Scheduled breaks

Hi again!

I’ve been really enjoying and getting a positive productivity boost from Beeminder since I started using it a week ago.

I have a question about the scheduled breaks. I wanted to make a scheduled break on 26-29 of January because I will be away during those days and it would be impossible to meet my goals during those days, but it seems like I can only set a break one week from now (starting on 30th) which doesn’t make any sense to me. I understand that it would be cheating if I mark today as a scheduled break, but why can’t I deliberately plan to take tomorrow or in this case 3 days from now off?
I know it would be possible to just cheat and mark those days as productive, but I hope there is a better way to do it.

It’s possible that it is something I missed and there’s a good workaround to it. For other users, how do you take a day off on a goal? Or the days when you get sick or something urgent and unexpected happens?

Hi! Thanks for mentioning you were confused about it – it’s always valuable to hear about this kind of thing!

This constraint is called the “akrasia horizon”, which you can read more about in the help docs. It’s based on a study which found people making decisions about their next week’s shopping are better able to make decisions which align with their long-term goals. When they have to make decisions about grocery shopping for this week, they buy more ice cream; when they have to make decisions about next week’s shopping, they buy more vegetables.

Making this period a week rather than 2-3 days is a bit of guesswork, but it’s guesswork that has been borne out by years of running Beeminder this way. When people have to plan their breaks at least a week in advance, they’re better able to ensure that taking a break on that goal really aligns with their long-term goals. It’s easy for me to think right now that taking a break on my studying goal tomorrow and on Wednesday will be fine, but if I’m thinking about it in terms of planning a day off next week, then I’m putting it into a longer-term context and thinking “oh, a break next week is pretty much in February already, and taking a break then will cut into the time I have for doing my assignment”… and I stick to the one-day break I need rather than the three-day break I want.

The ideal akrasia horizon quite possibly varies between different people, but that really complicates the code, the UI, the documentation and the support burden… so an adjustable akrasia horizon is something that may happen in future if we think of an elegant way to do it and there actually seems to be demand for it. (There is some, but more often there’s just confusion where people didn’t realise this limitation existed; there are folks who claim they don’t experience akrasia at all, but I’m sceptical that that’s broadly true across all their goals – human perceptions of ourselves are famously self-serving, and not always in the good-for-us kinda way.)

As far as a workaround goes, there isn’t one. Beeminder’s a commitment contract that’s intended to lock you in within that akrasia horizon, so you can’t just quit on the spur of the moment. That said, when an emergency comes up and you’re not able to do the goal, you can contact to explain the situation, and we’ll take a look and figure out with you the best way to handle it.

Other than that, some people have other ways of dealing with it; I keep extra safety buffer on my goals, for example, and a number of folks have a ‘calendial’ goal to help them remember to put breaks in well in advance.

Does that help and illuminate things at all? Eager to hear your thoughts!


Thanks a lot for a detailed answer! I see your point and it’s good to know that there was some thinking behind this decision.

I understand that it depends on the person whether it is useful or not. Peronally, I would love to have an option to turn off this one week ‘akrasia horizon’ constraint and reduce it to 1 day. For my personal lifestyle it would make planning and scheduling my life easier because I think for my specific case it has a counterproductive effect.
At the moment I can think of three workarounds, I might try to experiment with all three and will see which one works the best:

  1. As you suggested, contact the support. I hope support people won’t get too annoyed by me if I send several emails a month :slight_smile:
  2. Delete and re-create the goals every 6 days. This would probably work, but doesn’t seem like a fun way to do things because I would lose all the statistics.
  3. Delibarely and responsibly decide during which days I will just fill in ‘fake’ results.I would set strict personal rules about it that I cannot do it for today and this can only be done for tomorrow or some other day in the future. This would also work, but would distort the statistics.

With the current goals I had, I was actually still able to delete them because I had started them 6 days ago.


You can definitely contact the support team for help in an emergency, as long as you explain why you’re not going to be physically able to complete the goal – we’re not meant to be there to help you run your goals on a day-to-day basis, though, so I wouldn’t think in terms of planning to contact us several times a month!

We would also caution against using any kind of fake data; it’s one of those things that pretty invariably cheapens the goal (not to mention ruins the goal’s statistics) over time. Danny’s got a blog post about that on the blog. A strategy like Orange Is The New Red might be helpful, though (basically what I do, as you can see).

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Thanks! ‘Orange is the new red’ might be a solution that works for me. And if it doesn’t even though I know you are against it, I will also consider putting in the ‘fake data’ on my off days.

To make it more clear, my goals are mostly work related and I don’t have a constant schedule. Sometimes I work 7 days a week, sometimes I do it only 3 or 4 days a week and this is not planned weeks in advance. That’s why being able to shcedule a break for tomorrow or two days in advance would be a very useful option for me.
During my work days, my goals stay the same every day, but I don’t have fixed amount of days I work per week/month.


There are some other options to try that might work for you:

  1. You could have a graph that’s got a slope of 0 by default and then, at the beginning of the week or month (or whatever frequency makes sense), you could make the goal harder for that period. (You can make any goal harder within the akrasia horizon, just not easier, so that might allow you to sit down and decide what to lock yourself in for with a bit shorter notice and without having to constantly recreate the graph.) The easiest way to do this is with the graph editor, which is a perk of the BeePlus and Beemium subscription levels (and has a bit of a learning curve to get used to, so you’d want to play around with it a bit until you understand it).

  2. You said that your goals stay the same every day that you work but that you just aren’t scheduled to work every day. You could have a goal(s) that requires a +1 every day and that has success criteria phrased something like “I worked all of the hours that I was scheduled to work today,” or “I completed all of the tasks that were on my must-do task list today” or whatever makes sense for your circumstances. Then, if you were scheduled to work 3 hours but you worked 2.5, you can’t +1 the goal but if you were scheduled to work 0 and you worked 0, job done! That way you never enter fake data; you’re just tracking something slightly different.

(I would also echo fake data as a huge risk to long-term beeminding – I’ve been using Beeminder for over 10 years and fake data is the highest-probability way I’ve ever seen to tank the tool.)


Thanks for the suggestions, Mary!

I will consider the fourth option if the other ones don’t work.

  1. Yes that could possibly work too. Although (I know I didn’t explain it well), I would prefer to keep the statistics in hours so that if I do one extra hour of work today, I am allowed to do 1 hour less tomorrow if I choose to.

Regarding fake data, yesterday I had an idea of how I could do it almost without faking anything and not messing up the long term stats.
For example, if today is Tuesday and for a goal ´7 productive hours´ I want to take a day off this Thursday I could schedule a break for Thursday next week even though I wouldn’t take a day off that day. If my goal is in yellow, it is okay and I don’t need to do anything because I would get that extra day to recover next week. In case if it is in red, I could possibly ‘fake it’ and write down that I did 7 hours this thursday and also write it down in my notes as a ‘debt time’ that I have. I could try to recover it during that thursday next week which is scheduled as a day off, but it is actually not. That day, if I reach 7 hour mark, instead of putting the information into Beeminder, I could erase the ‘debt time’ and I would be even.
I don’t know if my explanation makes sense, but it should be quite simple to do.

In any case, I will try the other options first :slight_smile:

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