Defeat the Ostrich: Go For Goals Without Getting Stuck in the Sand

Forming a new habit or reaching a goal is hard. Data can help. So can other people. Neither one is nearly as powerful as combining them.

As we’ve been working on WeAchieve for over a year now, we’ve been immersed in the world of motivation, habits, and change. Using WeAchieve as a personal playground, we’ve explored many aspects firsthand, alongside reading the latest research.

One of the biggest issues has been dubbed “The Ostrich Problem” by leading behavior change researcher Dr. Thomas Webb. The Ostrich Problem is the act of someone facing adversity while reaching for a goal putting their head in the sand in order to avoid the reality of a situation or failure. By doing so, we fool ourselves and avoid an unpleasant truth about our progress toward reaching any goal.

many ostriches
Ostriches aren’t pretty, but they are important for the analogy, so let’s run with it.

Have you ever found yourself doing this? Fortunately there’s hope for you. Copying the ostrich is human nature, but research is uncovering techniques that you can use to combat your natural tendency.

Use Data

When it comes to any habit, the research is clear: if you don’t track it, you have little hope of making it happen. Of course that tracking can be as simple as checking off a calendar if you, say, meditated for 10 minutes each day. Without doing so, it’s simply too easy for your brain to stick your head in the sand and plead ignorance rather than face an uncomfortable reality. “Am I doing better at keeping to my morning routine? Yeah, it feels like it!” Would be a common mantra you could feed yourself that, without data, isn’t likely to change if and when you do start falling behind.

As noted, research backs the power of tracking as a way to combat the Ostrich Problem. A large meta-analysis of over a hundred goal attainment studies found that recording progress made it 39% more likely that the subject would achieve a goal, and that more frequent tracking was also correlated with more success.

While this shouldn’t shock anyone, it is a good reminder that you aren’t alone in needing help to stay on track. Adding data is one powerful step, but it doesn’t solve the ostrich problem. You can simply choose to stop tracking your progress and bury your head right down into the sand. What can one do to solve that?

Work With (Other) People

As Webb notes though, tracking alone can still be subverted. Anyone falling off track of their goal can simply stop tracking it. Out of sight and out of mind, it soon becomes an afterthought. So what else can be done to solve the Ostrich Problem? We don’t need to over complicate this one: you need to have other people around to pull your head out of the sand!

teamwork hands in the middle

Again, research backs this assertion. Multiple studies have shown that selectively sharing a goal or habit increases the likelihood that you will achieve it. This small group should be people who have a vested stake in your success: this can either be because they care about you (friends, family, significant other), or because they share a similar goal.

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous rely on this and keep a mentor-mentee structure within the group to further enforce the power of other people to help you stick to the targets that you set for yourself.

Let’s Combine Them!

Taken alone, neither data nor other people fully solve the Ostrich problem. Tracking alone is not too hard to just stop doing, and simply telling a white lie to friends or family “Yes, I’ve been meditating regularly,” is also a bit too easy to do relative to the work it takes to build a habit.

But put together, it’s a lot harder to bury your head in the sand. You’d have to fake the data and lie to your friends. For most people, that’s a bit too much (and if not, it should be too much!).

tell the truth

Indeed, the power of this effect can be seen in some areas. Strava’s social features are a proof point of social and data being combined in an additive way. And from personal experience I can attest to pulling up Strava on a Saturday morning to say “well, Kevin has already run 18 miles and Will has run 25, so I guess I should get out there and run at least 9 for myself.”

But even with Strava, there’s still a gap to what can be done to merge data and people in order to increase goal attainment. And of course there’s a huge subset of habits and behaviors we can hope to develop outside of running, biking, and swimming.


Long story short, we believe there’s still a lot of work to be done in bringing data and people together to achieve goals. Small groups can be created to share goals around any subject. Games and contests can be introduced in order to incentivize people further. This should link to various data sources and any goals that you do wish to keep private. And so much more!

We started WeAchieve (and named it as we did) because we believe that bringing people together with data can yield incredible results. What we’re finishing up now will be the most powerful way yet for people to unite around achieving goals. Stay tuned for more!


A fun fact to close: Ostriches don’t actually bury their head in the sand! But it’s a good analogy so we’re running with it.

Tips For Setting Effective Reminders for Your Goals

With jobs, family, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s easy for our personal goals to get lost in the sea of responsibilities and distractions. Setting reminders (whether electronic or paper) is a great way to keep yourself accountable to your goals. Below are few tips to make your reminders even more effective tools for helping you achieve your goals.

Continue reading “Tips For Setting Effective Reminders for Your Goals”

Introducing WeAchieve Reminders

You’ve asked for it, and we’ve made it. The latest update to the WeAchieve app comes with a new smart reminders system designed to help keep you on track while avoiding spamming you with irrelevant notifications. Here’s how it works:

Add Reminders for Anything

screenshot-reminder-tab

We have added a new “Reminders” tab on the app to manage all your reminders. To Create a reminder, simply tap “+” on the upper right or the box at the bottom of the tab.

screenshot-add-reminder

To create a reminder, simple write a short message to yourself and specify how often you wanted to be reminded. You have the option to do daily, choose days of the week, or do one-time reminders.

Under advanced options, you can link this reminder to your tactics, which is where it gets really powerful.

Linking Reminders to Tactics

By linking your reminders to tactics, the reminder will only show up if you haven’t logged any data for the tactic that day.

For example, if your tactic is “Exercise 3 hours a week”, you can set reminders to remind yourself to go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:25pm.

If you haven’t logged any exercise on Monday, the notification will show up at 6:25pm on Monday. However, if you had already gone to the gym and logged the data in WeAchieve, then we won’t send you the reminder.

WeAchieve is an accountability platform helping people set goals and stay accountable in the Age of Distraction. Feel free to try our (free) iOS app or our web platform, and check out our blog for more tips and wisdom on how to achieve more.

Introducing WeAchieve Tactics

In WeAchieve, every goal has a plan comprised of tactics. Tactics are those routines, habits, and tasks that you need to do day in and day out in order to achieve your goal.

For example, you have a might a goal to develop healthy habits, which case your tactics could be:

  • Drink 8 glasses of water every day
  • Wake up before 7:30 AM every day
  • Meditate for 20 minutes every day
  • Walk 10K steps every day
  • Run 20 miles every week
  • etc…

As you can see, tactics in WeAchieve can be a combination of simple check-list like habits to more data-driven action that require you to log data over time. So in order to capture the advantages of both worlds, we decided to include both Simple Tactics and Advanced Tactics in WeAchieve.

Simple Tactics

Simple Tactics are those things that you just want to check yes/no when you complete them every day. They tend to be pretty simple habits like “Drink 8 glasses of water every day” or “Brush your teeth twice a day”. You don’t need to log every single glass of water you consume, but just need to save whether or not you drank the full 8 glasses every day.

To create a simple tactic in WeAchieve, select “Add a tactic” from the lower right menu:

screenshot-add-tactic

Select Simple Tactic:

screenshot-simple-tactic

Write down your tactic and tell us a few details about how often you want to achieve it and tap create to complete the process.

screenshot-create-simple-tactic

To log your daily progress, just tap on the tactic to get the expanded view, and then tap any day of the week to log yes/no/skip for that day.

screenshot-goal-with-simple-tactic

And to view how you are doing over time, just tap “Details”. We have several charts and a calendar to help you better understand how you’ve been doing:

screenshot-simple-tactic-details
screenshot-simple-tactic-calendar

Advanced Tactics

Advanced tactics are those that require a bit more data than simple tactics. They can’t be achieved by simple yes/no answers, but require compiling data over time. Examples include “Walk 10K steps a day”, “Run 20 miles a week”, “Eat fewer than 2500 calories a day”, etc.

As a result, you will have to log more information for advanced tactics. Thankfully, we do integrate with both Apple Health and Strava (with more integrations on the way), so this data can be automatically synced with WeAchieve, saving you time and effort.

To create an Advanced Tactic, select “Add a tactic” from the lower right menu:

screenshot-add-tactic

Select Advanced Tactic:

screenshot-select-advanced-tactic

Pick the activity that you want do for this tactic.

screenshot-select-activity

Pick the metric (or measurement) that you want to use to track progress. Then pick the aggregation. Usually, you want to use sum (which adds up progress over time), but occasionally you may want to use another aggregation such as average or most recent for something like weight (where you shouldn’t be adding up all your measurements over time).

screenshot-pick-metric

Pick how often you want to do this tactic and when you want to start. Then tap create.

screenshot-create-advanced-tactic

To log data for the tactic, tap on the tactic to bring up the detailed view. Then tap on “Log”:

screenshot-goal-with-advanced tactic

You can view your progress by tapping on “Details”, bringing up a chart and facts & figures on how you’re doing:

screenshot-advanced-tactic-chart

If you have any additional questions on how or why we created tactics this way, feel free to reach out to WeAchieve at feedback@weachieve.io.

WeAchieve is an accountability platform helping people set goals and stay accountable in the Age of Distraction. Feel free to try our (free) iOS app or our web platform, and check out our blog for more tips and wisdom on how to achieve more.

How To Make Your Side Hustle a Reality

You want to be an entrepreneur. You have an idea, but not enough time. How do you make it go from zero to reality?

Look around, and you can always find hot tips about how to take your idea for a supplemental income from zero to reality in a few quick steps. We’re going to share a dirty little secret: that stuff is click-bait – that’s not how the world works.

Yes, many of those pieces contain some good info. But they are also designed to sell you an idea you really want to buy. Namely: that a few quick secret shortcuts will have you raking in the dough and living on the beach in no time.

Here’s our alternative hypothesis: steady and consistent progress is the best path to achieving success with your side hustle. That’s not a sexy answer, but it’s the most likely way for you to succeed.

Develop a System

The key to consistent progress anywhere is to have a system in place and making your side-hustle happen is no exception. Consider one of the following plans that one of our users shared with us:

  • Plan work for the week (done weekly, reminder on Sunday at 7pm)
  • Do a 2-hour deep dive on key issue (goal: do once per week)
  • Reach out to 5 sales/partnership leads each week
  • Do at least 5 hours of development work each week
  • Ensure work inbox is clear (done daily, reminder at 10pm each day)
starting a side business in WeAchieve - an example from one entrepreneur
WeAchieve quickly shows you via a star ranking which steps you are “on track” for (5 stars) vs. which you are behind on (less stars). This gives a quick view of where to focus your attention!

With this setup, the user needs to track 2 numeric metrics (# of leads reached, and hours of dev work) along with checking off three habits (planning the week, clearing the inbox, and doing a deep dive).

Of note – one good think our entrepreneur is doing here is focusing on the inputs (tactics, as we’d call them). While tracking sales and customer growth is great (and can be done in WeAchieve as well), the inputs are immediately controllable and impossible to create excuses for. It’s easy to rationalize why you didn’t get any new customers in a given week, but there’s no excuse for not reaching out to five of them.

Why Tracking Matters

Tracking this may seem like unnecessary overhead. Why not just do all this is a common refrain you’ll hear. But the reality is that humans are pretty good at cheating. Without cold, hard, numbers to track your progress, it’ll be easy to excuse missing the deep dive one week because you are grabbing a couple beers with a friend. It’ll be easy to excuse waiting a few days to reply to an e-mail because you are tired from a long day of work. And so on. While you may start with good intentions, there’s an inevitable draw toward distraction.

life gets hectic, and charts will fly at you when this happens as an entrepreneur

All that to say: you need a system and it needs to be quantified. Without that, you don’t stand a chance of holding yourself accountable in the long-run. With it, you have a way to be honest with yourself about exactly how much you do or don’t do each week. Even with the system in place, you will still encounter challenges: fatigue, conflicts, and complacency can still eek in. But you’ll have tools to combat it rather than accepting your fate.

Naturally, the above plan is illustrative. For your business or side hustle there’s going to be different actions to take. One benefit of WeAchieve is that it is infinitely flexible. Not only can it handle whatever you want to track now, it’s easy to deprecate some old habits and add new ones, with a simple 0 to 5 rating that constantly gives you a one-number summary for how well you are adhering to your plan.

train tracks representing staying on track to meet your goal as an entrepreneur

Our goal with WeAchieve is to make it a lot easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to make their products a reality. We can’t do that for them, but we can provide the tools needed to drive projects forward.

Are you starting a product? We’d love to hear about it! Let us know, we’d love to feature you in an upcoming post!