For the full story, including the story of our previous name, Kibotzer, check out our blog: blog.beeminder.com/beenamer.
At the bottom of your dashboard there’s a "Create new goal" button. In the navigation menu in the upper right corner of the site there’s a link to "New goal". On the home page, there's a button that says "Start goal". Or go to beeminder.com/new.
The key choice to make when creating a goal is the initial rate. That’s the steepness of the Bright Red Line (aka Yellow Brick Road) — how much you’re committing to do per day or per week, in whatever units you’ll be reporting in. For example, for weight loss, if you want to lose half a pound a week, that’s a weekly rate of -0.5 which means -0.071 pounds per day. For 3 workouts per week where you’ll enter a 1 for every workout (a Do More goal) that’s a weekly rate of 3. For 30 minutes of exercise per day, that’s 210 minutes per week, or 3.5 if you’ll be reporting hours, which is probably more convenient. We recommend picking a conservative rate at first because you can adjust the steepness as you go with the Road Dial beneath your graph. For more on this you might like the how-to video on our front page.
Enter data on your dashboard (click the the '>' arrow next to the goal for the data entry form). You can also enter your data next to your graph on the graph page. Or you can answer the emails from email@example.com or text (SMS) your data to the bot. You can enter multiple datapoints at once and you can reply to any email from the bot with data for any day, or multiple days. Finally, we’re adding more and more devices and apps that can automatically send data to Beeminder. Stay tuned!
Check out our pricing page. The short answer: you keep all your datapoints on the right side of the bright red line and if you ever don’t then we collect the amount you pledged. By default we also automatically put you back on the hook at a higher pledge amount but with time to opt out of that.
That’s what “safe days” or the “safety buffer” is telling you. You should try to keep your datapoints on the right side of the bright red line at all times but if you start the day on the wrong side of the line (in the red) you have until midnight that night to get back on. We call that a “beemergency”.
1. You get an email asking if the derailment was legit.
2. You’re automatically charged the amount of your pledge.
3. Your graph is automatically rerailed at a higher pledge amount, up to your pledge cap.
4. By default you get a week of safety buffer after derailing.
That week of buffer means you have enough time to adjust the slope, change the pledge, or archive the goal completely. Adjust that post-derail respite and your pledge cap in your goal's settings.
Details on our blog: blog.beeminder.com/derail.
Look for the Stop/Pause tab on your goal page to find the Archive button. Clicking the Archive button will get the goal out of your gallery and stop any bot reminders with a one-week delay. It’s by design that Beeminder doesn’t make it easy to get rid of goals. We’re all about committing to goals. (Though in the first week, the Archive button is actually a Delete button, so you can try out new goals with impunity.)
If something went wrong and a goal needs to be permanently or immediately deleted, definitely let us know and we’ll delete it for you manually.
Ratchet makes your goal harder by reducing the amount of buffer you have and making your next beemergency be sooner. For example, if you currently have 3 days of buffer on your goal, but you want Beeminder to make sure you work on it tomorrow, you would ratchet to 1 day of safety buffer, making your next beemergency be tomorrow. Ratchet decreases the amount of buffer you have by moving your bright red line vertically, bringing it closer to your current datapoint. (You can also read about ratcheting on our blog or in our glossary.)
Beeminder is great for that! Set up a goal and pick something ridiculously easy as your initial rate. For example, -0.001 pounds per week for weight loss — essentially flat. Or one workout every other week (weekly rate 0.5). Then when you get a sense of what’s realistic you can dial up the steepness of the bright red line.
Beeminder works well for things that you do in bursts or infrequent chunks. Check out our blog post — Chunky Time — about this. The short version is: once you do one session, you’ll be far above the bright red line with plenty of safety buffer to get to your next session. If you can’t do one session within the next day or two, check the box to start with as much initial safety buffer as you need — drawn as a flat spot on the bright red line.
Those three fields comprise what we call the Road Dial. It’s how you change the steepness of your bright red line (aka yellow brick road), i.e., how you make the goal easier or harder.
The reason one field — goal date, goal value, or rate — is grayed out is that specifying two implies the third. Specifying an amount and a date implies a necessary rate to get there in time. Likewise rate & date imply amount, and amount & rate imply date. It’s math, yo. We only let you give two at a time and Beeminder figures out the third for you to make sure your goal is self-consistent. You choose which one Beeminder infers by exing/graying it out.
It’s especially handy if you’re not sure what you want to commit to. You can experiment, for example, like this: “If I lose a pound a week till Christmas I’ll weigh… 160 pounds? What if I want to weigh 140 pounds by Christmas? Two pounds per week? That’s too much, but how long till I hit 140 at -1.5 per week? March 15. Ok, what if I just go for 140 by next Christmas?” Etc.
TagTime is really übernerds-only for now but the idea is you can randomly sample yourself to see where your time is going — a box pops up at random times asking what you’re doing Right Now and you gradually build up a statistically significant picture of where your time goes. (For many things RescueTime works beautifully and Beeminder has a nice normal-person-friendly RescueTime integration. You should definitely set up RescueTime before messing with Tagtime!) But for the doubly nerdy you can set up TagTime to automatically update a Beeminder graph by following all the instructions in the README on GitHub. See also TagTime Minder.
Datapoints on these graphs are automatically summed and it’s the cumulative total that’s plotted. If today is the 28th and you enter 28 2 and later 28 3, that’s the same as entering 28 5 one time. Do More goals and Do Less goals are auto-summing. (You can also read about auto-summing in our glossary.)
Normally you enter the day of the month followed by the value for that day. If you find it annoying to remember what day of the month it is, you can use a caret to mean “today” and a double-caret for “yesterday” (any number of carets work, in fact):
^^ 200 ^ 199 "lost a pound since yesterday!"Note that you can enter as many datapoints at a time as you like, one per line. (Also, spacing doesn’t matter. But the quotation marks do.)
There are also a couple shortcuts for entering the values. If you’re recording amounts of time you can enter, for example, 1:30 and it will be translated as 1.5. Similarly for amounts of time as H:M:S. And if you’re British you can enter a weight as, for example, 10st5 and it will be recorded as 145. If you’re not British then you now think Brits are even more bizarre than you thought previously!
All of these shortcuts — carets, colons, and stones — are just that: shortcuts for entering data. Beeminder receives your datapoint as if you had entered the equivalent day-of-month number version.
You can but the format we support is in flux right now so we’d rather you stick to just entering the day of the month, as in the initial example datapoint. Beeminder intelligently disambiguates, almost always correctly guessing the year and month you must have meant. (If you're importing data, or have more than, say, a week's worth of data to add, see the next question about importing data.)
Yes and yes. (Well, you can only import data to manual entry goals.) This is a big deal to us and has been available from day one. Go to the Data tab for your goal and look for the Export section toward the very bottom to export your data as CSV or TSV. We even offer streaming export so every datapoint that Beeminder gets it will immediately make a callback to a URL of your choosing (set it in advanced settings) so you can keep a real-time mirror of your data. You can also get your data as JSON via our API.
You can paste as much data as you like into the Advanced Entry form next to your graph (see the Import Data section in the Data tab below your graph for details).
Yes, look for the Data tab below your goal on the goal page.
Ok, this is a rarely asked question, but it comes up, and Beeminder has a clever solution! (Note that this is only for Odometer goals.) Just enter a datapoint with a value of zero and Beeminder will take that to mean an accidental odometer reset and continue tracking your cumulative total despite the drop in your reported values.
This is also handy if you’re beeminding the number of pages you read. Just report your current page number and, when you reach the end of one book, report a 0 before you start reporting your current page number in the next book. That way Beeminder keeps tracking your total pages without you needing to do any mental arithmetic.
If you can quantify it, you can beemind it!
The maximum healthy rate we recommend — and this is far from easy — is one percent of your bodyweight per week. We recommend starting with a more modest 0.33% per week. That corresponds, for example, to half a pound per week if you weigh 150 pounds, or a deficit of 250 calories per day. Since you want to target a percentage of your current weight, that means as you lose weight you want the steepness of the bright red line to decrease.
When you create a weight loss goal we ask you for the most your weight can fluctuate in a day and start you with that much leeway. From then on it's up to you to maintain as much safety buffer as you need to make sure a natural fluctuation in your weight does derail you.
We’ve done our best to strike the right balance between allowing for natural fluctuation vs making sure that you can’t deceive yourself that you’re making progress when you’re really not. It’s a tricky problem and we’re eager for more feedback on this but we have enough success stories that we believe that — if you pay attention to where you are with respect to the bright red line every day — that derailing truly means you were not following the path you set for yourself.
Beeminder is, in our humble opinions, far superior to StickK for graphable goals. And it’s not just our pretty graphs or our data import/export or bot reminders. More fundamentally it’s that Beeminder understands that commitment contracts suck. You’ve probably noticed that you often (ironically) procrastinate on using them, even when you see the clear need. What sucks is the loss of flexibility — maybe losing weight will be more painful than you think, maybe something will come up at work. So many unknowns. Committing is scary (and rationally so!).
Beeminder offers the the best of both worlds: meaningful commitment with maximal flexibility. Beeminding means committing to keep your datapoints on the right side of the red line, but the steepness of the line is under your control, with a one-week delay.
Why a week? Akrasia (dynamic inconsistency, hyperbolic discounting) means over-weighting immediate consequences, so to beat akrasia you only need to bind yourself for whatever the horizon on “immediate” is. Based on a study of grocery-buying habits — when buying groceries online for delivery tomorrow people buy a lot more ice cream and a lot fewer vegetables than when they’re ordering for delivery next week — and raw guesswork (so far), we’re taking that Akrasia Horizon to be one week.
In short: Don’t dogmatically stickK to your goals, beemind them!
No, collecting the fees is our business model.
Of course, that was
original plan and they concluded that people wouldn’t go for that so they now let you specify beneficiaries of your contract.
We may need to do the same, and we’re definitely eager to
hear feedback about that.
But our thinking is:
1. The exponential fee schedule makes a big difference. In addition to removing the difficult choice about how much to pledge, it makes it feel more reasonable for Beeminder to be the beneficiary. You’re starting with a small amount pledged after you’ve already gotten value out of Beeminder.
2. We think we’re fundamentally providing more value than StickK because of the pretty graphs and storing your data — another justification for us being the beneficiary of the contracts.
3. We do have a charity option as part of our most expensive premium plan.
We now have many thousands of goals with money pledged and it seems to be universally true that whenever someone actually pays a pledge, they got at least that much value out of Beeminder up until that point. If you have a counterexample, we want to hear about it!
Yes, but we make you fail less! Actually we don’t even think that’s a fair way to put it, despite how perverse our incentives seem. We force you to toe the line at least for a while so that when/if you do cross your bright red line (aka fall off your yellow brick road) then the motivation it provided up until that point still seems worth it. Everything we’ve worked on in building Beeminder has been with the objective of making people succeed and we’d have to be very myopic for it to be otherwise.
It’s very important to us that no one ever derail on a technicality. We want to make money by making you more awesome, and we’re convinced that’s what’s happening. But don’t take our word for it. Try it and see. The first attempt is free.
Either name your goal cryptically/euphemistically or check the box to make it secret/private in your goal settings. We don’t encourage the secrecy option because (1) public accountability adds motivation, (2) it’s nice to be able to show friends and family your progress by pointing them to your URL, and (3) realistically, no one is going to stumble upon your goal unless you give the URL anyway.
Sort of! Check out beeminder.com/premium. The Beemium plan may be for you, but, as you’ll see, commitment contracts are pretty fundamental to Beeminder even for premium users.
Um, kind of, but we're phasing this out! Talk to us if you really need this, but we think we can support pretty much everything except PayPal so we think that that's going to suffice in the long term.
Stay calm and carry on beeminding! You are not getting charged a dollar. The $1 is an authorization request sent by our credit card processor to your bank when we store a credit card for use later. If it does show up as a charge it will be automatically reversed. Details here.
If a charge is declined we send you an email to alert you and throw a flag on your account that limits the functionality. We still accept new data to goals and send out reminders, etc, but the graphs are hidden in the main gallery and you can’t create new goals. We try the charge again in 24 hours and then again when you update your credit card info. Once a charge succeeds the flag is lifted from your account.
(This is slightly embarrassing but for the sake of googlability/greppability, we’ll also mention that we call this the “deadbeat flag”. But it’s not like that, baby, we swear it! We know credit cards fail for a million reasons.)
It doesn't cost anything to end the goal. You can always walk away with one week notice. Either change the end date of your goal to be one week from now, or just hit Archive.
Not quite. There’s a specific exponential pledge schedule:
The idea is that you want to very quickly reach an amount that motivates you to take the bright red line seriously. At first we thought we’d just double the amount each time but then realized that that means that by the time you’ve found your Motivation Point, you’ve actually wasted approximately that same amount in previously paid fees. That sucks since by definition the Motivation Point is a scary amount that you definitely don’t want to lose. Yet by the time that amount is motivating you, you’ve accumulated that much in losses! So we wanted it to increase more steeply. With the above schedule you’ll never waste more than half of the amount that eventually motivates you to stay on track.
We also call this the "standard fluctuation". For goals with data that fluctuates around from day to day (think weight loss), this is like the yellow line on the train platform. If your values are this far away from your bright line (the edge of the road), then you are safe (well, with 90% probability) from a random fluctuation pushing you into the red. Technically: This is the 90% quantile of the rate-adjusted daily absolute variations in your data. (E.g., if the delta between two consecutive days is equal to the delta of the red line itself, that’s a rate-adjusted delta of 0. And, yes, “90% variance” isn’t a thing. We mean variance as in how much your values vary, relative to the bright red line, day-to-day, in the 90% worst case.)
Self-selection! If you were the type who would falsify your data to weasel out of paying what you pledged on your goal then you would’ve rolled your eyes and walked away several paragraphs ago. See also: Combatting Cheating.
So many places! Start with help.beeminder.com. Then try the Beeminder Forum, especially the Newbee category. We also respond to comments on the Beeminder blog (you can often find posts related to your question by simply googling some keywords plus “beeminder”). If your question is super concise, try @bmndr on Twitter. If you don’t want to ask publicly, definitely feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or even email@example.com.
Again, start with help.beeminder.com. If you want to dive deeper, we’ve tagged our very favorite (dare we say classic) blog posts “best-of”. If you’re really excited and want to read our whole blog (some people beemind that) we’ve tagged everything that’s even possibly still relevant with the “bee-all” tag. Or check out other tags in the sidebar of the blog like “rationality” or “science”.