I have a number of goals I find hard to reach because I struggle with self-discipline. Losing weight, for instance. Great tools like the previously-reviewed Hacker’s Diet have helped me lose weight in the past, but, like most people, eventually I just put it back on again, with interest.
The reason why people have self-discipline issues is that different parts of our brain run us at different times. The person I am as I’m walking past the refrigerator at 10:00 at night is a different person who swore off late-night snacks at 10:00 in the morning. The ancient Greeks had a fancy word for when we do things we know we shouldn’t do, or fail to do things we know we should do: akrasia. Beeminder is an anti-akrasia tool.
For any goal with quantifiable steps, like losing a certain amount of weight per week, or doing something every day, or keeping something to a set minimum, etc., Beeminder allows you to set and track a commitment contract. It then displays a pretty graph of your progress (the Hacker’s Diet-style weight graph is a particularly nice example – here’s the chart of my weight loss in Q4 of last year.
If you fail to keep on track with your goal, you can reset it. But here’s the akrasia-defeating catch: resetting the goal requires you to pledge money, and each time you need to reset it, the amount you must pledge increases exponentially. This exploits a neat psychological trick called self-binding, which you can read more about here.
The bottom line is that Beeminder is a great tool for fooling yourself into doing what you really want to do.