More Reminder Settings please

Do you have “beefed up reminders” on your roadmap or do you think the current zeno reminders are good enough?
If you ask me they certainly aren’t.
I think this is a perfect example of this axiom:

For every problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.

Personally, I do think the zenos are good enough, but that’s because they match my use-case and my ability to organise myself. They’re not perfect for everyone and we’d love to know what the issue is for you – as it is, this post is so vague it’s hard to even file anything in our suggestions docs; “doesn’t think zenos are good enough” is not something that gives us any direction to go off. :wink:

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Agreed. I just wanted to gauge whether you already have this on your “things we know that people want to see improved” list or not.

I don’t know about the roadmap, but we definitely have it in our issue tracking. But “improved” means different things to different people. Some people want options for fewer reminders; some people want options for more reminders; some people want more reminder options like in-browser reminders… There’s all sorts of conflicting feedback about what people want, and it’s probably more productive to just state up front what you’re looking for us to change. :slight_smile: We can figure out where it fits in from there.


I see. There is a great many things I want from my reminders. Here’s just one of them:

I have a goal of which I want it to nag me between 10am and 11am because it’s due at 11am but I got another goal that is due to 10am. And I want that done first.
You can do that with the current feature set. Sure.
But what you can’t do is this:
I also want it to nag me when it’s not just emergency day. A first reaction might be: Oh sure, you just set the lead days to something > 0. But then it will nag you during those lead days and not necessarily between 10 and 11am but at seemingly arbitrary times. What I really want is it nagging me between 10 and 11, zeno style. But not at any different time.

Hmm, okay. I think something like that may have been previously requested, so I’ll scour the list to add your vote, or make a new entry. To clarify, do you mean you just want a reminder every day, regardless of buffer left on the goal?

As a sort of stop-gap in that case, (swapping in my user-hat here) have you considered a calendar reminder type thing? I find the reminders showing up from Google Calendar on my home screen super handy lately, because everytime I absently turn on my phone screen, there it is telling me what I should be doing. :joy:

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Except then these reminders would still show up when I’m sone with the thing for that day. Which means I will eventually start to ignore them.
I’ll say it with the words of I think it was @dreev: If your product is named Beeminder it really should have reminders as its core competency.

(User hat still on.)

Ah, on an Android phone using Google Calendar you get a notif as well, which you can swipe away when you’ve done the task you wanted to be reminded for, which is how I’d use it.

I think the problem with that phrase is that isn’t really meant to be Beeminder’s core competency, is it? It’s the incentive that is Beeminder’s core feature. Reminders are just a part of it. I’ve always considered the key components of the name to be “bee minder”, i.e. “minder with a sting”, not a pun on “reminder” (though that’s a good additional implication).

(So yeah, @dreev, if you’re the one who said that, I think you’re a little bit wrong. :stuck_out_tongue: )

I think there’s definitely the need for a tool out there with infinitely customisable reminders… but it might not be appropriate for Beeminder to fill that niche. The yellow brick road is our thing, and the graphs the thing we need to focus on (again, in my opinion, this is not a statement of Beeminder’s direction); reminders are useful to have inasfar as they serve the main purpose for as many people as possible.

Not that reminders can’t be improved, just that I don’t think they are our core competency and (personally) I’m not interested in seeing them become an all-singing all-dancing everything-to-everyone feature. :slight_smile:


Beeminder provides value by creating a credible threat of punishment for not staying on track towards your goals. But that threat is only effective if you remember that there is a threat and are aware that you are in danger of going off track at the specific time you can do something about it.

Reminders are an important part of Beeminder because they help to ensure that this awareness exists, without which Beeminder’s sting would be worse than useless.

When Beeminder fails to remind me at the right time, its threat fails to influence my behavior as it should. When Beeminder reminds me at the wrong time or too much, it trains me to ignore Beeminder’s notifications, ultimately preventing it from effectively reminding me at the right time.

The “Right Time” is highly situational. It depends on many things:

  • the user’s schedule
  • how long it will take to satisfy the goal
  • how edge skatey the user is
  • what other goals also need to be completed

And probably many other factors.

It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it is definitely core to Beeminder’s value proposition.


[User-hat still on even though I talk about “us” and “we” out of habit!]

I guess we’re seeing what we consider core differently, here, because I agree that the reminders are important, and should fire at the right time and at a useful frequency – but that’s to serve the real core competency, the concept of the yellow brick road.

There’s all kinds of things I need reminders for that Beeminder would be useless at. Reminders aren’t the need Beeminder is answering, so it would be a mistake to focus on them and their customisability to the point where those options get overwhelming. I’m not saying reminders aren’t important, but we’re not the one-stop-shop for reminders the way we are for creating extra incentives for the short term on long-term goals.

I mean, I suspect I am the odd one out because I don’t use Beeminder’s reminders at all. I don’t find them useful, and I can’t think of a situation in which I would find them useful. I just look at my dashboard, sort by when things are due, and action each item before it is due. I have my dashboard open in a pinned tab on my desktop all the time, and the list-of-goals widget on my home screen of my phone. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning, and the last thing I look at before bed.

…Which just reinforces for me that reminders are not the core of Beeminder, of course. If they were, my experience of Beeminder should be pretty thin and unhelpful, given I wouldn’t be using the alleged core of the service.


I don’t think Beeminder’s reminders are as nice as they could be, but they’re more than sufficient for me. I am not against improving anything in Beeminder, except when weighed against the opportunity cost.

(This whole thing comes from User me, not Beeminder Engineer me. At Beeminder, I try to stay on the implementation side anyways, rather than on the “steering the ship” side, so really don’t read anything Beemindery into this at all.)

I find the philosophical assertion about reminders here quite interesting.

Folks don’t make progress on their goals for a variety of reasons. They may not be ready to make progress, and need to spend more time preparing (they need the right tools, or need to be at the right place). They may have unrealistic expectations, and not schedule enough time to do them. They may have all the tools and equipment, have a suitable plan, have an appropriate amount of time, but impulsively do something different that feels more enjoyable. There are a million more reasons here, but if we step back a bit and look at more foundational reasons…

I found a lot of value in The Procrastination Equation, which says that motivation is boosted by expectancy and value, and diminished by impulsiveness and delay. Expectancy is both how much you expect to succeed, and how much you expect to get a reward. Value is both how much you value doing the task, and how much you value having the task done. Delay refers to the discounting our poor intra-ear meat performs on future tasks costs and benefits.

How does Beeminder improve motivation?

Beeminder dramatically reduces the delay aspect of this. If you ride the line, you have a deadline every single day.

I personally find a lot of value in Beeminder and its graphs, even without the financial sting or even reminders! (I don’t think I have ever derailed on my weight graph, although I had tried to lose weight for many years in many different way. It’s been 4? years and I’ve kept something like 60 pounds off…) I have often wondered about why Beeminder helps me so much, and The Procrastination Equation helped me come up with a few insights.

The graph and daily expected progress is an overlooked but also key way Beeminder helps people achieve their goals. There’s a negative feeling when you see that you should be on page X, or have ran Y miles, or have painted Z paintings, and you didn’t. See things like for more proof of this. I think one of the ways that people sabotage themselves is by ignoring this. See Nick Winter’s success spirals for a way to build this up if this paragraph seems foreign to you.

Beeminder’s financial sting is the another aspect that improves motivation. It’s a negative value assigned to not doing the task, on top of both the negative value of not doing the task, and the commitment-breaking feeling above.

How does improving Beeminder reminders improve motivation per this framework? I think it would have to lie with impulsiveness. The thought is that you know your goal, you know how to work on it, you’re perfectly ready to work on it in every way, but you forgot it was a goal of yours so you dinked around on YouTube instead? This is pretty foreign to me, but not 100%. I get like that sometimes, but for me, a notification from Beeminder isn’t going to “knock me out of it” and get me doing the hard work I should be doing instead.

I’m not saying users who are perfectly ready to do their goals but don’t because they need a perfectly timed email don’t exist, but that I am not that user and that I have a hard time mentally modeling them. I am skeptical that that level of impulsiveness is cured by a perfectly timed email. If an incoming email from Beeminder can get them off their previous task and onto their goal, what’s going to happen when their next email comes in? What about when someone walks in the room and starts talking? These are genuine questions, not rhetorical.


For me, personally, the primary value I derive from Beeminder reminders is just that–getting reminded–not in my motivation being increased.

There have been several times when I derailed on a goal for no other reason than that I was completely unaware I was about to derail. When that happens, I feel as if my system has failed me.

To the extent that Beeminder should be a self-contained system for enabling goal success, it’s going to need to solve the problem of user awareness.

Though, I agree with what’s been said about opportunity cost, avoiding unnecessary complexity, etc.


(As user-me)

Full disclosure: I’ve struggled with how best to remember to do goal-related tasks, and here’s what I did and what I’ve (just recently) settled on.

The most useful change I made before the last one was to set my Beeminder reminders to start after I was already supposed to have started on the task.

This way, it’s pinging me to say: “Hey, if you haven’t started on this, you’re late. Get to it!”

This was WAY better than having all of my reminders start at the beginning of the day and notify me all day, no matter what time I actually planned to do the task. I avoid that like crazy; otherwise my reminders are just crying wolf all day. But there were tasks that needed 3 hours to get done and others that needed 3 minutes to get done, and sometimes there were wide windows in which I might do the tasks, so that had variable results, and involved either lots of scrambling or some wolf-crying.

That’s where change #2 came in. Ultimately (and still speaking only personally, and not for Beeminder) I need the things I’m tracking to be integrated into my other productivity systems, those that capture all of the other things I have to do during my days, like my to-do items and my appointments, and all of those other non-Beeminder-tracked items.

So what I’ve started doing is making other, non-Beeminder reminders (through recurring to-do items in my main task list, calendar items, notes, Alexa reminders & alarms, even post-its in the right places) for each of the goals I want to work on (with a couple of exceptions). I ask myself, “What would have have to do to remember to do this goal’s tasks if I’d instead made a bet with an acquaintance about it?” An acquaintance isn’t going to call me to make sure I’ve remembered; I’d have to find a way to remember that myself, so that I wouldn’t have to pay up. That helps me think of where in the rest of my system to put the tasks for each particular goal, as though Beeminder didn’t have reminders at all. Then my Beeminder reminders prompt me, not to do the thing, but to enter the data! And they act as a great safety net in case I did, in fact, somehow forget to do the thing.

So far, this is working great for me, but it’s very early days.

(As Workerbee-me 13f54109d2b5c6a84541407b2943f9871a195851_2_180x180 )
That said, we want things to be useful for a variety of ways people want to use Beeminder, so hearing more about what would help or what’s not working for different people as far as reminders go is really useful and we want to hear that stuff!

@phi would your problem be solved if it bugged you every day, whether it was a beemergency day or not, as long as you hadn’t entered data (and then stopped when you did)?

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I think for me (user-me again), the problem is that I ignore my phone for periods throughout the day, and so no self-contained thing is every going to solve the out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem for me (even though I’m getting emails, app notifications, and SMS messages). That said, back when I had my hue lights set up and had them flash red whenever a goal got a zeno reminder (through IFTTT), that helped, and (now back to workerbee-me) maybe we could collect a bunch of ideas like that and curate clear and easy instructions for setting up those kinds of systems?

For a while, I also had IFTTT calling my phone when a goal got a zeno reminder. That sure made it hard to forget, but IFTTT won’t play with non-US numbers, so I can’t use that anymore! If you’re in the US, though, that’s something you could set up!

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how much I loved the clock with the labels on it for different things that needed to be done throughout the day. (@phi, that was yours, right?) I imagine a digital version of a clock like that, with my Beeminder goals (and other deadlines and appointments) appearing as labels beside the times they’re due. Of course, if you leave your house, or even the room the clock’s in…

Unless someone else from Beeminder comes to wherever I am and shakes me, there are times that I’m going to forget my goals if I don’t have something other than my phone or laptop to remind me of the thing I need to do.

I’d love to hear other people’s ideas, though.


I have Tasker set up to literally say “Beeminder emergency!” out loud every time I get a Zeno sms.

Also, the raspberry pi traffic light is another approach to the same problem.


Oh wow I really hit a sore spot here. SO much good input!

Waking up next day, reading a bunch of “you derailed” then being like “oh snap that was due???” or realising I could have easily cleaned up the kitchen before going to bed, thus adding more buffer to my goal, if only I had remembered. No, there’s no incentive there. There’s plenty of other incentive where Beeminder shines. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Not in this particular thread at least.

Nooo my bad, it was @bee! I stand corrected!

If your name is “Beeminder” then reminders really need to be part of your core competency.

We’ve been making the “Beeminder = reminders” point for years, like when we introduced Zeno Polling. In fact, it’s because reminders have been there from the very beginning — the days-of-the-week feature literally predated the concept of derailments — that we backed ourselves into a corner design- and UI-wise, requiring this elaborate blog post to describe how we finally extricated ourselves and made reminders sane again.


Me! I am pretty sure I have suggested that in the forums somewhere many months ago and then people got confused because Discourse also got in-browser notifications. But I can’t find it for the life of it right now.

Or will have been, soon™. Not that the metaphor ever really worked that well. I mean it’s cute and all but it’s very misleading. For starters: The Wizard of Oz never mentioned that one side of the yellow brick road would be safer than the other. Especially not that it would be safe to leave it to the left (or right) but not the other side.
Also it got nothing to do with bees other than the color. So yes, cute. Very cute. But misleading.

I could just quote your entire reply and add a big fat THIS to it. But yeah, it’s basically this.

Ooooooh this makes so much sense! Thanks for mentioning this. I did in fact suspect you were using Beeminder very differently from me.

Okay now imagine you did not have a list-of-goals widget on your phone.


Yes Yes Yes.

It wouldn’t be the first time they went way overboard with something, though.

@adamwolf I’m not even gonna quote anything from your big reply because YES. Especially the point about equation. But I feel like it’s maybe slightly beside the point? At least my point. My own personal point is: I forget things. A LOT. All the time. I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say there is a reason I put a big ol clock with stickers on it that tell me when which goal is due (yes @mary that was me).

OK turns out, I am gonna quote:

Yeah that’s what I mean with beside my point. I am not talking about “little bit of YouTube right now sounds more fun than doing goal XYZ”-me. No. That me does exist. But that is not cured by an email. By flashing red lights though… maybe (awesome idea @mary!).
No, I’m talking about the “awww shit I forgot to clean up my kitchen before going to bed because it was not an emergency day and nothing reminded me that that is also a goal I have. But I would have wanted to do it”-me. That is a very real me and that is a me that would be SO happy about pimped reminders.
This is one of the main reasons why almost none of my goals have any buffer built up. I just forget them. It’s that simple.
I know it’s very different from the very orderly sounding usage of @shanaqui but that’s my beemindering in a nutshell. I forget. I know it’s hard for people who don’t forget stuff all the time to understand how that can possibly be this hard.

I ma finish this reply right here and now and will address @mary’s points later because it’s 1:50 in the morning and sleeping would be the smart thing to do.

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To clarify, the quote from @bee is that if your name is Beeminder then reminders should be a core competency, not the core competency.

And my feeling in general is that you want “time till next derailment” ever-present in your ambient awareness. The delightful Beeminder Traffic Light from @narthur is one way to achieve that, though you may need a portable version of that.

I really like the idea of better calendar integration. Like ensuring that your next beemergency is always on your calendar, and – importantly for anti-wolf-crying – that it disappears from your calendar when you’ve dispatched the beemergency.

Presumably most people have already solved the problem of making sure they don’t forget to go to doctor’s appointments or whatnot by having their calendar automatically remind them. So I guess I’m saying that it’s calendars that really have reminders as their core competency and Beeminder should outsource that to them.

My other answer is that if you just edge-skate everything then you’re fine. I now have all my Beeminder deadlines at 5pm so when I start working I have an eye on my Beeminder dashboard all day and juggle all the beemergencies. Before that most of my deadlines were at 6am and that works fine too, assuming sleep isn’t a big priority for you (or you’re slightly less akratic/procrastinatey than me). You just learn to never go to bed without making sure all your goals are out of the red.


Still would be fine, actually – the widget is a nice addition, but I’m almost always at my computer, and get to tabzero every day, so having it open in a pinned tab is my primary way to keep me on track. :laughing:

…I know, I’m very organised and not really an archetypal akratic Beeminder user. (Literally obsessive-compulsive, though, so it is not always a good thing, I should add! On the other hand my Beeminder is set up to help me with the OCD, so… there’s that.)