Beeminder vs CBT

No, not at all. I mean “goal” in the same sense that you do. My point (in response to dreev) was that this includes so-called “systems” - for instance, a goal to spend an hour a day doing X is still a goal.

The whole message of the Goals Suck book is to use intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic motivation. You were intrinsically motivated to build the swing.

To be clear, I don’t totally agree with the book. The author thinks that if you need a goal to motivate you, then you don’t really want to do the thing. Whereas I really do want to do some things, but struggle to start them, and find that creating a structure helps me get started.

Based on that and on reading the summary and some comments from the Amazon page (so I don’t have a fully educated opinion!), it sounds like the author is lucky enough to have a brain that actually lets him do things he loves without irrational interference, and is probably lucky enough to have enough money and/or support from other people to get other things done without effort from him (housework, taxes, etc).

THAT is more familiar to me! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: :+1:


Hi there,

I rarely participate on this forum, but I found this conversation interesting.

I am on my quest to outsource my self-discipline. So I use a lot of tools for that. Mainly ColdTurkey and, sometimes I try Habitica, sometime Beeminder. But also RescueTime, WakaTime. And various tracking app for health and fitness sush as Strava or MyFitnessPal.

I also have a weird system to prevent myself to spend mindlessly. I have a traditionnal bank account but no debit card, and N26 as a debit card that I refill manually. As the transfer takes 2 days it prevent me from compulsive buying.

In the end, all those tools are very specific and can be a burden to manage. But I a going off topic here.

So, I stopped using Beeminder lately because it relies on motivation and fear, which is mentally exhausting. It’s not exactly guardrails. You can easily give up and think “I’ll just pay the fine this time” and get use to it. It comes as a punishment.

It’s less motivating than a reward. How about getting a reward once you’ve reach your daily goals ?
That’s why I contacted web blockers such as ColdTukey to suggest them to connect to all those tracking devices as you do. Then we could have scenarios like "If you reach you 8 hours of productivity, tracked by RescueTime or WakaTime, I unlock YouTube for the rest of the day as a reward.

Maybe for Beeminder it could come as a form of Cash Back. I don’t know, maybe paying the “fine” upfront, but getting a daily redeem every successful day, and losing it on failing days. Or something around it.

Just sharing my thoughts and experience.

Cheers, Arthur.


Love your thoughts! But I also completely disagree :smile:

IMO the power of Beeminder is that you can choose to pay and derail. Beeminder takes a small percentage of the ambiguous future costs of not doing X and brings it into the present in concrete form for your present self to grapple with. For example, it converts the ambiguous cost of being sick and out of shape in five years and turns it into the concrete cost of “go for a run in the next hour or pay real money!”

The fact is, that, if your stakes are set appropriately, saying to your self, “huh, actually, I’d rather sit on my butt today and lose the money” does not break the system at all! Beeminder has still done its job–it’s forced you to consider the costs of not doing X before you decided not to do it.

This way of looking at Beeminder goals indicates that what you cap your stakes at matters:

  • If you cap your stakes too high, you won’t be willing to eat the loss and derail even when circumstances warrant it. This can lead to excess stress and ultimately resentment toward the goal and/or Beeminder. It isn’t sustainable.
  • If you cap your stakes too low, you won’t be adequately motivated to consider the trade-off between your short-term desires and long-term goals, and may choose to derail too often. Doing so limits Beeminder’s ability to motivate you toward your goal.

In essence, your stakes represent the value you place on making regular progress towards your long-term goal. Misrepresenting this value in either direction leads to problems.


Unfortunately, if you have ADHD, there really isn’t anyway (yet, I hope) to materially improve your executive function on a neuro level. And in many ways it is a disorder of your environment. Without appropriate structure, you (more specifically, I), will default to our “interest-based physiology.” But put someone with ADHD in the right environment and they can thrive. In this case, environment refers to external cues, consequences and so on. It still won’t ever be easy, but it can be hacked. Beeminder serves as that environmental scaffolding (to a degree), esp useful for goals that either have a longer time horizon and those that don’t lend themselves to obvious external accountability.

CBT can be immensely helpful in recognizing distorted thinking and the emotional dysregulation side of ADHD, but it has its limitations. Obv. EF is very complex and multi factor, so different clusters of deficit will present differently and require their own interventions. But absent immediate, visceral negative or positive consequences for tasks, our brains just aren’t that well suited to “just do it” and no amount of therapy or practice will ever get you to the general ease with which a neurotypical can accomplish dreaded or long time horizon tasks. Hence, thank goodness for things like beeminder.


Update: this is now a major motion blog post by @narthur!


Agreed, I am an adhd type and I always used to pull of miracles via deadline. The threat is really helpful.

Beeminder works great for me in tandem with permanently blocking out time wasters (via Cold Turkey) and precommitting to things with Focusmate. One app cant be a one size fits all if it wants to be effective. I use taskratchet now for singular tasks.