the year, going 52 times is very achievable. But when it gets to July, you maybe only went twice. Now you have to go 50 times in 6 months. Eventually it’s December 30th and you need to go to the gym 40 times in the next 48 hours. So you are in an impossible situation! But techincally you have’t failed yet, because the goal is only judged once at the very end of the year.

Beeminder enforces a hybrid of the two that is roughly:
3. You have to go to the gym an average of 1 time per week all year. If your average ever falls below 1, you derail.

This approach lets you benefit from going to the gym extra. If you go 5 times in a week, great! Those all count. But if you sit around and do absolutely nothing, your goal will derail that first week of January rather than letting you get away with doing nothing until December 31 23:59. This means you are accountable for the goal throughout the entire year, not just accountable once at the very end.

Also, the more that you’ve already done, the longer you can slack off. In this example, every time you go to the gym you get 7 days added to your safety buffer. That’s because each gym trip counts as a “week’s worth of gym”. But because you are continuously accountable, there’s always some derail date looming. So you spend the year playing this game with Beeminder, of constantly trying to earn more safety days. Beeminder’s promise to you is that if you play this game and never derail, then when it gets to December 31 you will have gone to the gym 52 times. So you will have accomplished your goal by formula #3 but also by #2.

So if the game is to constantly earn more safety buffer days, a natural question is “How do I get more?” and that’s what the bare min stat shows you. In the gym example it would always be +1 because we already know that each trip to the gym gets you 7 bonus days. If your goal is set up such that doing +1 gets you >= 1 safety day, the bare min will always show as +1[1]. However, if doing +1 gets you less than a day of safety, the bare min will show as the number you need to do in order to get a full day of safety.

I hope this actually helps… haha :smile:

[1] Assuming you have integery turned on for the goal.



Thank you for getting back to me and I apologise for the delay in my responses. Time zones you see? :smile:
I really appreciate all the effort you put into your response, but I am still a little bit confused. I’m so sorry! But I am willing to converse back until it all coalesces into my mind!

So if the game is to constantly earn more safety buffer days, a natural
question is “How do I get more?” and that’s what the bare min stat shows

My basic understanding at this point of earning more safety buffer days is that I simply have to do the bare minimum and that will be enough for me to not derail. However, some days I have done quite a lot and read several pages. Is this… even better? Or… do I need to read the whole book by a certain time to totally prevent me from derailing?


Don’t be sorry! This stuff is confusing sometimes. :smile:

Yes! All the progress you make counts as you can see on the graph:

Remember that doing nothing is the equivalent of moving straight to the right on the graph. The safety buffer you have now is that top red line I dashed. The safety buffer you had before your last reading session is the lower red line I dashed. So you see the difference between the two is the green line along the bottom. That’s the extra safety buffer you earned.

To be totally safe you need to finish the goal. The “road dial” thing defines what it means to finish the goal:

If your cumulative total pages reaches 224 then you will be permanently above the road and can never derail anymore. Now, on your other goal, you might notice this is technically possible but realistically impractical:

Drinking 1159 bottles of water is not going to happen anytime soon. But that’s ok! We call your first goal “short-term” Beeminding and the second goal “long-term” Beeminding. There’s not a firm, mathematical distinction. Beeminder treats these goals identically. It’s just a fuzzy concept related to your question of “Is this a goal I’m trying to finish or is it something I’m aiming to do forever?”. It’s not even necessarily related to the thing being Beeminded – for example, my reading goal is long-term:


You can see my total pages read is 2798 but that’s not from a single book, it’s several books combined together because the goal is to read in general, not read a specific book.