My goal checklist: 20 Questions I would like to have answers to for all my goals

In another thread, @mary talked about the importance of having clear boundaries for your goals: what counts as satisfying the goal? what counts as derailing? what counts as a legit or non-legit derailment?

I’ve realized I don’t have very clear boundaries for a lot of my goals, and I didn’t write out anything or plan the setup very well. I was just like “I want to do X, so I’ll make a goal called X” without specifying more of the details for what counts or what to do in difficult situations.

So, here is a template or checklist for some things I would like to have pinned down for my goals. Maybe the beeminder interface should ask you these things specifically when making a goal, as a form of helpful friction.

I would like to know people’s thoughts on this checklist - how I should answer these, what items I should add or remove, and so forth. @phi @mary @narthur @adamwolf @dreev @shanaqui @halfplane @apolyton or anyone else who has some thoughts on this.

Deadlines and Reminders

  1. What is the deadline? How do I want to be reminded of it?
  2. Can I snooze this goal? Under what circumstances?
  3. How late can I snooze it?
  4. What happens if I break my snoozing rules?


  1. What do I actually have to do by the deadline in order to enter data? Just start it?
  2. What counts as starting?
  3. What happens if I start but don’t do the rest of the task?


  1. Can I do a “pre-check” for this goal (that is, enter data right as the deadline is coming up, and then do it after)?
  2. If so, how much time do I have to do it?
  3. What happens if I don’t? How will I make sure my data stays accurate?


  1. What do I actually have to do for this goal (and how much do I have to do) to be able to enter a “1”?
  2. What are the “implied disjunctives” for this task - that is, what situations or conditions would qualify as completing this task other than that?

Non-legit Derailments

  1. What counts as non-legit?
  2. Have I considered what happens if any of the following prevents me from completing the task: illness? lack of sleep? work obligations? social obligations? technical difficulties? supply issues? financial issues? preplanned travel? someone else gets in the way? purpose of goal is defeated?
  3. How will I decide whether or not a derailment is non-legit?


[Goodhart’s law says that you get what you measure and optimize for, not what you actually want - Beeminder tends to be very susceptible to it]

  1. What is the real purpose of this goal?
  2. How might my setup of this goal conflict with the real purpose? What are some situations where the purpose is better served by not doing the task?
  3. What will I do in case of such a conflict?


[because there’s a reason part of you doesn’t want to do the task - better look at that reason rather than just cover it up with Beeminder]

  1. Why am I having trouble getting this task done? What part of me doesn’t want to do it?
  2. If I imagine that suddenly I have no aversion to doing this, what issues come up for me? How does it benefit me to not to it?
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I don’t even know how to start answering these for my goals! It’s overwhelming. Any help would be really appreciated.

:sob: :worried: :open_mouth:
:cry: :frowning_face: :fearful:

I have a list like this for my goals. A few of the items on there have to do with rates, like “Is there a desired “end rate” that I’m working up to?” Others pin down things like “if I spent a whole week focussed on this goal, is that good or bad? Should I get a long break after that? How long?”

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I very much disagree with this! Here’s an ancient Beeminder blog post arguing how robust Beeminder is to Goodhart’s Law:

Also related, loopholes you can drive an ice cream truck through:

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