Thoughts on this policy? A derailment is not legit if I do the task by the end of the day

So I had a bunch of daily goals that were all due at the end of the day. The problem with this was that I put them all off until the last minute, and then couldn’t do them all.

So I set up a Waterfall, so they’re staggered throughout the day. :potable_water:

But sometimes, due to appointments or something; I don’t get a task done at the scheduled time. So I added a rule that the derailment is not legit if I do the task by the end of the day.

This way I get the best of both worlds: the urgency in the middle of the day when applicable, and the flexibility to do it by the end of the day when necessary. So far it seems to be working well.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to flame me :fire:

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Thoughts? The deadline is the deadline, I wouldn’t mess around with that.

So if you want a deadline of end-of-day, set that and stick to it (or suck up the consequences of failing to plan).

I personally derail all the time because of life that I choose to prioritize over my Beeminder goals. To me, that’s all legit, and I’ve set my pledge caps accordingly.

I’d try waterfalling your reminders instead, so that one goal starts nagging you at 9am, one at 10am, etc. (or whatever schedule), and train yourself to react to the Zeno notification as though it’s got some actual weight behind it. Nothing more useless than an alarm clock that you let yourself snooze.

Curious about what does count as legit. Sounds as though your fine print accommodates pretty much any ice cream truck you care to drive through it. :icecream:


If it works, it works.
Our mind plays tricks on us. We are allowed to play tricks on our mind. Beeminder is built on this premise imho. Do your thing!


Harsh! I did ask for flames though :fire:

A legit derail is when I derail akratically, and I have plenty of those. Not sure what you mean about it accommodating anything.

Well, right now I have 41 daily goals, so at the minimum $5 pledge I lose $100 every day that other obligations prevent me from doing even half of them. I can’t afford that!

Insofar as Beeminder is a tool to make hard-and-fast commitments (which is what it was built to do), you really, really don’t want to start messing with this sort of thing.

For instance, you lose the ability to do this, and the urgency that goes with it: intrinsically, having the flexibility to do it by the end of the day means that in the middle of the day it’s not urgent.

If you’ve pledged $205 that you’ll do this list of 41 things, and you both expect to not, in fact, do half of those things, and at the same time you don’t want (even in the long-term, non-akratic sense of “want”) to pay $100… well, then it certainly seems like you pledged the wrong thing!

Put it this way: if you expect that in some days you won’t do half the things, then you (upfront) have two choices. Either you decide that on such days you’ll pay $100, or you decide that you don’t want to do that.

The second option is a perfectly fine choice! $100 is a lot of money. You don’t need to decide to do things you don’t want to do. But you should be honest about it up front. You shouldn’t say “Oh yes, on such days I’ll pay $100”, if up front you don’t intend to.

So then why did you say exactly that to Beeminder? I have a good guess, that it’s because Beeminder doesn’t let you pledge less than $5 per goal (except $0), even if you are a Beemium user.

Imagine if you had pledged $1 per goal. (Or if even paying $20 is too much, imagine if you pledged $0.50 per goal.) Would that change how you viewed things?

(All this is really also a response to what you wrote in the other thread, and might be more on topic there. But here is a more concrete tie-in. Probably it would have been better if these were both combined into one forum thread.)


Sorry, I don’t understand your first clause - lose the ability to do what?

No, $100 would be the correct amount for a legit (akratic) derail. But a lot of the time I’ll be derailing non-akratically, and those are non-legit, so I can’t bee paying $100 for those times. The pledge is for akratic derails.

I’m deciding (upfront) that on days where I don’t do half the things, I’ll pay $100 for an akratic derail, but if, say, I had client meetings or appointments or had to be in court, that’s not an akratic derail. And since the “real” deadline is the end of the day, if I do it by the end of the day, that doesn’t count as a legit derail either.

I mean that you lose the ability to be influenced by the “urgent” tasks in the middle of the day. As you know you won’t be stung even if you miss the mid-day deadline, you have no incentive to pay the slightest bit of attention to if you meet the deadline or not.

It’s not entirely clear to me what it would mean for a derail to be non-akratic. Let’s take a concrete example, because otherwise this is too abstract. Let’s say you want to beemind doing the dishes. For the most part, you want to wash the dishes every day, but with emphasis on that “for the most part”. You know that pretty frequently (maybe a few times a week) something will come up, and you’ll end up leaving the dishes in the sink to be done the next day. That’s not the end of the world, of course, so long as you don’t let them sit there indefinitely and never actually wash them, ending up with no clean dishes.

You think about it, and you realize that on average maybe twice a week something of that level of importance comes up. Great: you set the slope of your goal to 5/week. That means that twice a week you can beg off doing the dishes, invoking the “something else is more important”, but then that doesn’t turn into a situation where you have no clean dishes, because Beeminder enforces on you that you’re not excusing yourself for every little thing, just for things on the scale of comes-up-no-more-than-twice-a-week.

Is that the scale you want? Maybe. Maybe it’s 3/week. So set the slope accordingly. This isn’t intrinsically unknowable upfront: from your description it seems that you’re not talking about black swan events like a sudden illness or your car breaking down, but rather fairly normal not-quite-day-to-day work things that there is no reason you can’t plan for.

Putting it another way: if you decide you’ll do the dishes X times per week, then sure, great, whatever value of X works for you, if that’s what you actually plan to do. If you say one value of X, but know that in reality it probably will be a different (lower) value, then say that second value in the first place. What benefit do you get from trying to fool yourself into thinking you’ll do the higher number? And if you do so and fail to hold yourself to this (unrealistically high, and known upfront to be unrealistically) standard, you then say that you feel that the derailment was not legit.

This is rather strange. If you actually managed to fool yourself that would be one thing. (Tricking yourself into achieving your goals is a tried and true strategy.) But from what I can tell you aren’t: you know perfectly well what will happen, and that’s why you’re right now discussing your policy of what to do when it does. That’s rather self-defeating, if what you’re trying to do is trick yourself into accomplishing more.


That’s an exaggeration - I do have some incentive and the mid-day deadlines do influence me some, just maybe not as much as if I had to pay. But that’s ok, since the real deadline is at the end of the day, and the mid-day deadlines are just there to help organize things.

Another way to implement this would be to set up two beeminder goals for each task, one with $0 pledge and mid-day deadline and the other with $5 pledge and end-of-day deadline.

I’m going to copypaste your comment on non-akratic derails in the other thread and respond there.

Yes, your description of it as equivalent to setting up a $0 goal for the middle of the day and a $5 goal for the end of the day makes sense.

I personally would probably actually implement it that way (with two goals) if that’s what I wanted to do, as opposed to calling not legit. I feel that calling not legit should be reserved for truly unexpected cases, and I’d be uncomfortable with calling not legit for something like this.

But that’s just a different philosophy of what not-legit means. I agree that what you describe is equivalent to doubling up on goals, and of course that would be a perfectly fine thing to do. So putting aside my compunctions about calling not legit, sure, why not.

I see that you copy-pasted it, but I don’t see your response there. Am I missing something?


No, you didn’t miss anything. I haven’t gotten to it yet but I will.

So what’s your philosophy on non-legit? What kind of truly unexpected cases do you think qualify?

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I shy away from calling not-legit: even the ability to do so is a fundamental threat to the Beeminder model.

I really like the fact that I can tell Beeminder e.g. “I’m going to do such-and-such 3 times per week or pay $5”, and then that is locked in. I either do it 3 times per week, or pay $5. No other possibilities. (This, of course, vastly increases the chances I’ll do it 3 times per week, because otherwise I’d have to pay $5, and no one likes giving up money.)

The fact that this is so clear-cut is what makes it so valuable (to me). No excuses, no getting out of it. 3 times per week, or $5. (Or whatever other numbers there are for the goal in question.)

In theory this could work with fineprint, but in practice there is no way it could. The second it becomes that bit less clear-cut, the akrasia sets in, and much of Beeminder’s value is lost.

I think this really is a difference in how the akrasia manifests: you say you have a hard time doing things where the deadline is not today, but have no problem navigating a complex system of exceptions. I, on the other hand, mostly have no problem in being motivated a few steps further away from derailment (the difference in buffer between “I have to do this in 7 hours” and “I have to do this in 2 days” is quantitative, not qualitative, even if Beeminder’s UI shows them differently), but would have great difficulty in getting myself to follow a complex and semi-arbitrary series of exceptions and fineprint.

Anyway: I’ve called not-legit exactly once, in ~6 years of using Beeminder, for a medical emergency. If you have to visit the emergency room, or something of a similar level of outside-the-normal urgency and unexpectedness, then sure, my philosophy can accept that that’s what not-legit is for. Basically: for something so outside the bounds of normal life that it throws everything else completely out the window.

For me, I don’t know if there is much else other than a hospitalization or emergency room visit that qualifies. Maybe if I was stuck somewhere because of something like the 2010 volcanic ash cloud or something along those lines.

But I also know that my reading of this philosophy is fairly strict: someone else who was practicing more or less the same philosophy might treat lesser-but-still-out-of-the-ordinary events as triggering a not-legit, such as a car breaking down or the like.


I have a hard time doing things if the deadline is not RIGHT NOW. There’s a qualitative difference between “I have to do this later” and “I have to do this RIGHT NOW.”


Yeah, OK, I get it. It really does seem that there is a fair amount of personal variation in how akrasia manifests. There are some similarities though: the temptation to bury your head in the sand and just not do whatever it is seems to be the heart of the matter. But what that means to different people can differ: this covers both what you’re saying about if it’s not now then it’s too easy to just not do, and what I was saying about if it’s not very clear then it’s too easy not to do.

So that does mean that we’re coming at this from slightly different angles, and want slightly different things out of Beeminder. That said, it seems to me that you can get what you want from Beeminder without giving up what is awesome about Beeminder. (Or, you know, what I find awesome about it. Maybe you don’t care about the same things I care about. That’s fine too.)

Perhaps you could do something like this: set a timer, or maybe something stochastic like tagtime. Then whenever it goes off, you’ve got X minutes (5 minutes? 10 minutes? Whatever “right now” means to you) in order to do the goal. If you don’t, you mark a data point on a “respond to the timer” Beeminder “do less” goal. (Which for the sake of argument hasn’t got any buffer.)

Then you can disable the timer during times when you don’t want to be interrupted. You can do that whenever it’s needed, just not between the timer going off and you doing your goal.

You can use one timer for all your goals (and pick one to do each time it goes off), or multiple times. I don’t know how well it would work with tens of them though.

What do you think? I’m not saying that this is a perfect scheme, it’s just what I came up with off the top of my head just now. But that’s the direction I would explore in if I was trying to satisfy the constraints you have.


Love this – unusual, unpredictable, disruptive events.

I’ve called non-legit more times than @zzq, but have erred on the side of being pretty conservative. That includes my annus horribilis of 2015, the series of crises that I blogged about beeminding through.

Checking… found 82 emails to support with legit in the subject, in 7.4 years of beeminding, so that’s about one a month. Currently have just 24 active goals, but normally had double that or more. There are 155 goals on my archive page.

That’s me too. Master procrastinator, me.

If half of my ‘daily’ tasks were going to derail every day, I know that I’d consistently neglect doing the same tasks day after day. Been there, got the t-shirt. By halving the rate, different tasks would eep! on different days and I’d make more widespread progress.

Absolutely. And even in the same individual over time. Like spaghetti sauce, there is no perfect system, but there are perfect systems.

Some people have success with beeminding “start working on task”. Starting on tasks, doing little but often, is a core part of Mark Forster’s methods.