Does self-reporting work?


So far, I’m only Beenminding a heartrate-zone-minutes goal (via my Fitbit).

There are so many goals I can’t figure out how to automatically import data for, though, especially since I’m clueless about programming. There is such an emphasis on the importance of finding an automatic way to import data that I suspect people find that manually entering data just isn’t effective. Is that the case?

Please feel free to send me to blog posts, etc.



Hi! I certainly don’t agree that manually reporting data isn’t effective. I have 45 goals, and 34 of those use manual data entry. There’s an element of convenience to autodata, of course, but I find that sometimes that’s to the detriment of the goal: it’s easy to “set and forget”.

In the end, it’s probably pretty individual: I like manual entry because it’s more flexible, and because I have to very deliberately put in data. Autodata’s handy for some goals where tracking it myself would get complicated, or would be hard in some other way, but it certainly isn’t required. I have manual data entry goals for all kinds of things: writing to my grandmother each week, practicing doing a plank, updating Beeminder’s support documentation, taking my inhaler, eating a proper breakfast, finishing work/chores by a certain time, reviewing the books I read… and on and on goes the list!

Out of curiosity, what do you mean by saying there’s an emphasis on the importance of adding data automatically? If it’s the help docs, for instance, I’d be surprised (because I wrote them, and as you see, I’m a big fan of manual entry goals), but I’d also want to tweak them a bit to make it clearer than manual goals are really powerful as well, if you could point to an example. People do often ask about how to track things automatically, so there’s a fair number of FAQs and forum threads about it, but it’s really not necessary to use automatic reporting to track a goal! :slight_smile: We wouldn’t want to lean too hard into that and make people think it just isn’t really possible to track things manually, so definitely let us know about that if you got that impression.


It’s not from help docs! I guess I went down rabbit holes where people were trying to find ways to automatically import data, and the ways they found were so convoluted that I thought, “Gee, it must be pretty important if they’re writing code and using three different apps to do this!” :joy:


I can fit about 20 goals worth of manual entry before it becomes unsustainable and I spent more time fiddling with data entry than actually doing things. So anything that I can autodata-ify frees up space for more goals!

It’s also just that autodata-ing is less obvious to get set up than manual entry, so there’s much more discussion about it. It’s a sort of survivorship bias — you only see the threads about autodata because people mostly figure out their own manual-entry solutions!


FWIW, I manually enter Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes too, and I do it manually. I haven’t noticed any way in which it hurts my workflow yet since that number changes so infrequently. I just make it part of my workout.

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I think there’s a strong bias towards programmers amongst the user population, so the answer to any question is “gee, I wonder if there’s a way I can write some code to do this?”. You know, things like flossing become “gee, I wonder if I could hook an Arduino and some servo motors up to dispense my floss, so then I could use the Beeminder APIs to automate it as a goal?” :rofl:


@clivemeister here’s a PCB I designed and ordered a few months back.

It lets me hook up a microcontroller to a high-performance gaming mouse optical flow sensor to watch the belt of a walking pad and automatically upload distances walked to Beeminder.