Beeminder Forum

Beeminding rhythmic abstinence

I’m listening to this podcast episode about abstaining from a pleasure for a period of time:

And they mentioned the idea of taking breaks from something on a recurring basis.

I wondered if any of you have done this? What was your experience?

At a practical level, seems like it would be pretty simple to do with Beeminder. Make a do-more goal with a rate of 1/day for having an x-free day, and then periodically schedule long breaks when you feel you can handle it. Of course I’ve already had goals that follow this template, but haven’t thought about them or used breaks for those goals in that way.

I don’t have them for scheduled breaks but I have them for abstaining from something entirely just like you alluded to with the 1/day do-more-goal.

The way I see it as you’ve laid out, your “normal” state would be the abstaining and then your “exception” would be when you take part in [SOMETHING] again.

My only hesitancy with this is that it seems to go against the reminder mentality of consistency. For the long breaks, do you think you’d be at risk of losing sight of the goal?

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Hmm, I don’t think so. This would be for goals where overall consistency isn’t a requirement. For instance, say you had a no-social media goal. By default, the goal would require that you not use social media at all. But at any point you could choose to go back to social media for a period of time. The nice thing about using Beeminder for this the way I’ve described is that you can go back to social media, but Beeminder will automatically require you to get off social media again at the end of the break, without you needing to exercise as much willpower as if you had archived the goal and needed to create a new one.

I could see this strategy working well for all sorts of “guilty pleasures” (term used loosely) depending on your particular goals:

  • social media
  • caffeine
  • computer and video games
  • sugar
  • youtube
  • etc

I think this is especially appealing to me for things that I often do go back and forth on whether the value outweighs the costs in my life. Scheduling long breaks instead of archiving the goal seems like a better way to handle these things, since leaving the goal in-tact creates a kind of safety net that will automatically kick in again in a period of time if I fall down the black hole and would have difficulty getting back out on my own.


I was able to break my unhealthy habit of eating something sugary everyday using the strategy. I set up a do more goal and allowed myself to eat foods with added sugar once a week. After a few months of success, I got much stricter: for the last 18 months I’ve allowed myself to eat food with added sugar one and a half days a month. I add a data point of 1 on every day I don’t eat sugar.

This has probably been my most successful beeminder goal, as it’s been in place since Jan 2000, and I can now go a day without eating foods with added sugar without thinking about it too much, and certainly without cravings. I purposely paid beeminder once or twice on purpose because I wanted to eat ice cream with my family.

I consider this a rhythmic abstinence goal now because I took a week off last week, enjoyed ice cream two days and the other five days didn’t eat sugar. I’m thinking of setting another week’s vacation to build up some buffer so I can use some free days in the future.

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Can someone explain how this is a do more goal? How is it worded? Do more not-eating-sugar-for-the-entire-day? This sounds like it could be very useful, but I don’t understand how it’s set up.

EDIT: Never mind, I see that’s exactly how it’s set up. Goal is named “nosugar”!

But then that begs the question, How is this different than a do less goal?

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They both achieve the same thing, but the do-more version is more straight forward imo. You don’t have to worry about pessimistic presumptive data and scheduling breaks like we’ve been talking about is simpler. I think there are other ways that the do-more variant may be superior, but I’m not thinking of them now.


Entering datapoint on a success seems superior to entering datapoints on a failure in general.

Though note difference between “log datapoint when I eat something with added sugar” vs “log datapoint on a day without added sugar” on a day where multiple offending items were eaten. This may be desirable or not.

Though “I have eaten single cake, now I will eat 3kg of ice cream” can be resolved by having 1 as default, reduced by 1 by every item.

So 1 for nosugar day, 0 after eating the cake, -1 after eating the first ice cream serving, -2 after another…

Ahh thanks for that! Please correct me if I’m wrong here. So in the first case, do more, it’s like you have to press a button on the wall to prevent a shock. But on the do less goal, you have to press a button on the wall to deliver the shock to yourself. I haven’t set up any do less goals yet, but it seems that one must develop or corral a bit more of a self-punishment behavior to do a do less goal.

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Exactly! And what worse if you have say 40 days of success and you violate goal you are likely to honestly forget to log it into Beeminder.

Personally I prefer “muahahahha, I succeded today” data input.

Though it has potential trap that you must enter data on emergency day or get derail and waste time of Beeminder support.

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