My first experience of derailing... one hour before the deadline

I’m about an hour away from derailing for the first time. I chose not to snooze my midnight deadline for one night only, as even though my goal for going to bed at (reasonably soon after) midnight has a day’s buffer before emergency, it is a valuable lesson in time management, and I wouldn’t have felt COMPLETELY comfortable in moving the goal posts.

My goal ( is to do three hours of piano practice a day, with autodata from Rescuetime measuring my use of an app (Justpractice) which runs a timer (with screen on) while practising. I’m studying accompaniment, and therefore often spend time in rehearsals with other musicians each day - and rehearsals don’t count. One reason I’m derailing is the lack of a safety buffer - I could certainly have done more than the minimum required this week, at least on a couple of days, but my mindset was such that this didn’t happen, and I’ve been busy… as usual. Today I intended to do the couple of hours’ necessary playing once I got home. However I got distracted - by a completely worthwhile activity - and thus excused myself from setting off immediately. Once I finished that I didn’t head home to eat dinner and work, but spent some time - again, worthwhile - working on my website before finally leaving for the tube, at which point I realised I wouldn’t reach home in time.

The goal of three hours per day was supposed to push me a bit, as I had previously been averaging slightly under that, while being easily achievable. I intend to increase my goal gradually to the point where I’m doing four to five hours of practice each day. The sheer quantity of repertoire that I want or need to study requires that I just put in the hours, just do the work. My teacher’s constant exhortations to practise properly, to play with as much attention to detail and technique as possible, combined with regular reviews, should ensure that I work intelligently for a high proportion of the time.

Are there others here that beemind a musical goal? How do you measure it?


Thanks so much for sharing this! Here’s a classic guest post on our blog about beeminding music practice: (looks like Jake got up to 360 hours of guitar).

I’ve been beeminding my violin practice. I don’t know if my experience can be valuable to you

Inspired by the guest post by Jake that @dreev just mentioned, I’ve been beeminding my violin practice for more than 10 months now, but I’m not as serious as either of you are. It seems like I’m just rounding 100 hours these days. (I had already tracked ~7 hours much earlier, before getting serious) People say that I improved considerably since i began using Beeminder for violin practice. I believe most of them, but I don’t really notice it myself, since it happens gradually.

As you can see from the graph I slowly increased the steepness of the road during the summer until I reached the 0.4 hours (24 minutes) a day that I’m currently at. I think that I started with 5 minutes a day, which was probably near or above my average for the previous year, but it was easy to keep up at that rate. Watching the cumulative total slowly increase gave me confidence and still does today.

I think that the slow initial rate helped me with getting used to the planning that is required to avoid derailing. As you can see from all the orange dots on my graph, I spend most days “in panic”, and honestly I often don’t start playing until the deadline is less than 30 minutes away. (I even had to reply to a legitimacy check a while ago, because I forgot to hit the submit button in the 30 second window between the time when I had played enough for the day and the deadline - most days I remember) Spending all this time “in panic” means that I have learned to be careful and look ahead: for example I know I’m not going to get home tomorrow until after the deadline, so I know that I have to get to the upper lane of the road today to avoid derailing tomorrow.

My current pledge cap is $30. It is high enough that I always prefer to practice for 24 minutes instead of derailing. Actually one of the best things about Beeminder is that it allows me to be a dick and prioritize my practice. Earlier one of my most common excuses to myself for not playing was that it might disturb someone. With $30 on the line that is a much smaller concern, especially since I’ve never seen evidence that I was bothering anyone. A few times I have also gone to considerable lengths to avoid derailing, for example by having someone bring my violin, when I couldn’t expect to get home before the deadline, so I could practice anyways.

On the other hand losing $30 when I derail is not the end of the world to me. It’s happened twice on that goal in the past year, and considering that the violin lessons (which are far more expensive than a derailment) are now much more valuable, I don’t mind it that much. I expect to derail every once in a while.

In the case of your violin practice, the best advice I can give is to repeat the old advice everybody around here keeps repeating: Consider setting the road to be a little less steep in the beginning, so you are sure that you can easily reach your goal every day. Then start slowly increasing the steepness when you get used to taking Beeminder into account when you make your plans. Remember you can use the retroratchet function, to keep the goal a little dangerous, when you practice more than your goal dictates.
On the other hand I know from experience that I almost never do more than Beeminder dictates, because Beeminder works like an anchor for me. So if you’re like me, reducing the steepness like this will probably result in a period where you practice less than you otherwise would, until you start increasing the road beyond what you’re used to now.


I moved 3 posts to a new topic: Anchoring: Whether a Do-More goal can cause you to do less

I was pretty good about Beeminding my recorder practice for over two years, but then my recorder teacher died suddenly, and I’ve been having a lot of trouble staying motivated enough to practice on my own. I keep derailing and bumping the pledge price back down each time. Part of me wants to get another recorder teacher, but we’re planning to start trying for a kid this summer, so spending the money feels irresponsible. I just wish I had the self-discipline to do it on my own. Man, I miss my teacher.


A lot of people have similar results with a person trainer. Then when they stop seeing them, they go right back to the easy, old habits that didn’t work.