Correlated Derailments

I find that a lot of my derailments are when I procrastinate and derail on a lot of things at once (I forgot to check Beeminder, or I fell asleep, or I went out drinking and, well…).

These are all valid derailments that I committed to, but they sting extra hard when it happens all at once, and it feels like it has a compounding emotional/guilt response. I simultaneously feel bad about messing up so badly, and kick myself for using Beeminder at all. But I stick with it because I know the rest of the time I enjoy it.

I don’t have a solution to this problem, but I wanted to discuss correlated derailments. Some questions:

  • Do you experience correlated derailments?
  • How do they make you feel?
  • Are there strategies that you use to avoid correlated derailments or mitigate their sting?
  • Is there something Beeminder could do to help with these (maybe a different UX when they occur)?

A question for @dreev: Do you have any insight to whether correlated derailments are common?


Great questions! That could be a fun data analysis problem to try to operationalize correlated derailments and gather statistics about their frequency. I better not commit to actually doing it right now, so I’ll just give my impression that it’s not exactly common but is definitely a thing.

The biggest hack that I have used to avoid cascading derailments is to completely integrate Beeminder into my life. Instead of checking my emaiI I tend to check Beeminder. It also helps if you send your reminders to all of your devices. I personally send my Beeminder reminders to:

  1. My phone
  2. My iPad
  3. Slack

If you happen to live with other people you can also have them serve as a second reminder. There has been times that my wife asked me if I completed my Beeminder goals by midnight.

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I do find that it’s rare for me to derail on just one Beeminder. Since most of mine are little 5-10 minute tasks, I don’t miss them unless something comes up to make me miss all of them. I try to treat it as one bad thing happening (“Today really went off the rails”) rather than a bunch of smaller bad things all piling on top of each other. One event is somehow mentally/emotionally easier to deal with than a bunch.

It helps to keep all my pledges low enough that even if a couple hit at a time the total sting still feels proportionate.

Oddly, one thing that I find really helpful for the “lumping” approach is not opening/archiving all my “eep!” and derailment emails individually: I read the subjects to make sure there are no surprises, and then quickly search “Beeminder” and archive all the Beeminder emails in one go. Cleaning it out of my inbox with one action reinforces that only one bad thing happened.