Colors More Motivating Than Money?

I’ve been wondering if I’m the only one. Do any of you find yourselves having a much more visceral reaction to the prospect of waking up to a red day simply because it’s red than you do to the prospect of forfeiting $5 or $10 or even $30?

Like, I look at these two screenshots:

The assaultive red and orange squares in the first one fill me with a sort of creeping existential panic, while the peaceful blues and greens in the second one makes me feel like I’ve got everything pretty well under control. One day (one day!) I’ll have my entire nine-goal grid filled with green, and I’ll be on top of the freaking world.

This is the main reason why I have a hard-and-fast rule that I can never have any more or fewer than nine goals at a time. I find it pretty easy to justify losing $5 or even $10; I have a strong rationalization system, and my brain is all too good at chalking it up to “petty cash” and not thinking any more about it. (See also why I’m so vulnerable to exploitative in-app purchase games like Cookie Jam, but that’s another story…) $30 is definitely more motivating, and I’ve never yet lost $90, which is almost unthinkable to me (I’d be really, really, really mad at myself if I failed a $90 goal), but for goals that aren’t such high stakes, I’d rather keep wagering $5 or $10 at a time than let them go up to $30 and $90, teetering on the brink every day. That amount makes me really anxious and tempted to scrap the whole thing. But knowing that eating that doughnut will mean I’ll
have a red square in my grid all day… That’s seriously unpleasant enough that it’s kept me from doing it, many, many times.

On the other hand, if I had the option to pay $5 or something to forfeit my goal immediately instead of at the end of the day and bounce instantly back to blue, I know for a fact I’d pay it. If there’s anyone else like me out there, it might be an additional source of revenue for Beeminder. On the other hand, it means taking the easy way out (paying the money instead of suffering through the day in the red), so maybe that’s inherently akratic.

What do you all think? Am I alone in this?


You’re certainly not alone.

I burned out on Beeminder last year because I kept oscillating between 1) losing small amounts of money frequently and 2) making my goals really easy out of fear of losing big bucks.

I’ll try to craft a more thorough reply later, but I wanted to reply briefly now.


absolutely agree. i even made a goal to get as many goals into the blue as i can twice a week. orange is the new red.

i think i take eep days more seriously now that there aren’t 10 of them happening at once. before, i’d put in minimum effort to keep everything afloat (and then they’d all be red again tomorrow). now, if i have an eep day on my coursera goal, i’ll sit down with it for 45min and actually pay attention to the materials, because i’m not stressed about fixing 9 other eeps before bedtime.

of course, it may just be that i’ve finally got my current goals in a good place where i can actually handle them all without sinking :slight_smile:


I automated something along these lines a while ago - I had a beeminder goal about getting a certain amount of buffer on other beeminder goals. Any goal with < n days left at the end of the day counted for 1 point and I had a do less goal for total points.

I found this worked great until it didn’t. I think it was really dependent on how achievable my goals were - when they were relatively easy this was a good strategy but when they became harder it ended up exacerbating that.


Yes, and I’m such a sucker for this tactic that seeing little red dots on my Quora and Facebook phone icons almost compels me to go clear the new notifications. It’s like the old wives tale about bulls seeing red, but with humans, and instead of charging, it’s procrastinating.


I’ve turned off the icon badges on almost everything on my phone, or switched the count to be VIPs-only where that’s possible. It’s ridiculously enticing, a powerful focusing device that we should try to hijack for our own purposes.

PS: for iOS users, that’s mostly configurable in Settings under Notifications.

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