Enforced goal tracking

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.
Weight over time.jpg

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.

-- Glenn Davis 03/6/12

© 2022