Advent 2022: 14. Once-Off Tasks or Nebulous Projects with Must-Do Goals or TaskRatchet

Today’s Advent Calendar post proposes a couple of ways to commit to tasks that need to be done just once, which Beeminder by default isn’t so good at. As well as stand-alone tasks, these methods can be used to enforce progress on nebulous projects if you don’t like the word count method.

A decade ago, we did a blog post The One Must-Do Task Each Day, which is still a good option if you want a purely Beeminder approach. In brief:

  1. Create a Do More goal with a rate of about 6 or 7 datapoints per week.
  2. On that same day, add a datapoint of 0 with today’s date and in the comment write a task that you must do tomorrow.
  3. When tomorrow arrives, hopefully you will do the task!
  4. Enter a new datapoint with a value of 1 if you did it and 0 otherwise. In the comment, enter the task for the next day.
  5. And so on.

I.e., you’re choosing your task for the next day at the same time that you record your success or failure for the current day’s task. I found that small degree of planning ahead to be helpful because it fixed in my mind that I WILL be doing that task. That reduced the freezing anxiety I’d feel for my most dreaded tasks.

If you want to use this for a nebulous project, create a must-do goal specifically for that project.

These days though I think there’s a better approach for once-off tasks or project tasks: TaskRatchet by @narthur. It’s so useful and I love it to bits!

It lets you enter a task due at any future date and time, and you specify how much money you’ll lose if you don’t do the task in time ($5 by default). Do the task, mark it complete, and all is well!
If you don’t complete the task in time, you’ll receive an email warning you that a charge is coming up. If you did actually do the task, reply to the email and the charge will be cancelled.

TaskRatchet integrates with Beeminder, which is great for making sure you keep adding tasks. I have a Beeminder goal that gets a datapoint for every TaskRatchet task I add, and I have that goal’s rate set to 1 per day.

The integration has a feature to help with nebulous projects. Create a Do More goal for a project. Specify the goalname in a TaskRatchet task and the goal gets a datapoint for that task.

For more information, see TaskRatchet’s Help pages. It’s definitely a tool worth considering!

Tomorrow’s Advent post will be made by @clouedoc and will be about another great tool that can be used for once-off tasks, as well as for other purposes. I’m looking forward to reading it!


This is news to me and I like it!

I just looked up more about it here

  • add *goalname in the description of your task on TaskRatchet and then it’ll send your Beeminder goal a 1 datapoint when you complete that task
  • add &goalname instead and instead you get the datapoint added when you create the task.

This might just be game changing for making TaskRatchet more useful to me. I’ve been kind of wary of linking TaskRatchet and Beeminder as I’ve felt like I might get stung twice for missing a task but this makes me feel, perhaps oddly, like I might instead get twice as much motivation.