What to do when you realized your "must-do" goal for the day is unexpectedly, physically impossible to accomplish

I recently started a “must-do” goal as described in The One Must-Do Task Each Day.

My situation: My goal today was to delete a certain Discord server. Earlier in the week I had discussed with other admins that we would delete the server on this day in particular, so I used the must-do goal to remind myself to do it today. Today I went to delete it, and I realized that it was impossible for me to do since I’m not the server owner. I followed up with the server owner, but he doesn’t usually get a request done on the same day.

I would give myself a +1 for sure if he deletes the server by the end of the day. If he doesn’t delete it, should I give myself a +1 for fulfilling the spirit of the goal, even though I couldn’t fulfill it literally? Or would I be setting a bad precedent for not thinking through my must-do tasks enough ahead of time?

Please help me decide since I’m concerned that I am too biased to do so :slight_smile:


This is a bit tricky since it depends on the person.

I personally try to keep my stakes low enough that I’m ok with taking the hit in case of ambiguity. I see it as a small cost for keeping beeminder effective for me.

Another good strategy is to decide what you’d be happy with as a rule for all future similar scenarios, codify the new rule in your goal’s fine print, and then follow the rule for the current situation and going forward. The specific rule would depend on factors such as the specifics of the goal and how given you are to weaseling.

These two strategies are related, since I find I’m more likely to weasel the higher my stakes are. So for goals with relatively lower stakes I can have somewhat looser rules.

However, if I do find myself weaseling on a goal, I take that as a strong signal that I need to modify or replace the goal.


In addition to what narthur said, you could consider changing the commitment to 5 or 6 per week, to give yourself the ability to build up a buffer.


My goal today was to delete a certain Discord server.

so I used the must-do goal to remind myself to do it today

Using the former, it very clearly sounds to me that you failed to hit your must-do for the day.
Using the latter, you were reminded of it.
It seems to me your goal ‘target’ for the day was an overestimate. These things happen. Maybe next time your goal can be ‘do some action item related to deleting the discord server’.


Maybe next time your goal can be ‘do some action item related to deleting the discord server’.

Seconding this.

Generally, whenever a tasks depends on other people I try to phrase it as an action that I can do, like “remind” or “ping” or whatever.


Or phrase your goal in general as “[Do everything I can do related to]…the task”.

I wouldn’t say you were weaselling out of this one myself. You could have thought it through more in advance, but thinking it through too much is sometimes another way to put off doing things and it doesn’t get on your “must do” list at all that way, and then it doesn’t get done, and that’s not helpful!


One thing I have done in the past I changed the metric. Instead of loads of dishes washed the metric is dishes washed points. This allows me to make rules in the fine print to add points even if I haven’t done dishes if the situation fits what I had in my fine print for an exception. As otherwise it felt like fake data even if I met an exception as the metric was dishes washed. But with the points I don’t have that issue.

Though I would say keep your fine print very specific on what qualifies as an exception otherwise you run the risk of making the goal ineffective. I have done this mainly so I don’t have to bother support as much.

Though then again you could go the complete opposite way and make the goal have an ice cream sized loophole (Ice Cream Truck Loopholes | Beeminder Blog).

Recently I have moved a lot of goals into one goal using boss as a service. I have a set schedule for goals and if I don’t complete one then a datapoint gets added to my boss as a service goal which is a do less goal. This allows me to explain the situation to my hired boss and they get to decide if it is a valid exception or not. Also makes me provide proof for my tasks. But also has the sting of Beeminder.

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I think you take the penalty/pay the fee, that’ll make your overall system more effective. Then you can use it as a lesson learned about goal formation – even if the lesson is you have to add a standard clause like “unless I new information comes to light (e.g. I thought I could delete this discord server myself but actually it takes someone else), in which case I’ll use my judgement to substitute an appropriate goal”.