Do Less goals

Do Less goals are a feature of the premium subscription plans. They work almost exactly the same way, but you want to be above the bright red line on a Do More, and below it on a Do Less. There are a few extra quirks, but if you're trying to wind down a bad habit, Do Less goals might be the goal type you want. (But if you want to go cold turkey, we recommend you try a Do More first: for that, you add +1 for every day you avoid your bad habit, and 0/no entry when you do the thing you're trying to avoid.)

If you're looking for information on Pessimistic Presumptive Reports, you can check below for a quick overview, or on the dedicated page for the details.

When should I use a Do Less goal?

Use a Do Less goal for things you want to limit. You're still going to do it sometimes, but you want to do it less often.

Common examples: eating sugary treats, smoking, spending time on Facebook, oversleeping, watching reality TV shows, drinking coffee, engaging with internet trolls, biting your nails, spending money, using profanity, reading political Twitter, eating in general...

What if I NEVER want to do something?

Technically, you can use a Do Less...

But we strongly recommend that you use a Do More goal to Not Do Something at a rate of 1/day (or 7/week). (More of our reasoning on the blog.) Users have reported finding Do Less goals less motivating and harder to manage. You lose out on any extra motivation from watching the graph build over time. The goal just stays a boring flat line, and any lapses are really obvious, as in the second graph below (the images are from a slightly older style of graph, but the new ones look much the same!).

Comparison of Do More and Do Less goals, showing that a Do Less goal on the right remains a flat line, while a Do More goal on the left shows consistent improvement

So instead of making a Do Less goal to eat 0 potato chips, you could make a Do More goal to spend a day without eating potato chips, 7 days a week. Every day you succeed at your goal, you'd enter a +1, and stay on the bright red line!

A 0-rate Do Less goal does work, but you can definitely reach the same goal by rephrasing it as a Do More goal.

How should I enter data for a Do Less goal?

Beeminder needs to know how much you did that day. Behind the scenes, it adds up all your datapoints to show you how much you've done since starting the goal.

Let's say I have a goal to drink less coffee — at most 4 cups per week, to be exact. I drank 0 cups on the day I created my graph, I submitted a 0. The second day, I drank one cup and submitted 1 to my graph. The following day, I've abstained again, so I submit a 0. And so on.

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

Example of a Do Less graph, showing how the data goes up in steps and stays just below the red line

I'm below my bright red line — doing better than my goal rate! Cool. And Beeminder's keeping a running total of all my progress for me, so I know I've only had 1 cup of coffee since starting my goal.

Goal progress and stats, showing a total of 1 cup of coffee drunk, the number of datapoints, etc

What happens if I never enter data?

With a Do More, if you abandon the goal, you'll eventually go off the bright red line and derail. But as you might have realized already, the Do Less goal has no power over you if you don't actually use it.

Comparison of a Do More goal on the left, which derails regularly if no data is entered, versus a Do Less goal on the right which is fine without data

See how when the user didn't do anything on this old Do More goal, it derailed a bunch? But not entering data on a Do Less goal just gave me a ton of safety buffer, even though I was doing the thing I wanted to avoid quite a bit.

That tended to utterly destroy the power of Do Less goals, except for the extraordinarily fastidious. So we came up with the pessimistic presumptive report (PPR). A PPR is a datapoint Beeminder automatically enters if you don't enter one yourself. Given enough time, the PPRs will eventually cross over the bright red line, and you will derail. This helps keep the goal effective: as the data climbs nearer and nearer to the bright red line, Beeminder will start sending you more and more frequent reminders about the goal, which will hopefully remind you that you wanted to stop doing that thing!

Here's a goal where the user was pretty good about entering data for the first few weeks. But then she fell off, and there have been enough PPRs added that she's approaching her top limit...

Screenshot showing a Do Less goal with PPRs added, creeping toward derailing

PPRs will make sure you can't just walk away!

Why is my Do Less goal going up, when I want to be doing it less?

The Do Less goal is graphing the cumulative number of times you've done that thing since the goal began. In most cases, you can't undo things once they've been done (e.g., can't unsmoke a cigarette, can't uneat a pint of ice cream), so that number will always be 0 or increasing. The goal is to make sure it increases more slowly than the bright red line, so that you stay below the limit and avoid derailing!

I'm going on vacation and won't be working on my Do Less goal. How can I pause it temporarily?

For a Do Less goal without automatic data, all you need to do is make sure the PPRs are turned off, and then enjoy your vacation! If no data is entered while you're away, you cannot derail. You can get rid of any unwanted safety buffer when you return, or enjoy your new allowance.

For other solutions where you can leave PPRs turned on, you can check out the info on the dedicated PPR page!

How do I get rid of extra safety buffer on my Do Less goal?

Use the Ratchet section in the Commitment tab below the graph to choose the number of units of safety buffer you want, then click Ratchet!

Screenshot of the ratchet option, showing "Ratcheting means reducing your amount of safety by making the bright line jump closer to today's datapoint. You have +11 units (cups) of buffer. We'll adjust the red line so that you have X units (cups) left before you cross the red line." X is a box you can fill in to choose how many units you want to have left today.

There is a small difference from all the other goal types, which use days of safety buffer, rather than units. Days of buffer are a bit of an illusion for Do Less goals, because you might be able to use up all your buffer in 1 day, no matter where you started. So we just let you decide exactly how many units should be left after the ratchet. For instance, here I have +11 cups of buffer, so I could drink 11 cups today. If I want to reduce that to 2 cups of coffee allowed today, I need to enter 2 in the box and then click the button.

Sample Do Less goal creation

  1. Head to create a new goal (also accessible through the New Goal link in the top menu).
  2. Click the + icon to start a new manual entry goal.

    "How will you track your progress?" with a hexagonal button marked with a + to use the method "Add progress manually to Beeminder (web, email, Slack, SMS, or mobile apps)"
  3. Select Do Less as your goal type (because you want to Do Less of something).
    "Select goal type" with all the options below: Do More, Do Less, Lose Weight, Gain Weight, Odometer, Whittle Down. The "Do Less" option is highlighted.
  4. Enter the units you want to use and the amount you want to commit to. In this example, I'm aiming to only allow myself a sweet dessert twice a week, so the daily rate is 2/7. Beeminder auto-calculates this as in the screencap below.

    To start with a bit of buffer to begin with, enter that in the last field. Say I want to have a dessert tonight, that needs roughly half a week's allowance, so I'll give myself four days.

    "Limit yourself to" with a stepper box below for selecting a rate, a box to choose the name of your units, and a checkbox to add extra buffer to the start of your goal. In the GIF, 2/7 is added as the rate, the units are "desserts", and initial buffer of 4 days is selected
  5. Give your goal a brief name. If you want, you can also write a short description with more information.

    "Give your goal a name", followed by two text entry boxes. The first allows you to enter a short slug which will name your goal and create a URL for it. The second textbox allows you to set a short description, and is optional.

  6. Finally, choose your initial pledge. This is the amount you will pay the first time you derail on the goal. After derailing, the pledge will increase by default — use the dropdown below to control how high it goes by selecting the cap. In the example below, I have chosen to start at a $5 pledge, which will increase each time I derail, until it reaches $270 — the pledge cap. (To read more about pledges and payments, check out some FAQs!)

    If you want to start out with a sort of trial period, you can choose to start the goal at $0. If you do that, the pledge will automatically increase to $5 after seven days. If you derail before that, it will also increase to $5.

    Screenshot of the "Starting Stakes" screen. The text says "Your pledge will increase each time you derail until you reach your pledge cap (which you can adjust below)", with a demonstration below showing the pledge progression: 5, 10, 30, 90... to the pledge cap, which currently shows $270. Below, a checkbox button allows you to choose to "Hold the pledge at $0 for 7 days while I get my feet wet"
  7. Step through the preview and confirmation steps, and your graph will be created. Now I can have one dessert today!

    Example goal, where Nicky is allowed +1 dessert right now
    With a Do Less goal, sometimes you want to plan ahead. If I have a dessert tonight, can I have one on Sunday when I'm out for dinner with the family? For that, check in the statistics tab for the Hard Cap By Day table:

    The Hard Cap By Day table for Nicky's goal above, showing that they can have a total of 1 through Saturday, but 2 on Sunday.
    The delta column is the easiest place to look once the goal has a little data (since then the cumulative total might be less intuitive and useful to you). I'm allowed only +1 today, tomorrow and Saturday (so if I enter +1 today, I won't be able to have dessert tomorrow or on Saturday), but between now and Sunday I can have +2 -- meaning I can have that lemon meringue pie on Sunday even if I have ice cream tonight. Result!


Keywords: do-more goals vs do-less goals, pessimistic presumptive reports (PPRs)

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