New Years Resolution: no weaseling

I’ve been a bit of a weaseling weasel on Beeminder over the last year or two, more and less at different points. This takes various forms, including some things that I used to do very infrequently and therefore it was nbd when I did them, like saying at 11:56pm that I’d meditated for 5 minutes, but not actually doing the meditation until I went to bed at 2am.

Or, treating goals as magic-integer goals that weren’t intended to be. (For m/blog, I’ve long had a principle of “the blog post is only due when the due amount is an integer”)

So from now on, I’m going to be more clear about my fine print (including whether it does the integer thing above).

And! This anti-weaseling thing extends beyond Beeminder. In particular, I’m also going to be more strict about what’s actually a pomodoro and what was "I was doing mostly productive stuff for 25 minutes with a timer running. If I was super focused and just forgot to start the timer, I’ll count that, but if I got even a little distracted… like right now my Complice timer says this:

But what am I working on?? Why is my pomo timer running if I’m not working on something in particular?

I’m posting publicly for public accountability and because I figure there may be other people out there who’ve also gotten a little loose and might want to join me :slight_smile:


I lately find myself feeling exactly the opposite. One time I had to write a postcard to my girlfriend but I was at a friend’s movie night and had forgotten to bring any postcards with me, so I wrote the postcard’s text on my phone, then wrote the actual postcard when I got home (after midnight, which was the deadline) and mailed it.

That was weaseling, there’s really no question about it. But I’m having trouble thinking of ANY positive effect not allowing it would have had. I would have lost money, I wouldn’t have written the postcard (because it wouldn’t have stopped me from derailing anyway), and I wouldn’t have written any postcards for a week because of the flat spot (and no, I don’t want to use no mercy on this goal, or on any goal really; that’s too harsh on myself for what I may have just realized is a bad goal).

“But Beeminder will lose its magic if you weasel!” Well, I’m still here, and I still have just as many goals and have mostly not derailed on them, nor done any weaseling that I ended up thinking was a bad idea.

Now, of course you shouldn’t outright lie to Beeminder or it really is pointless. But it’s up to you how you interpret that and whether that interpretation works for you. Personally, if I’d said “5 minutes” (or “yes”, however your goal is worded) to meditating at 11:56, and then immediately done it, I’d count that as a win both technically and in the spirit of the goal. Waiting until 2:00 might have been a bit much, though.


I agree!

…the problem is making a habit of it, which I was. And it’s the kind of
habit that’s very hard to wean oneself off of gradually.


Rule of thumb I like: stick to what you’re ok with being in your permanent, preferably public, fine print for the goal. Like maybe you’re ok adding a clause that writing the text of the postcard on something other than the postcard is allowed. Maybe with the stipulation that you can’t make any changes when copying it to the postcard. The key is to guard against slippery slopes.

(Rambly tangent: Once I had a blogging rule similar to @malcolm’s that I could report a draft of a MessyMatters blog post as 0.5 to Beeminder. I figured it was too fuzzy what counted as a draft but I thought I could unfuzz that by stipulating that I had to be willing to publicize the draft version with a tweet. It turned out that I didn’t have an engaged enough audience that they cared whatsoever about the drafts and so I slid down a slippery slope where the drafts would just be rough notes. Which defeated the point of spreading out the work. The beemergencies for publishing the real posts were as stressful as ever.)

Back to the postcard example, if you didn’t stipulate that no changes were allowed then you could slide down a slippery slope where you ended up jotting “i’m fine wish you were here” on a scrap of paper and entering a 1 in Beeminder with the intention to turn it into a proper postcard later.

Anyway, the postcard transcription clause seems workable but “I can count 5 minutes of meditation right before it happens” seems too slippery and not actually useful to have in the fine print. If you want to be able to start meditating at 11:59pm then just set your deadline to 12:05am.

Oh, I’d be remiss not to link to my post about cheating and @chelsea’s weasel heart-to-heart.

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PS: To clarify, I think it’s maybe ok to make up slightly weaselly new rules on the fly to avoid derailing as long as you feel ok about those rules being permanent and public. Never ever convince yourself that something is ok “just this once”. Everything falls apart if you do that!


Interesting… I never thought about it that way, but I think I’ve been implicitly following that rule. Some of the circumstances were unlikely to occur again, but if they did, I think I’d treat them the same way.

Your proposed postcard rule is actually more lenient than the one I would have made, because I would have only allowed the exception if it were impossible to write the actual postcard. In general I follow “ought implies can” when weaseling.