Derailing on a "Do Less" goal - Pitfall

The most important goal I Beemind is a “Do Less” goal for reducing personal web browsing at work, measured in number of minutes. Post-derail respite is set to 0 minutes. I found that when I don’t use my daily allotment of time, the leftover time gets rolled over to the next day, and the next, and so on. This is great!

The problem is that this rollover doesn’t work in the opposite direction when I derail. That means the number of minutes by which I derail doesn’t impact the following day’s time allotment. So since I get charged the same amount whether I derail by 1 minute or 1 hour, what’s the incentive to keep it down to as few minutes as possible after I’ve already derailed? (Yes, I know I have my own intrinsic motivation but clearly my boundaries don’t work as well as I’d like, which is why I’m here).

What workaround have you found for this?


It usually takes more than one Beeminder goal to manage something like that.

It depends what effect you want to create, what you mean by ‘doesn’t impact the following day’s time allotment’. e.g. do you really want several days of zero ‘personal web browsing’ after a derail? Or escalating penalties when you derail by more than a certain number of minutes?

What might be helpful is to create a second goal as a backstop.

To automate it, the backstop meta goal would duplicate the datapoints from your main goal. If you’re on a plan that gives you access to autoratchet, you could set this second goal to enforce a limit of 30 minutes (or whatever) every day, ratcheting to that value each morning. That would help make the distinction between derailing by one minute and one hour.


So there are 3 possibilities for what could happen to the time allotment the day after a derail:

  1. Same time allotment as any other day (the current setup).
  2. 0 time allotment until you build up more time.
  3. Negative time allotment based on how many mins you went over the limit the previous day.

It would be nice to have the option to change the setting to (2) or (3) if I want, without needing to create an additional goal.


I’m not sure I understand how a metaGoal would solve the problem. Let’s take an example.

Let’s say my daily time allotment (or limit) is 20 min. I create a new goal (metaGoal) that duplicates the data entered into the Goal. Let’s say the time limit on the metaGoal is 60 min.

  • If I use 21 min, i.e. go over by 1 min, the first goal derails but the metaGoal stays on track. I pay one penalty.
  • If I use 61 min, i.e. go over by 41 min, the first goal goal and the metaGoal both derail. In this case, I pay 2 penalties.
    If this is what you mean, up to here everything makes sense!

But then we run into the same problem as before. It doesn’t matter whether I used 61 min or 120 min on a 20 min daily limit, I pay the same penalty.

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Sounds like what could help this is a different respite system. If you derail, you don’t get reset to the red line. The red line stays the same and you keep derailing until you make it up. But you don’t pay for another derail until 7 days later or something – so if you haven’t made up the time by then, you pay.

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That could work! Is there a way to set this up on Beeminder?

(That was meant to be a reply to @spencerrose)

Hmmm… a weird thing you could do is to consider yourself to have derailed if you’re not in the GREEN. You go from green to blue, the red line doesn’t move but you’re a new colour right? So you track your time with like a $5 pledge cap in one do less goal, and you always try to stay in the green on that goal. Then you have a binary do less (do 0) goal with 0 respite that tracks “Am I out of the green on the time goal?” And that’s your real goal with the pledge cap you want to use. And then you add a point and derail on that goal every day you look at the time tracking goal and see you haven’t built your buffer back up to green.

Typo – in the binary do less goal you have 7 days respite. So you don’t reset your allowance because you never derail the time tracking goal, but you only pay for being the wrong colour once every 7 days.