Datapoint Fatigue: When you don't feel like it anymore

Hi everyone!

Someone asked me an akrasia question today and I don’t think I answered it satisfactorily, so I’m posting it here.

Here’s the skinny: a friend and I get on a daily phone call for an addiction recovery discipline. It’s been highly effective – each morning we can kinda plan out our days, talk about any dangers, etc. It’s like a daily version of Beeminder’s akrasia horizon, and I’m sure we’re not the first ones to do it: if it’s a risky day we check in with texts regularly, if the risk is unknown we develop flexible plans, and if the day’s risk free then we just continue the daily check in discipline. Easy peasy.

Yesterday he relapsed, and I think the main reason was that he was fed up with tracking his habits and planning his days. Beeminder has been incredibly effective for me on a host of habits, and I also use Habitica and Toggl and RescueTime and HeyFocus – I love tracking habits, watching things iterate their way up, feeling like I have a psychological construct that allows me to Adult with Purpose. You guys all know this, probably, since you’re on the app.

But some days I get where he’s coming from. I’ve had those days, where this thing feels more Sisyphean than busy bee-in’, and you just want a “day off.” Whatever that means. My buddy’s problem yesterday was that he threw out his Flossing Habit (or whatever he also tracks) and his Addiction Recovery Habit on the same day – it was either Track Everything And Feel In Control, or give it all up.

I’m not sure I’m asking this question right. I know Beeminder the product allows for off days – that’s why you have buffers and all that. I’m more asking about Beeminder the lifestyle: what do you guys do when you don’t want to track your habits or think responsibly, when it feels frustrating and maybe a little boring? What do you do tactically to give yourself a break without just breaking down?



That is a reasonable feeling when tracking habits. I can think of a few possible solutions to data fatigue:

  1. Automate: The easiest thing to do is to rethink your goals so that they are automated. For example, if you have an Android Phone you can use IFTTT and add a datapoint whenever you call a certain number. So all your friend has to is worry about calling you. You could also use IFTTT to send a datapoint if you enter a certain area of a geo-fence.

  2. Less Check-ins: You could also have less check-ins which means less data to track (e.g. 3 days instead of 7).

  3. Treat it like a transaction: Sometimes you just don’t want to do your goal. Ask yourself if not doing the goal is worth the cash consequence. This reframes the failure or fatigue as a choice.

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I have mass derailments every now and again, and set my pledge caps to a level that makes that kind of ok. At least as long as I also remember to allow for a safety buffer post-derailment, instead of my usual ‘no mercy’ setting…

Android app and automate, automate, automate! I think out of my 13 goals only 4 or 5 require that I type in a manual datapoint, and I only interact with 3 of those daily. The others are weekly, semiweekly, or only on weekdays.

If I’m low on spoons for the day I just look through the android app, see if anything requires my immediate attention, and if not, blissfully close the app and forget about it for 24 hours.

Usually though I have to open the app in the early morning because it’s where I log my weight for a weight-loss goal I’m working on. It goes from there via IFTTT to several other goals and apps.

For automation, the conditions I use include but aren’t limited to:

  • my phone connects to a certain wifi network
  • I log my weight in a beeminder goal
  • I press a bluetooth button
  • I log a workout on strava
  • my phone detects that I’ve walked or run a certain number of steps
  • a new document appears in a certain google drive folder

In general my rule is to automate as much as possible, set my rates so I can do them easily, and take action when I’m having a beemergency.


Automating still leaves the emotional problem for me, I think. On a good day, I just sail through all my productive habits, and don’t even notice that my beeminder goals automatically get happy as I make my way through things. But on days when I Just Don’t Wanna, the automation just makes it easier for Beeminder to know that I haven’t flossed; it doesn’t make it any easier to actually floss.

I don’t know that I have a good solution for this, though. I’ve spent today in this funk of “I know I am capable of working very hard, which I what I need to do to accomplish today’s new list of important tasks, but I would prefer not to.” In the past I’ve had success with pre-emptively dialling down / turning off all the little “noisy” commitments so I only have to focus on the ones that are really important to me, but you have to have some foresight for that to work – and it kind of just shifts the timescale on which you are responsibly managing yourself.

It seems sensible to need breaks and to take them, and to acknowledge that as humans we’re not going to operate with 100% perfection all the time (or even come particularly close to that ideal) – but I think it’s a personal balancing act of having a few principles to cling to during those restorative irresponsible moments.

On reflection, I think I usually plan in some “irresponsibility” by travelling frequently – I go somewhere far-flung to do something a little ridiculous every six weeks or so, and it gives me a break from all the careful habits and routines, without being in danger of overwriting those routines permanently, since I’ll go back to doing my homework and flossing once I’m back home. But that works for me because of some particular details of my life; it wouldn’t work for everyone.


Seconding nearly every sentence in oulfis’s post.


Yeah agreed. These are great posts. @oulfis definitely gets at what I was thinking of, the emotional “I’m too tired to Adult” slump.

Talked about this some more with my buddy today, and one of my takeaways was that the akrasia horizon seems to apply to recreation / relaxation, too. Used to be that my weekends were terrible, because I’d have worked hard all week and I thought that the opposite of work was lack of structure. But my most fulfilling and refreshing experiences all have structure to them – getting outdoors requires packing a bag (and setting an alarm), family/friends require at least some contact, etc.

I read somewhere last year that humans don’t seek the most pleasurable thing to do, but the easiest thing to do. That definitely rings true for me in the moment. e.g. my Worst Breaks Ever have been “watching 5 hours of youtube clips of a show I could see full episodes of on Netflix,” or “playing a boring video game because my mouse is in the other room.” My Best Breaks Ever haven’t required a ton of planning – anything more than putting my bike bag by the bedroom door and setting the alarm – but they required me to pre-bind a little bit.

Anyway, friend and I were wondering if one solution was to intentionally skive off. If you’re in the slump anyway, to pick something that will actually be refreshing. Even something little like “**** packing a lunch; today I’m hitting the taco cart.” Or “forget the dishes in the sink; I’m grabbing a movie tonight and I’m giving myself permission to do it.”

I’m not sure how true that is – maybe when you’re really fed up with anything to do with planning or pre-committing or the whole lot of it, this is still too much – but that’s currently one on the table. “Treat yo’self” stuff.


I like that we’ve discussed the two different types of fatigue differently. There’s the data-entry fatigue, which is often solvable through automation, and then there’s the “doing the actual work” fatigue.

No amount of Beeminder entry automation makes it easier to actually read the books or study the French or run the miles, at least for me. I am personally the type of person that does not like to have emergency days, so I usually have a good amount of safety buffer, at least a few days. I have found “Max Safety Buffer” critical to allowing me to have a gentle road slope while still making sure I make progress.


I totally agree: this problem seems like it skirts the edges of Beeminder’s ability to solve. Much as we would like it to be the case, some situations aren’t solvable by locking yourself into a rigorous commitment schedule, especially situations where you find yourself unable to muster the energy to even get out of bed.

When it’s that bad, though, I think that constitutes a viable reason to draft a rule for yourself where you allow yourself to call “not legit” on any derailment that occurs on such a day. The criterion could be something like “you weren’t able to shower due to intrinsic lack of motivation,” or some similar indicator that your mental health will not be well-served by updating datapoints. I realize this approaches slippery-slope territory and doesn’t actually solve the problem of the mental load of updating datapoints/answering derailment emails but mental health issues are kind of inherently slippery.

And anyhow it seems good to me to institute a Hippocratic criterion for Beeminder use: you probably never want to let falling behind on goals reflect directly on your self-worth, and if that ever seems to be in danger of becoming the case, to allow yourself an escape clause.

disclaimer: I work for Beeminder as a support workerbee but i’m not speaking any kind of officially here


I absolutely know the feeling.
I love statistics and graphs and therefore I also love beeminder. I love the way I can keep track and see a pretty little graph.
Most of my goals are not easy for me. I set them as difficult as possible to keep me motivated. If my safety buffer gets too high, I lose my motivation. So usually I am in the red on at least one of my goals every day.
But sometimes I just dont feel like it. I want to have days off spontaneuously and without setting lower goals. Maybe beeminder just isnt the right tool for that, because I have not yet found a practical way to have that.
I find myself tempted to enter fake data and I admit, I have done it sometimes (I know, shame on me.) It’s because I feel I deserve to at that moment or because it was actually absolutely impossible for me to complete the goal on that day (family or work emergency, sickness, etc).
When I put in fake data once the temptation becomes higher to do it again the next day…
Maybe I should use some other way to track my goals, but with beeminder I have gotten a lot better, maybe I am also aiming too high. If anyone has any suggestions or insights, I’d be thankful.


One idea:

Lower your goals slightly. If you want to have a day off every 30 days, for example, change the rate to 29/30 of what it is now.

Then, when you want a day off, put in “fake” data with a comment clearly indicating it’s fake and a data point in the future that undoes the fake data entry. Something like (assuming today is the 14th)

14 1 “day off”
15 -1 “undo day off”

Set strict rules about days off: no chaining them (that is, using two in a row), no putting the undo more than one day in the future. Write those rules in your fine print so you can’t “forget” them. Any time you find yourself exploiting the rules somehow, allow the exploit that one time and put in another rule about it in your fine print. This will keep you on your desired average rate while allowing occasional days off.

I do something similar, though for a different reason (because starting things is the hard part for me / the part I want help with, so I want to be able to enter the data as soon as I’ve started; if I don’t flake out, I remove the comment from the 1st datapoint and delete the 2nd).

Another option is to just pay the derailments. May or may not be viable for you depending on your number of goals and their pledges.

I do sometimes wish Beeminder had better built-in support for this kind of thing.

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Thanks, kenoubi, that sounds like a pretty good idea. I think I’ll try that for a while.

I think this is a great option. Set your days of mercy to 1, and cap your pledge amount at a level where you’ll only be willing to pay it when you really need a break. Then just go ahead and pay for the break when you need it, and don’t be hard on yourself for doing it.

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when i’m in this mode, recently i’m trying to get myself to do a “minimal amount just to have a data point”. It removes the “guilt” of failing completely.

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In cases where it’s absolutely impossible to complete the goal, that’s exactly what the support team is for – you can either ask us for a break or (even easier for us) just reply to the derailment email explaining what happened, and we’ll cancel the charge.

Personally, I get fatigued by my goals sometimes and nearly always the answer has been to ruthlessly prioritise. Say I’ve got seven goals due to derail. OK, which of those do I care about the most (whether that’s because it has a big pledge or because it’s the most important)? Do it. Which do I care about the most now? Do it. Which next? Do it. And if the last two still derail, at least it’s not going to be one I really really care about – and the derailments buy me breathing space to catch up on other stuff. Sometimes I just deliberately let 'em go to buy myself the breathing space.


Yes, this. For certain goals and habits, I’ve had a lot of success with giving myself permission to do a really quick, half-arsed job any time that’s all that I have the emotional capacity for. That can’t apply to some Beeminder goals of course where specific amounts of effort are required, but for others it’s very useful and my flossing goal was a good example of that. I met the goal’s conditions each day if I flossed just one tooth gap. On almost every day I’d do a whole lot more than that, but on the really down days, a few seconds of flossing kept the daily habit alive, which is more important for long-term success than trying (and failing!) to achieve a perfect record every day.

(BTW, not strictly related but this is why I no longer floss at all: Google search for flossing doesn’t work.)

Disclaimer: I’m a Beeminder support workerbee but this post is my personal opinion, not official.


I have to agree and throw in another vote for the beeminder strategy of “half an ass is better than no ass at all”. For some (many?) goals going through the motions still keeps habits in place or ideas in working memory better than not doing it.


Yes to all of these!

  1. I have definitely let myself derail on occasion, because it was Worth It at the time.
  2. I also have my difficult goal (do my to-do list every day) be based on my own choice the night before, so if I want/need the day off the next day, I just don’t put anything on my to-do list for the next day.
  3. I ALSO let myself have “days off” my easy goals whenever I want, with the rule that I can’t chain, and I need to make it up the next day (this is for things like journaling every night, or doing anki, where I can make them up pretty easily). This works out well when I just really want to go to bed NOW.
  4. and finally, my official standard for my do-my-to-do-list goal is “must touch every item at least once”, rather than “must finish every item”, so on rough days, it’s always possible for me to do SOMETHING minimal for each task.