Odometer goals

Odometer goals are relatively uncommon. Most of the time, it's easier to manage the goal as a Do More. A number of the autodata integrations use Odometers behind the scenes, and they're the easiest solution when you can easily access your running total.

When should I use an Odometer goal?

Odometers are very similar to Do Mores, but the data needs to be entered a little differently. Use an Odometer when it's easier to know your total progress than it is to calculate today's progress, or when the data you're tracking shouldn't be added together over time.

Common examples: tracking pages read in a book, year-to-date revenue or earnings, miles ridden on your bike (could be tracked by an actual physical odometer!). You enter the page you're on, the total revenue/earnings so far, the total number of miles your odometer says... and once that's plotted on the graph, the amount you've done today (or since your last check-in) is clear.

How should I enter data for an Odometer goal?

Beeminder needs to know your current total as of each day.

Let's say I have a goal to read more often, and I commit to 100 pages per week. I read 20 pages on the first day, putting me on page 20 in my book, so I submitted a 20 to my graph. On the second day, I read 30 more pages and got to page 50, so I submitted 50 to my graph. The next day, I only got to page 55, so I submitted 55. And so on.

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

Screenshot of an odometer graph, showing a total of 55 pages read entered into the graph, where it reached a cumulative total of 20 on the first day, a cumulative total of 50 on the second, and 55 on the third.

I'm above 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 read 55 total pages since starting my goal.

Goal Progress, showing the start date and start amount, the current date and amount, and the target, followed by progress bars showing your progress through the goal temporally and in terms of reaching the total set

How is that different from a Do More goal?

The graphs will look exactly the same, but the data you enter needs to be different. I used the example goal above for a Do More example, too — it's basically the same graph and statistics, but the data you have to enter is a cumulative total for an odometer goal, and the amount you need to enter for a Do More goal is the amount you've done today.

So you want an Odometer goal when you need to report a cumulative total, and a Do More goal if you want to just add what you did today. If you did 5 units and want to add 5 units, in other words, you want a Do More goal. If you did some units today, but the most convenient number to add is the total number you've done since you started the goal, then you want an Odometer goal.

What happens if I need to restart my count at 0?

To continue my book example, what happens when I finish my book? It would be irritating to have to remember the pages in my previous book and then add them to my new book page, and then again for a third book...

Beeminder interprets a datapoint of 0 as a reset of the odometer. After a 0 datapoint has been entered, you can start your page count from 0 again without losing ground. Make sure the 0 datapoint is entered after the last high value and before the new, lower one; order does matter for this operation, though that usually isn't true for Beeminder datapoints.

Here's an example showing the odometer when it hasn't been reset before entering a lower value, and progress has been lost:

Example graph showing how adding a datapoint of just 20 on an odometer goal that previously reached 55 can actually put you below the line

And here's an example where an odometer reset has been used correctly:

An example graph where an odometer reset was used correctly, so now the user can add a datapoint of 20 without derailing

All of your statistics will include the total number of pages read across all books, without you having to maintain that count yourself!

Goal progress, showing that the odometer reset doesn't change your goal's cumulative total

Can I switch between Odometer and Do More styles on the same goal?

Because of the fundamental difference in the kind of data you're entering and how Beeminder handles the data, it's usually not easy to change the goal type after it's been created. It's easiest to archive or delete the Odometer goal and start a new Do More.

How can I pause my Odometer goal temporarily?

This is super easy to do on an Odometer! 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 bright red line flat at that time, so you don't have to make any progress until it starts sloping up again.

Sample Odometer 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 Odometer as your goal type (because you want to report your cumulative total).
    "Select goal type" with all the options below: Do More, Do Less, Lose Weight, Gain Weight, Odometer, Whittle Down
  4. Enter the units you want to use and the amount you want to commit to. In this example, I want to read five pages of my book per day, and I'm already on page 121.

    If you want to delay your goal's start a few days (maybe you're traveling this weekend), be sure to tick the "Start this goal with extra leeway" box. Enter the number of days you want to delay and press Continue.
    "Commit to at least" with a stepper below it and a spot to enter the amount you want per day. Below that, two boxes to add the name of your units (e.g. "pages" or "miles") and your starting number (if you're starting off now that might be 0! if you've already made some progress, it might be more)
  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'll need to go to the gym in the next 4 days to avoid paying Beeminder my first $5!

    Example Odometer-style graph where shanaqui has +5 due in 4d 11h 23m or has to pay $5

    Because this is an odometer goal, I can just add the page number I'm up to. Say I read 30 pages, then I'd add a datapoint of 151.

Keywords: odometer reset feature, zeroing an odometer goal

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