How I lost $50 down a slippery slope the other day

So I made a bunch of goals of the form “work 30 minutes a day on project X” where X was something I’d been avoiding. I’m glad I finally got around to making the goals - they’ve been so helpful and I’ve made more progress in the last week than I have in years.

I also have a bunch of “meditate 24 minutes about X” type goals.

I’d been staying up too late, and my deadline was 4am, so I had the idea to move the deadine to 1:30 and make a “phone off by 2” goal. Which was great, until one night I realized I didn’t have enough time to do all the meditations by 1:30.

So I took a step down a slippery slope. The timer was going at 1:30, so I marked it as done. After all, I started the meditation, which was the whole point. It got me to meditate.

I did that for a few nights.

Then the next night I had two meditations to do when the deadline hit. No big deal - mark them as done and set the timer twice. I did that for a couple nights…

Then the next night I had about three hours worth of beeminder tasks to do. And I realized I had lost the sharpness of the deadline I needed.

So I had to let them all derail. I lost $50. I couldn’t keep staying up later and later - by letting myself ignore the deadline I had trained myself to not start anything until the deadline hit. So I resolved that from now on, no matter what, I don’t mark it unless it’s done when the deadline hits.

I think I need to set up the “waterfall” type schedule. That way I can turn my tendency to start things at the last minute into a schedule where I do things at the time I actually should. And maybe make two goals, a freebee for “do it by noon” and a paying goal for “do it by night.”


I have a couple goals that I’ve started doing that, too; but I think it may really depend on your situation how you should handle it. My goal is to walk at the end of the day to decompress. Requiring that I complete the walk before adding the datapoint means the walk becomes a stressful event if I started it too close to the deadline, defeating the purpose. So adding a datapoint when I’m about to start the walk makes sense.

I should probably make this more explicit in my fine print.


I agree - I’m actually a big fan of goals of the form “start a 30-min timer for X” or “start doing activity X.” They’re great because 1) there’s much less resistance to starting something than there is to doing it, and 2) once I start, it’s easy to continue.

The problem here was that I not only had the start time too late in the day, but I had multiple goals all due at that time, leading to the failure where I couldn’t start them all that late.

So I’m thinking about staggering deadlines earlier in the day so there’s only one goal due at a time. That way I can make the goal “start X” without running into that problem.

I may also want two goals, one little one for “start X early in the day” and a big one for “finish X by the end of the day.” @phi discussed something similar: