Beeminder Forum

I need long-term accountability for my short-term accountability

I’m not sure which part of the “everything” that has changed for me since I started using Beeminder that’s causing this issue, but I now find that I find that an akrasia horizon isn’t enough to keep me from abandoning goals (goals that past and future me would prefer I not abandon) using allowed archiving, rate changes, etc.

I need a way to not be able to quit certain goals when my circumstances shift enough to cause what my longer-term attention is focused on to shift. Like, this week I’ll decide I want to spend the rest of the summer focusing on X but in two weeks, something will change and I’ll decide to spend the rest of the summer focusing on Y, abandon my X-related goals, and start Y-related goals. Rinse. Repeat.

Now, this is important and necessary and an incredibly useful part of Beeminder’s flexibility and I still think it’ll be important for me to have a trial period for all of my goals to make sure they’re not too pie-in-the-sky, but this has become a meta-problem for my long-term accountability planning. It’s become something of a disincentive to even creating graph-goals anymore. I think of creating a graph-goal related to an IRL-goal and end up feeling like there isn’t much point since recent history suggests that I’m likely to decide to abandon it.

It’s meta-bumming me out!

The best I’ve come up with is the idea to create a Beeminder goal to “Not change any of my Beeminder goals… including this one” that allows me to change one goal a month or something.

@dreev and @shanaqui have had some ideas surrounding using public accountability. I worry about them either being too soft (because I know no one’s likely to really ever check in on them or to call me to task if they do) or too burdensome on others (like if someone else commits to checking up on them).

Has anyone else found themselves in a position of creating quitting a set of revolving goals that aren’t really getting them anywhere and come up with a creative solution for themselves?

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My first thought is that philosophically / beehavioral-economically you’re quite correct: different people and different goals have different underlying akrasia horizons. (But for the question of generalizing that Beeminder feature, let’s discuss that in a parallel thread in the Bugabee category, if anyone wants to make one!)

My next thought is: Lean on us! Social accountability, etc! Pretend you can set longer akrasia horizons, commit out loud to us to what the “real” akrasia horizon on a goal is, put it in the goal description, and basically just promise to honor that.

You’ve highlighted the classic problem with trying to harness social accountability – you sense that everyone has wandered off and that no one will notice if you do too. But maybe the explicit promise and reminder in the goal description stays compelling?

PS: You mentioned, maybe jokingly, about using a StickK goal to augment your beeminding and I want to say I’m absolutely in favor of trying that! Just tell us how it goes!

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I would probably be okay with doing exactly what I suggested and minding someone’s business for them – I actually suggested that one could beemind keeping someone else accountable. There’s always options in trade here: Mary suggests paying someone, but there would also be payment in kind (minding someone else’s goals) or any skills you have (like, idk, in my case crochet/cross-stitch or the way to word absolutely stinking furious emails/letters in a polite yet insistent way).

I think right now I’d do it for someone I already know in exchange for poking about using my treadmill often enough and some of my health/weight loss goals, for instance. They’re the ones where I personally need a longer akrasia horizon! So it doesn’t sound impossible to figure out a kind of mutually beneficial thing, perhaps locked in by beeminding it so it doesn’t just get lost in general ‘being friends and being there for each other’.

One thing I have that I already do is my weekly beeminder journal. I have to be scrupulously unweaselly because at the end of each week I have to come and tell everyone what I’ve been doing. That’s been helpful sometimes, as well. I don’t think anyone is actually systematically checking up that things are as I say with my goals, of course, but nonetheless someone feeling bloody-minded enough could… and I’d be deeply embarrassed to be caught weaselling.

The problem with that option is private goals, and potentially the answer there is to post about it somewhere under some kind of lock to a group of people who you trust, like on Pillowfort or Dreamwidth or a private Discord server or something. The group part is important though, I think – more people more chance that someone will be stubborn and nosey enough to snoop out whether you’re doing what you said you would.

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I might suggest, if you don’t have it already, to have a clear, written meta-process for changing goals. This issue reminds me, in a way, of my post-derailment checklist, which is meta to beeminder itself. It seems like a goal change journal and/or goal change checklist could also be useful.

I’m like you in a way… Oh look! Something shiny and new! I want to do THAT! Part of MY problem is simply remembering, on a long-term scale, why something was so important to my past-self, and being able to maintain that memory at both at an intellectual and emotional/energy level in order sustain something for the long term. I use recurring tasks and Anki to help with actively and periodically remembering why things are important to me. There’s a clear basis in neuroscience here, that such a sustained effort would help one to remember what’s important (and why it’s important) at that one critical moment when one sees that shiney thing and has an impulse to change. That’s the precise moment that one needs to slow down and reflect.

This also reminds me of Opinion: Goal Creation Friction Is Good. It’s a similar kind of value to slowing down during goal creation/changing, but at a higher, more advanced level than what was discussed in that thread. You could indicate a longer term akratic horizon in the fine print:

Akratic horizon is 2 weeks. To make a change, add a journal entry and notate this in my calendar one week ahead. I can then make the change in beeminder in one week, which will go into effect the following week.

That would add in some potentially helpful friction into the process. A journal requirement gives some pause and reflection, which is the process needed to gain wisdom in the matter. I think a journal is the best method for one to make, defend, support, or reject arguments between your past, present and future self. And perhaps a checklist or flow diagram could be culled and updated from that wisdom.

This topic is helping me think about this! I can see that this would eventually be something that I (or anyone, really) would have to deal with.

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I have no helpful advice, but I wanted to say that I have the same personality – I get SUPER interested in X, delve into it for a few weeks to a few months, then completely lose interest and instead get interested in Y. X and Y can be productive or useful things like “learn test-driven development”, “build a duck pen”, or “organize the basement”, or they can be “dress-up gacha phone game”, it makes no difference. I decided a couple decades ago to embrace that and just let myself follow my interests as they wax and wane (and when I get into Z, plan for the fact that I’m going to lose interest in a bit), and it’s worked out pretty well for me, but I can certainly imagine a set of life goals that would make that a less effective strategy.

It is, however, a reason I avoid making beeminder goals that are “interest-related”, a la @dreev 's “buy a thing, beemind a thing”, or hobby beeminding: I’m very confident that such goals would be unnecessary while I’m interested in X, and a millstone around my neck as soon as I lose interest, so I just don’t go there. Beeminder for me is primarily for things I unambigiously should be doing my whole life: brushing my teeth, having a regular bedtime, working at my day job. When I make beeminder goals for more specific things, they have to be things that I have strong external reasons to pursue, like “get house foundation replaced” (if I don’t do it, house eventually collapses!). A beeminder goal that I don’t have strong, unwavering reasons to pursue is a goal I’m going to give up on. (Which is I guess a long-winded way of saying maybe Beeminder isn’t the best system for these types of goals for me and possibly for you as well.)

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