Advent 2022: 07. Waterfall Goal Deadlines

Today’s Advent Calendar idea is one that doesn’t work so well for me, although I love the concept. It might work for you though! There’s also a little bonus at the bottom that is completely unrelated except in name. :slight_smile:

As described in the Chasing Waterfalls blog post, a Beeminder waterfall is a cascade of goal deadlines staggered at different times. It encourages you to work on your goals throughout the day, rather than leaving them all until evening.

Changing the deadlines for all your goals is done on your Reminders page, and if you click on the “DEADLINE” column header, it will be sorted by time (click again to reverse sort), so it’s really easy to compare each deadline to ensure a smooth cascade. I recommend reading the Deadline & Reminders Help page because there’s a few things that might not be obvious.

You don’t have to have a different deadline for every goal. You could batch your goals into morning, afternoon, and night, as @ibwi_unju suggested in this forum comment. You may find your waterfall easier to manage if you have only three deadlines.

There’s a few ways you could organise your goals:

  • small / easy ones first to build up your feeling of success before you get to the harder goals
  • harder / most dreaded goals first to get them out of the way and then you can coast through the rest of the day
  • most important / highest pledge goals first to make you focus on them immediately
  • most important / highest pledge goals last so that if you need to, you can ignore some of your other goals to have more time for the critical ones
  • goals needing physical effort first while you’re feeling energetic
  • see Chasing Waterfalls for how @bee and @dreev arranged their goals

While you’re getting used to this system, set reminders for each goal so you don’t forget to do them in time (conveniently done on the same page as the deadlines), or refresh your dashboard often.

I love this concept because having Beeminder tell me exactly what I should be doing throughout the day really appeals to me. There’s a few reasons it hasn’t worked for me though, and I’ve listed them below along with potential workarounds. I do know that waterfalls work for other people, so don’t let my reasons put you off!

  • Several of my goals are Toggl integrations, and those have to have a midnight deadline (a limitation imposed by how Toggl lets Beeminder fetch data IIRC). This isn’t a show-stopper, but it does mean that a waterfall can’t (for example) force me to finish my paid work hours by a certain time.
  • The Android app reminders never quite came at the ideal time - they’d been too early for me to feel motivated to work on the goal, or too last-minute to be really helpful. I’ve been toying with the idea of using the awesome Tasker app to create my own reminders, which would be a lot of fun and probably successful, but would take time.
  • I try to keep my goals green but waterfalls work best when your goals are red; for other colours, an early-day deadline doesn’t add much extra urgency. I could work around that by using pessimistic presumption datapoints more often, as in yesterday’s Advent post, but I’d need to script it to do it consistently.
  • The colour change that happens after the deadline throws me off. If I get a goal to orange before its deadline, I know at a glance that its safe for the rest of the day, but then when the deadline arrives, the goal goes back to red. It’s still safe for the rest of the day (because the goal’s own “day” doesn’t end until the deadline tomorrow), but it looks unsafe and keeps distracting me. The solution for this is to keep a safety buffer of 4 days on all my goals, because then even after each deadline they’d still be green, but that’s easier said than done. :slight_smile: I am however aiming for that these days, so maybe when I’ve finally succeeded I’ll try waterfalls again.

And now for the off-topic bonus:
Did you know that #WaterfallWednesday is a thing? Gorgeous photos of waterfalls on various social media sites. I find them restful and joyous; they remind me of bushwalking with my mother when I was a child. Here’s some links, which shouldn’t require logins to any of the sites:


I want to love this, and I’ve tried it twice, but found that I would forget what order I was “supposed” to do my goals in have silly derailments. I’ve been building up more safety buffer ever since switching to Orange is the New Red—I’m definitely interested if you ever get to 4 days on everything and try waterfalls again!


Gosh, I’m envious of people whose lives are organised enough for this kind of thing to work :slight_smile: I’m neither this organised, nor really capable of sorting what I need to do, in what order, that far in advance. Life gets in the way - a cat is sick on the carpet, I end up on the phone to some customer service department, or some earlier task takes longer than I thought!


I didn’t think waterfall stuff would work for me. I tried it anyway, because enough folks raved about it… it did not work for me :slight_smile: I stuck with it probably longer than I should have, but alas, it’s not for me. :slight_smile:


i very much feel this! i didn’t try waterfalls yet, but i do have one goal with a “weird” (for me) deadline (3 p.m.). it’s in the middle of my day, but necessary that way, because it’s a beenary goal for (not) doing a thing the previous day—so i have to set the deadline far enough into the next day to account for sleeping in on free days, if i’m able to.

i also feel this, though:

i don’t even think i’d want that kind of thourough planning-every-minute-in-advance-organisation? (this reminds me a bit of the discussion of omniminder/nannybot.) also, i feel this would work best for people who have the luxury of planning their days more freely / have not only non-work-related beeminder goals? i work every week day, and none of my beeminder goals revolve around work. if i got a work-related goal it would just be to always be on time in the office, which doesn’t make much sense to waterfall.

i guess waterfalling goals is not really appealing to me yet because:

  • i want the freedom of doing X before Y one day, and Y before X the next.
  • i don’t have a lot of goals i need to do every day.
  • i have a lot of goals which either don’t make sense to waterfall (autodata daily steps goal), or which automatically have a certain-time-of-day-deadline anyway (flossing always happens after i brush my teeth at night).
  • i’m very good with almost perfectly consistently finishing one goal in the morning / pre-noon / considerably-earlier-than-flossing-hours, anyway, without it needing a waterfall-deadline (my duolingo goal).
  • autodata goals are the best, but most autodata goals are awful for waterfalling, because they default to midnight / pre-set deadlines that you can’t really change. (i think.)
  • i have too few goals (currently 7). (this is probably the biggest issue i face in regards to waterfalls, and i might actually need to try out waterfalls if i ever get to 15 or 20 or so goals!)