Beeminder Forum

Tomjen's Mega Newbee Guide

Beeminder is too confusing for new users so I figured we could start a wiki page to help newbees. (There’s also been previous discussion on starting one.)

How do I start a goal to…

Limit or nix a bad habit

You want a Do Less goal (even if you want to stop doing the thing entirely). Go to your user page and click the big blue “New Goal” button. In the center of your screen you’ll see this:

Select “Do Less”:

Then click “Next” and you’ll see this:

  • Name your goal this is a nice human readable name that you will see in your goal overview. Like all good names it should be descriptive and you are free to use spaces, etc

  • Your goal’s URL this is where you can see more information about your goal. In theory it gets filled in automatically when you write the goal name, in practice if you write “eat less candy” as your goal your url ends up being “Eat” which is not very useful. Change it now, because you can’t change it later.

  • Units how do you want to measure your goal? Remember Beeminder is not just about getting you to do what you really want to do, but also to measure what you really do.
    Think carefully here, do you want to track candy pieces, candy boxes or do you want to track days where you eat candy?

  • Commit to at most this is your how many of whatever you are tracking you want to do per week. Currently Beeminder doesn’t allow you to select per day, but if you want to eat less than two candies a day you can multiply that by 7 to get 14, which is your new weekly limit. Be nice to yourself: don’t set too hard a limit, you can always make it harder later.
    Also, other than for the first week, you don’t get your entire candy limit on monday mornings - each day you get 1/7 of you weekly limit added (which means if you only eat one candy on monday you can eat 3 the day after, but if you eat 3 monday you are doomed).

If you have been following along, this is what should be on your screen (you can follow along on the candy goal even if you don’t actually want to eat less candy, we will delete it at the end):

Click the blue “Create Goal” button, which should show you a screen like this:

Click the “Visit my goal” button. You should now see something like this (you may have to scroll down):
.
Does it look more like instrument panel for a 747 than what you were hoping? Don’t worry we will go over everything, but you don’t have to use most of it.

The two most important parts are the top, where you can see how much candy you can safely eat today and the bottom where you can enter how much candy you have eaten today.

At the top you should see this, with a live counter:

From the left:

  • Pledge how much you have to pay if you go over your limit. At present you are charged nothing, but you can click the button to be on the hook for real money. If you derail you will go automatically have a pledge that is one step higher than your current pledge: starting at 5$, then 10, 30, 90 (ouch), 270, etc. You can put a cap on it, but this is beyond the scope of this guide.
  • Live count down Since you are not eating candy, why is it counting down? Well Beeminder puts in an automatic datapoint of some value for every day you don’t, so even if you eat no candies that day, you still have to record it. Like the pledge cap, this is out of scope for this guide.
  • Hard cap green number: how much you can do and still be on the good side of the road. blue number how much you can be and still be on the middle of the road. red/orange number: how much you can do and still not have derailed. Other than the red number, this is essentially useless for do less goals.
    Also if you are wondering why it says 28 rather than 14, this is a bug in Beeminder than goes away once the goal has been active for a day.
    As always if that causes you to derail complain to support, who will fix it for you.

At the top there are three buttons, they reload your graph, allow you to edit data and access settings. We will skip them for now.

The other important thing is at the bottom:

This is where you enter your data each time you eat a candy. You can also see the latest datapoints. In this case beeminder created a datapoint of 0 on the 01 day of the month (that is the first day, which happens to be the day I took the pictures).
Lets say I had a piece of candy. I enter into the box as follows:

And click “Submit”. Now the bottom of the screen looks like this:

As I go about my day I can make multiple entries for the same day, and even correct entries for yesterday if I forget any. If you add more than one entry a day Beeminder will show each entry in the latest datapoint listing, but it will sum them up for the graph and for determining when you derail.

We skipped it initially because it can be a little confusing, but Beeminder is built around the Yellow Brick Road, which for this goal looked like this before we entered any data:

Note the green indicator which is our current position, then stripped middle (which is the middle of the road) and the highlighted area. As long as the indicator is within this area we are on the road. If it is below this area then we are doing well and if it is above this area we have derailed and will have to pay beeminder money. This is also the explanation for the numbers at the top: the green number is how much we can do and stay at the top of the road (which is actually the bottom), the second is how much we can do and be at the middle of the road, the last number (and the only one you really have to care about) tells us how much we can do until we are doomed and will have to pay money.

You don’t have to worry about that now, all you need to care about is the hard-cap for today. As long as it is positive you are okay.

You have probably noticed that the road is sloping: this is because it is measuring the total amount of candies you have eaten at that point, not the number you are committed to limit yourself to. So at 14 candies a week the Yellow Brick Road will reach 140 candies after 10 weeks.

Eventually you will want to change your weekly limit. You can do that with the Road Dial (which you can find just below the Yellow Brick Road).

There are three things to keep in mind:

  • Goal date: this is when your goal ends. After this you can eat all the candies you want. You may very well not have an end data in mind, but Beeminder requires one: select something like 2026 in this case. This is not the same as the derailment time (indicated on the countdown or the deadline, which is the time of day you will derail. For this goal, it is midnight).
  • Goal total this is total amount of candies you will have eaten by the time the goal ends. Note that this is greyed out because it is automatically calculated by the Goal date and Weekly rate. You can click the X besides either Goal date or Weekly rate to gray that one out instead and then you can change the goal total. Likely you don’t care about the total candies, so just ignore this one.
  • Weekly rate Find that two candies a day is too hard or too easy? You can change it here, but be aware that this won’t change it right away: it takes 7 days (in Beeminder terms: the Akrasia horizon) to take effect, so you can’t just weasel out of a commitment.

You will find that 7 days is used all over Beeminder, you can quit a goal (archive it), take a break or change your limits but the change can’t be made earlier than 7 days from now. This is for your protection, there isn’t much point in Beeminder if you can just change the rate when you are approaching doom.

So earlier I promised you show you how to delete your goal. Since the goal is less than a week old, you can just delete it right away. Click the big red “delete” button (located in the right side of your screen) then click the “Delete now” button on the popup.

If the goal had been more than a week old there would have been an “Archive Now” button, which starts a 7 day timer after which you goal is automatically archived. Unlike deleting a goal you are not of the hook right away.

Now you can create your real goal. Good luck and don’t derail.

###Do at least X on a goal###
You want the do more goal type, which is a tad confusing if you want to keep doing the same amount, rather than more; think of it as doing more than you would have done without Beeminder. Anyways click the big blue “New Goal” button, then click “Next” on the resulting popup (since “Do more” is the default goal type).

You should now see this:

Select a name for your goal. Names can be human readable, and contain spaces, etc.
Then set the URL for the goal. In theory that should be autofilled from the name with something sensible, but in practice you likely have to edit it.

Starting with a week of safety buffer is theoretically optional, but don’t uncheck the box, at least for your first goal.

Now you have to choose what to track. That can be pretty simple if you want to track e.g pushups, but if you want to track time spent on blogging than you really want to track this is hours, even if you only want to spend half an hour a week on it. Fill the name into the units box (e.g pushups, hours).

Finally choose much you want to commit to. Choose something that is easy, you can make it harder later.

In my case I have filled the goal out like this:

And no that totally isn’t a joke: like so many others I have Steam library full of games I never play, this should encurage me to fix that. Beeminding hobbies are encouraged by the way.

Click the “Create Goal” button, then click “Visit my goal” on the next page.

What you see should look like this:

Does it look more like instrument panel for a 747 than what you were hoping? Don’t worry we will go over everything, but you don’t have to use most of it.

The two most important parts are the top, where you can see how much you have to play today and the bottom where you can enter how much have played.

At the top you should see this, with a live counter:

  • Pledge how much you have to pay if you do less than you pledged to. At present you are charged nothing, but you can click the button to be on the hook for real money. If you derail you will go automatically have a pledge that is one step higher than your current pledge: starting at 5$, then 10, 30, 90 (ouch), 270, etc. You can put a cap on it, but this is beyond the scope of this guide.
  • Live count down If you do nothing, this is how long you have until you are doomed and have to pay your pledge.
  • Bare min the first number (which is currently a checkmark) is how much you have to do to be safe today. The second is how much you have do be at the centerline of the road (and therefore safe for tomorrow) and the final number is what you have to do to be at the top of the road (and therefore safe for the day after tomorrow). These numbers are critically important when you plan when you have to actually do the work.

At the top there are three buttons, they reload your graph, allow you to edit data and access settings. We will skip them for now.

Unless you enter data into Beeminder, you will derail and have to pay money. You enter data at the bottom:

Beeminder has already entered the first datapoint of zero for us.
As you go about your day you can enter more than one datapoint and Beeminder will sum them up for you and update all the information (including the live count down) each time.
Also I said earlier that you should track time in hours. If you worked for two minutes on a goal, you can enter this as “0:02” into the box and beeminder will convert it to be 0.033333 hours. If Beeminder doesn’t understand what you are trying to enter, it will highlight the input box in red so don’t worry about experimenting.

These are the basics, but there are two more things we need to take a look at:
The first is the Yellow Brick Road, which is central to Beeminder. Before we entered the data it looks like this:

Note the blue indicator which is our current position, then stripped middle (which is the middle of the road) and the highlighted area. As long as the indicator is within this area we are on the road. If it is below this area then we will derail at the deadline (which is by default midnight, but can be changed) and will have to pay Beeminder money unless we do some work. If it is above the limit area then we are doing well.

Eventually you will want to make what you have to do either easier or more difficult. You can change that using the Road Dial:

There are three things to keep in mind:

  • Goal date: this is when your goal ends. After this you are no longer on the hook for this goal. You may very well not have an end data in mind, but Beeminder requires one: select something like 2026 in this case. This is not the same as the derailment time (indicated on the countdown, or the deadline, which is the time of day you will derail).
  • Goal total this is total amount of hours you will have played by the time the goal ends. Note that this is greyed out because it is automatically calculated by the Goal date and Weekly rate. You can click the X besides either Goal date or Weekly rate to gray that one out instead and then you can change the goal total. If you don’t care about the work, so just leave this setting be.
  • Weekly rate Find that one hour a week is too hard or too easy? You can change it here, but be aware that this won’t change it right away: it takes 7 days (in Beeminder terms: the Akrasia horizon) to take effect, so you can’t just weasel out of a commitment.

You will find that 7 days is used all over Beeminder, you can quit a goal (archive it), take a break or change your limits but the change can’t be made earlier than 7 days from now. This is for your protection, there isn’t much point in Beeminder if you can just change the rate when you are approaching doom.

###I changed something and now I derailed without meaning to?###
Email support, they are super nice and can sort everything out.

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Apparently I can’t set this as a wiki. Can an admin please do so?

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Done! Thanks so much for doing this!

PS: I started editing and adding some links. I’ve only gotten to about the 2nd screenshot so far…

PPS: This is meant to be a wide-open wiki. Let me know if it doesn’t let you edit it. There might be some threshold for new users to be able to edit wikis – if so I can override it (and am interested to know if that’s the case regardless).

Thanks for kicking this off @tomjen!

Rather than one inevitably enormous post, should we make a Newbee category on the forum and populate it with a handful of howto and [wtf]( “a.k.a. anti-confusion”) guides? I thought it’d be polite to ask for views before starting to segment this excellent post…

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That’s a really good idea, @philip! I’ll create the category and promote @tomjen to whatever level of Godhood will enable him to start on the slicing and dicing…

This is incredible and exactly what I needed. I hope more people will continue to add to this. Thank you!

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I am writing part two right now, is there anything you don’t understand right now?

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And part two, slightly smaller:

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