Anchoring: Whether a Do-More goal can cause you to do less

Moving this from “My first experience of derailing…”

This is such a beautiful testament to the soundness of our business model!

Great point about anchoring too, though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that myself, that a very shallow road ever causes me to do less than I otherwise would have. I feel like it’s always at least a small nudge in the right direction and will at least sometimes prompt me to do something when I otherwise wouldn’t have. And since starting is often the hardest part I’ll often continue to do much more than Beeminder demanded.


I honestly never even look at the slope of the line. I always just look at whether or not I need to do the item. Is it a beemergency? The road only makes me feel nice when it comes to weightloss (since I’m actually losing weight this time).

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I’ve been beeminding my music playing for more than a year now, and it has really helped me keep practicing, especially during the summer and around exam time. I find a timer works just fine for individual practice, and a glance at the clock when in an ensemble works well enough.

For not getting enough time to meet your goal, my advice is to start the goal at something easily attainable and slowly increasing it.

As to @styrkes’s point about getting anchored by Beeminder, I find that around performances, when I am playing easily twice as much per day as normal, the retroratchet keeps me from building up too much of a buffer.


I’m lazy enough that I may do more once started, but if I bring an emergency goal to a 3 day buffer, I won’t touch the goal again until 3 days later. Sometimes that’s okay, but sometimes it means I should look into upping the goal.

When doing goal planning, it might be useful to be able to guage how long you’ve maintained a slope without derailing i.e., “You have been at this slope for 14 days” means a good beginning of a habit. 30 days, would mean maybe I should consider upping it.

Perhaps this could appear on the goal page in the “Goal Stats” section near the “Cur rate” field. Something like,

Cur rate: 5 per week
Since: 16 days ago


Maintained for: 16 days


I definitely find that for tasks that I have to do very regularly and really don’t want to do, beeminder anchors me. I do as much of my pushups and stretching exercises goals as beeminder tells me to do and barely any more (I do like 20% more consistently so I have days off, but that’s it).

OTOH for my blogging goal I don’t find it has this effect at all - beeminder acts as a nudge in the right direction when I’m having an off period but usually this is enough to light a fire under me, get me back on track, and at that point I’m back to blogging just as much as ever (which is signficantly over my beeminder requirements right now - I currently have 10 days of buffer).

Some of the difference might be how much satisfying the beeminder requirements feels like a chore. I’ve found similar with do less goals - I tend to end up doing exactly as much of them as I’m permitted, even if I might normally do less.


I’m totally the same. But what if you weren’t beeminding it at all? In my case the goals I edge-skate like that are things I’d never do without Beeminder. Or maybe do in rare spurts but certainly less than the slow and steady rate when beeminded, no matter how shallow the yellow brick road.

So to really count as anchoring in the bad sense it would be something that you beemind doing more of but you actually end up doing less than you would without Beeminder. My suspicion is that although this can happen on certain days, overall it’s still always going to be a win, with Beeminder being a force for good and not evil (or diligence and not sloth). Especially if you ratchet the road and keep adjusting the slope.

But that’s some highly motivated cognition on my part so you all should set me straight if I’m wrong. And then we can figure out how to make ratcheting more focal or road dialing easier or other ways to solve it!

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Unclear. I have successfully maintained a gym habit without beeminder pushing me, and I’ve also maintained routines where I do at least as many pushups but in larger batches. Right now my suspicion is that I probably wouldn’t do as many pushups without beeminder but I’m not sure.

The anchoring on the do less goals is definitely a thing where beeminder causes me to do more. cf. my negative experiences with the triangle alcohol tracking, which I’ve also previously observed when tracking coffee in a non-triangular manner.


Fair enough, but being better than nothing doesn’t mean it’s optimal.

Exactly. In effect, this prevents the creation of a habit (or at least lowering the resistance to doing the task regularly), and keeps us dependent on Beeminder to do what we want to do. If Beeminder’s goal is to become obsolete, then it should promote the internalization of the extrinsic motivation it provides.

Of course, this depends on the type of activity you’re beeminding; some will be always unpleasant and a chore, others you can get into it once you started, as @drmaciver brilliantly explains. The fact that Beeminder is agnostic about this distinction means that it should support the worst case, i.e. the chore-like tasks.

I think that the obvious tool to prevent surfing the buffer is auto-retroratcheting. I really miss it, although I understand the economic reasoning behind turning it into a premium feature. That said, I believe the philosophy of Beeminder is to work well for the basic case out of the box, and chore-like goals are common enough to justify having that feature available for everyone, imo. Maybe only keep the customization of the buffer length as a premium feature?


I still think making the user’s highest achieved safe days more visible would solve many of these problems, for those that want them solved. It would let you strive to beat your own personal best for any goal.

Current Beeminder really has nothing to strive for, only the stinger to avoid. It works really well for harnessing avoidance based motivation but it is prone to missing the whole approach and striving side of motivation.

When I’m hovering around the road on a goal, I find the bare minimum quotas helpful and motivating. Getting into the green can be something to strive for and knowing exactly how much I have to do get there is awesome. Once I get above that point there’s nothing obvious to aim for. I suspect the punishment of losing those numbers is keeping me on the road rather than above it. I’ve been happy to notice recently that the Android widgets do tell you the bare minimum to earn the next safe day, provided your road isn’t flat. That’s better than nothing but what I’d really like is to know how much I have to do to get above my peak safe days.

I’d like to see Beeminder bring out the best in me, not just the bare minimum.

Suggestions / Feature Requests:


Ooooh, I think this is a fabulous suggestion.

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Those are really good points about coupling some positive reinforcement aspect to the currently avoidance-focused nature of Beeminder, but still think trimming the extra buffer would prevent one from, at times, aiming to beat their own best score, when properly motivated, but other times using that buffer to slack, when not feeling like it (and the bigger the buffer, the worse the consequences for habit-forming, so encouraging buffer buildup may kinda work against its intended goal, or at least make the risk of failure unreasonably high).

Therefore, while support more visibility/strengthening of the positive reinforcement side of Beeminder, I still believe it would be a good idea to bring back auto-retroratcheting (and maybe have a more customizable version of it as a premium feature).