Whittle Down goals

The canonical Whittle Down use case is reaching Inbox Zero - this goal type was even once called Inbox Fewer. But it's useful for other things too!

When should I use a Whittle Down?

Whittle Down goals are best used when you're trying to whittle down a backlog over time. Similar to an Odometer, you'll want to know your daily total backlog size, which you want to be reducing over time.

Common examples: managing inbox size, reading Pocket articles, grading assignments, watching downloaded movies, completing lessons in a MOOC.

How should I enter data for a Whittle Down?

Beeminder needs to know your current total of whatever you're beeminding each day.

Let's say I have a goal to clear out my inbox over time - 100 emails per week, to bee exact, and I have 500 emails in my inbox today. I archived 20 emails today, putting me at 480 emails in my inbox, so I submit a 480 to my graph. Tomorrow, when I archive 30 more emails and get to 450 remaining, I'll submit 450 to my graph. The next day, I only do 5 emails, so I submit a 445. And so on.

After those three points have been submitted, the graph will look like this:

I'm below my road - doing better than my goal rate! Cool.

What happens when I reach 0?

If your graph is configured to end at 0, the goal will end. Yay! You can restart the goal if you'd like to maintain a certain maximum value.

If not, your graph may continue decreasing, eventually asking you to get to a negative total. This is usually not possible. You can prevent that by configuring the goal to end at 0, or setting the rate to 0 at the backlog size you want to maintain. If your graph is asking you to do something impossible,  contact support and we'll fix it!

What happens if I need to restart my count at a higher number?

If the goal has ended or been archived, you'll be prompted for your current value when restarting.

If the goal is still active, you can use  Take a Break or the Road Editor to schedule a road jump at least 7 days in the future.  When the road jumps, you can input your new count safely.

How can I pause my Whittle Down goal temporarily?

This is easy to do on a Whittle Down! Using the  Take a Break section in the Stop/Pause tab below the graph, first pick the dates that you'll be away, then set the break rate to 0. This will make your road flat at that time, so you don't have to make any progress until it starts sloping down again. 

You'll need to make sure that no data enters the graph while you're away. If an automatic data source enters a value that lands above your road, even on your break, you will derail. This is definitely not legit and we'll sort it out in support, but stopping the data source will prevent it from happening in the first place!

Why did I derail when I had 15 safe days yesterday?

You need to have at least one datapoint below the road during the day to avoid derailing, no matter where you were previously.

Whittle Down goals are not incredibly forgiving when your data value can bounce up and down a lot. The "safe days" estimate Beeminder uses assumes that your data moves in one direction only. But things like your inbox size can increase as well as decrease, so the  "safe days" estimate may be blown away if you receive an unexpected deluge of emails that takes you over the limit.

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