Goals where you can vs. can't "get ahead infinitely"

Here’s something I’ve been ruminating on. There’s a dimension that Goals have: whether an arbitrary amount of progress can be made at any given time.

For my Learn Spanish goal, I can make as much progress I want at any time. If I want to spend an entire Sunday working on Spanish and get hundreds of points ahead, I can do that and it’s legit.

For my Process Inboxen goal, I can’t really get ahead. Once I’ve cleared all my inboxes, that’s it. I can do it every day instead of 3 times a week, but even then it’s not really legit because the degree to which beeminder would consider me “getting ahead” would not correlate with the reality of the goal. If I clear my inboxes every day for 5 days then Beeminder thinks I don’t have to do it again for a couple weeks. But that would be bad because I would get behind on things in the meantime.

I think in this example, it means my Process Inboxen goal is poorly designed. The way I’m currently using beeminder for Process Inboxen is basically as a glorified recurring todo list item. In a perfect world I would track the sizes of each of the Inboxen, and the goal would be to make sure they never got above a certain number. So, the Inbox Zero goal, but applied to several digital and physical inboxes in an integrated way.

A perhaps more interesting example is the very common goal of going to the gym more often. One can’t go to the gym 10 times in a day and build up buffer. The only thing one can do is go more frequently than the goal dictates. An ambitious athletic person might make it a goal to go to the gym 6 days a week and rest on the 7th. This person doesn’t even have the option of going to the gym more often.

So I’m thinking: should/could this dimension of goals somehow be officially modeled by beeminder? If a goal is known to have this aspect to it, then beeminder can implement other features, such as…

let the 6-times-a-week user above “get ahead a little”?

the user can do it manually by

  • taking a break for a few days but continue to go to the gym
  • set their goal to be, say, 5.9 times/week

Maybe beeminder can somehow automatically do this by giving a “reward” for being consistent for a certain amount of time.

enforce data meaningfulness

essentially implement a combo do-less + do-more goal so that someone can’t go to the gym 5 times in a day. This is perhaps of limited value since the user shouldn’t be motivated to lie in the first place. But maybe there are other use cases where this is more valuable

what else?

Can anyone think of any other interesting features that only apply to goals where arbitrary progress can’t be made?


Surely this also applies to your Spanish goal. This is why I have autoratchet enabled for many of my goals. Otherwise it’d be too easy to accidentally get hundreds of points ahead.

I manually “reward” myself by reducing the pledge level on a goal when it’s been 90 days since my last derailment.

This is one of the strengths of Beeminder, the ability to set oddball fractional slopes. I’ve got a bunch of things that are 1.1 times/week or 0.9 times/week. This is especially important for things that can’t be done more than once each day.


I really like the idea of rewarding consistency. For me, that is what Beeminder is about, more than it is a way to track progress towards a concrete goal, although it certainly does that too. I’m just not sure what form that reward should take, since offering extra buffer time would only be an incentive to become inconsistent.

Auto-ratcheting does seem like the solution in a goal like Learn Spanish.

The tip about fractional slopes is a very good one and I’m going to implement it. Thanks