In a recent email to @dreev, I wrote
I wish there was some good way to use Beeminder for very short term goals, the kind you want to do exactly once, but very soon. Things like “I’ll write a reply to this sometime today”. For a while I had a “must-do” type goal, but that doesn’t help with things you want to get done sooner than tomorrow. I find that if I leave something like this to the next day, I lose a lot of my motivation for doing it in the first place.
I want to clarify what I mean here, and why, having considered commits.to, it doesn’t match up with what I want.
One of the great things about Beeminder is that it takes your money. This gives failing in your goals a real and immediate sting. This is a good thing. In fact, it’s the only thing. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be using Beeminder.
But commits.to is a different model entirely. Beeminder’s model allows you to make private commitments to yourself. Indeed, all my Beeminder goals are marked as private, because I know that otherwise I will feel really self conscious every single time I interact with Beeminder, knowing that I’m broadcasting my actions to (potentially) the whole world. (Even if, in practice, probably no one cares enough to look at it even if it was public.)
It seems that commits.to takes the opposite tack entirely. Its reason for existence is public commitment, which is the precise opposite of what I want here. I want to make private commitments, to myself. Long term, ongoing commitments are something I can make with Beeminder, but short term, one-off commitments are something Beeminder’s UI isn’t set up to do well (even if, in theory, Beeminder can handle it.)
Another advantage of Beeminder (as opposed to commits.to) is that it makes failing, well, not exactly OK, but something with a well-defined monetary cost. This means that I can make a reasoned decision of whether I am willing to derail or not. By contrast, commits.to, with its percentage scores, doesn’t really encourage that. I don’t want to succeed all the time. If I find that I am, that means I definitely wasn’t aiming high enough.
But it all comes back to the first thing I mentioned, the fact that commits.to is built as a public_commitments engine. All the various things that get in the way of it being good for private commitments to myself are actually features. Many of them are really good features for if you want to measure (and show off) how well you stick to your (public) commitments.
All I want is Beeminder, really. Beeminder for one-off goals. I want to say to myself “Today sometime I’ll get around to replying to that email” or “pick up groceries on the way home” or something like that, and then, if at the end of the day I haven’t lived up to that, to pay $5 (or some other dollar amount).
That’s something I should be able to do with Beeminder, but can’t. The important factor there is that it’s a one-off event. It’s not every day that I feel that there is a specific email I have to respond to today, or groceries I need to get, or whatever other short-term goals I sometimes have.
There are ways around it. I mentioned “must-do” goals. I had one for a while, and it was fairly good. But because it involves setting a goal for the next day, it doesn’t actually help with this the way it could with goals that I want to get done today.
Perhaps there is a variation on the concept of a “must-do” goal that might work. If anyone has any ideas, I’m eager to try some out. But this post is mostly a response to @dreev about why I feel that commits.to, for all its promise, just doesn’t cut it for me. I’m not currently looking to track my public commitments (although who knows, I might get into doing that too, sometime), but rather something somewhat different.
So fine, commits.to isn’t for me. I’m sure it works well for others who have slightly different things they want out of it. But I just wish or hope that Beeminder can somehow build a feature that covers my use-case, as well. (Note that I am complaining here mostly that Beeminder doesn’t currently have a way for me to give them money in the way that I want to. (i.e. when I fail my short term goals.))