- You’ve committed to something that isn’t your real capital-G goal. Find what your real goal is and commit to that fully.
- Clearly spelled-out commitments keep you from being unsure in the moment what you really have to do, which is what keeps Beeminder working.
- Unclear commitments allow the “You don’t really have to do this now” voice back in, and make Beeminder kinda useless.
- I think that if we treat each derailment like a to-do item to review why we’re derailing and make changes if any are necessary, we get a lot more traction on our goals.
I pay only when I’m akratic, not when the truly unexpected comes up
I’m on team this. Cards on the table, I’m not on team “pay even when it’s not my fault”. (But I think we’re about to start disagreeing about much of the rest, I’m afraid!)
Email support for the unexpecteds!
First things first: email support when you forget to schedule your vacation or there’s a “not-legit” derailment because of something unusual and unexpected like a riot. That’s a big part of what they’re there for! (And having to interact with an actual human when you’re not-legit derailing is an important part of pushing against the tendency to just lie to a machine, which is very different, psychologically!)
The loop you might get stuck in
It sounds like what you’re saying is that you planned to do too much (sort of deliberately), later feel like you’ve planned to do too much, and then are able to bail on or ignore the plan precisely because it was too much, making it not really a plan but more or a direction of sorts. Or, it might be plan-like at the time, but with that pattern, it’s not a commitment. Beeminder is for your commitments.
Telling myself I’m going to do more and knowing that I’m actually going to do less would be very un-motivating for me personally. Here’s what would happen if it were me:
Exactly!! This is the worst of all worlds! The threat of the derailment doesn’t really make you finish the task, cause that little voice in your head tells you that it’s fine, that this time is different and it’s totally legit to ignore that last bit of the plan you made, because you overshot what was reasonable. And since you’ve put yourself in a position where it’s at least a little right, the whisper works sometimes and you stop. But the voice that tricks us when it says “You don’t need to follow through on your goals today; there’s always tomorrow.” can masquerade very effectively as the voice that correctly says “You way over-committed here, friend.” How will you know which is which? Now you’re in the moment of “Do I need to keep going?” and there’s ambiguity; you’re back to having to choose.
So the akratic parts of ourselves, or maybe the reasonable parts—impossible to know which in the moment—are going to say that we’re done, but then later, the part of us that wants Beeminder to still work for us realizes we didn’t fulfill our commitment and also didn’t pay, even though there was no unexpected circumstance; we just decided not to in the moment. But that’s precisely what Beeminder is there to keep from happening and so if we continue like that, that’s pretty much the end of Beeminder for us. So now that “Oh no! I don’t want to lose this tool!” part decides to pay up, retroactively, for the derailment. But now you’re SCREWED because you’re in a situation where, when you’re in the moment you need to decide about your actions, it’s not clear whether you really have to continue or not and so you’re in the same pre-Beeminder position of just deciding whether to stop or follow through, BUT you’re also eventually paying for it when you don’t! You’re getting all of the charge without the benefit of closing off that option in your mind at the time of action! (And that’s the thing that gets you back to doing what you committed to and prevents the “it’s fine… just this time… come on” voice from killing all of your plans.
One of the main benefits that Beeminder gives you is to stop you from deciding on the spot whether or not today is a day when you have to do your habit / work on your goal / write your thesis / floss / go for a run. We’re all here because when we have to decide on the spot, we sometimes (or often) decide in the wrong direction and Beeminder is the remedy for that for us! Reintroducing that into your Beeminder goal systems is death to the thing Beeminder brings to the table!
My belief is that if you’re doing that, you’re going to be very unhappy with your progress over the long haul. You’ll find your goals sputtering in spite of paying, you’ll feel like it’s just not working, and you’ll undermine your goals Beeminder is there to support.
What I think might work better and would urge you to try (even if just with one or two of your goals). For science!
“But, 8 hours is too much; it’s not fair to pay to not do those 8 hours!”
Right, but the thing that I think would most help me to take from this is that I shouldn’t be planning to do 8 hours! It sounds like working 8 hours isn’t the actual target and you should probably be committing to something else, something you can be fully committed to and that is your actual target.
If you’re planning to do 8 hours but really you should only be planning to lock yourself into doing 4, then lower the rate on the goal to 4 and don’t budge from that commitment, even when you feel like you’ve done enough.
If what you need is to finish the tasks that are absolutely due today or things will go really badly, then have a +1 goal that says
"Finish those tasks that I marked yesterday as 'tomorrow's most important tasks' OR work 6 hours"
Then, get done those things you can’t walk away from and you’re free. Otherwise, work a full day, put that massive dent in them, and continue with your most important tasks on the next day. Bright lines and requirements honoured; everything’s nice and clear, but it has the flexibility you might need.
If what the real problem is is that you get stuck because you don’t start early enough and don’t come back from lunch or breaks on time, but when you do get started, things go fine, then maybe have
"Get started on time" goals for those risk points.
What I’m saying is find the actual thing that you should be unambiguously committing to and commit to that.
Let your derailments be signs that either you’ve committed to the wrong thing or that you haven’t put enough things in place to support that goal and then relentlessly build the supports needed for the right goal.
"But when I’m planning, I really believe that I should be working those full 8 hours. It’s only when I’m not overwhelmed that I realize that’s too much! That feels like it’s a tax on being stressed!"
(Warning! Incoming opinion!)
Yes, this is a bad situation and you need to get out of that because it’s unsustainable and will make you feel like crap! I might be wrong; you might thrive on it, like @dreev does, but I think that if you did, you might not be feeling this tension. If you’re like me, you’ve gotta find another way or you’re gonna burn out and/or Beeminder’s gonna crash and burn for you.
You don’t want to keep paying for planning to work 8 hours when you’re stressed and then realizing when you’re not overwhelmed that that’s not healthy for you and derailing. But “pay even though that’s unfair” and “have requirements for my goals where the goal and the rate don’t match” aren’t the two only options!
Derailment costs can be used as a kind of higher-level commitment. Use the derailment costs as motivation to figure out where things are going wrong! Run an evaluation on what happened. Is the goal realistic? Are you measuring what you should be? Have you made the requirements clear and are they measuring what really matters? Have you set the alarms you need, gotten your tools where you need them to be, told your housemates you’re not available before 4 PM? Etc.
Stick to the commitment you shouldn’t have made by either following through or paying for it and make the unpleasantness of that your motivation to either change or replace that goal or to get the supports in place for it that you need, as soon as possible!
The non-stressed you knows that 8-hours is too much. And yeah, it’s gonna be pissed at either having to follow through on what the stressed you planned or having to pay for a derailment. So after one of those two unpleasant things has happened, have the non-stressed you make a better plan for next time!
If the thing I’ve committed to was not well planned and was impossible to carry out, it’s unfair to be charged for that, but if I pay $5 when I do that and take from it the lesson that I have to change my goal right now so that I don’t have to pay for another derailment… Well, that’s definitely going to be huge support for my real, capital-G goal.
(And maybe that kind of post-derailment reflection is something we should be better about guiding people with, but I think it’s such a highly personal process. Still, maybe I’ll write up a blog post to at least nudge people towards that reflection that we could link to in our derailment emails or something!)
If doing more than seven hours is not your real goal, though, you should stop committing to that! Like, right now.