How to Make Task Management Apps Way More Engaging

Recently, I write an article on Medium geared towards designers of task management “apps” ranging from those who support the use of memory, to paper, to task management apps, to calendars to auto-schedulers. In the article, I shared the following graphic that shows the progression that users make as they

progress from the use of one skill level to the next. As you may recall, the idea that different tools are needed for different task volumes is a key research finding here at 2Time Labs.

In this article, I use two different tools to analyze this progress, explaining that a transformation actually takes place (or is struggling to emerge.) It happens when the user is able to experience their task management as a game.

Unfortunately, their game-play is thwarted by several factors. One is that they are unaware of this journey and a second is that many task management software designers are also blind to the whole picture.

This means that people aren’t engaged. Their apps are dull, even though the contents are vital to their everyday lives.

Imagine storing your most precious worldly items in a dull, nondescript warehouse.

Check out the article here: What Task Management App Developers Can Do to Catch Up with Pokemon Go.

How to Gain Control Over Your Data with The Informed Self

Informed Self

We live in a world in which we receive a lot of data, and behind it there’s an even greater avalanche promised. How do we make sense of it all? And who has the time?

App designers and developers who have found ways to gather this new data need to take a step further and teach us – the users – how to gain important insights without devoting our lives to sorting through mountains of information.

In the third and last piece of the manifesto for The Notified Self, I focus on a few of these skills. They are fast becoming a professional requirement for lives in the modern world where new sensors are giving us unprecedented access to data about ourselves and the world around us.

Now, we need to develop these hitherto unforeseen skills to merely keep up, a critical aspect of the equation that software and wearable companies seem to have overlooked.

Visit my article on Medium – How to Use Data-Driven Insights to Accomplish the Informed Self.

Exploring a New Definition – “The Warned Self”

Warned SelfI just posted a followup article on Medium that addresses the second component of The Notified Self.

It’s called “The Warned Self” and it’s all about creating alarms which alert you when a part of your life has become problematic.

As you can imagine, having this aspect of your life properly constructed can deeply enhance your peace of mind, preventing you from having to continually look over your shoulder.

The article is entitled How to Set Up “The Warned Self” to Protect Your Peace of Mind.

Why Habits Are So Hard for App Designers to Nail Down

temp paper coverI’m excited… more than a little… to share an academic paper I just read (and re-read.) It includes some required lessons for all app designers, but especially those who happen to be in the productivity space.

Published by the University College of London’s Interaction Centre, it’s entitled “Beyond Self-Tracking and Reminders – Designing Smartphone Apps That Support Habit Formation.” Included in the study is a survey of 115 habit formation apps that promise to help users make permanent behavior changes. Unfortunately, the results reveal a rude surprise… only a tiny handful (3%) have features which are supported by research-based findings.

As a developer of an app, program or device you may not be focused on helping people change habits directly. However, the long-term success of your project may rest entirely on your ability to make your product sticky: irresistible to users who include its use as one of their regular habits. In this context, a habit is defined as an activity undertaken with little motivation or conscious thought that takes place in response to a cue or trigger event. Furthermore, it’s one that responds to positive reinforcement… but only moderately, according to this study.

The authors go a bit further in the section at the end titled “Design Guidelines for Habit Formation Apps.” They add that triggers and cues are not equivalent to electronic reminders based on the clock. The former are based on events that take place in the real world, such as a meal-time. They don’t require the presence of technology.

Therefore, as a designer, if you want your users to use your app at the start of the day, you are better off in the long-term by tying it into an activity they already do (e.g. breakfast) rather than a timed reminder (e.g. an email at 8:00 AM.)

That’s not to say that the email reminder won’t work at all. It does… in the short-term. However, developers who rely on timed reminders are likely to see them interfere with the development of long-term habits. That’s bad news.

It’s far better to teach users to set “implementation intentions”: actions based on selected trigger events, such as “I will use app X right after breakfast.” It doesn’t hurt to add in a reminder email around the same time, but it should not prompt the user to “Use app X.” Instead, it should remind them of their implementation intention: “Remember to use app X right after breakfast.” In this context, the email reminder is only an aid, not a substitute.

Furthermore, habit building based on electronic reminders requires the presence of a device which is producing visual, audible or haptic notifications. If it happens to be located in the other room,the notification can be missed altogether.

Also, most people receive a tsunami of notifications which causes them to ignore them all. It’s a problem we are tackling at 2Time Labs here and here.

The researchers also note that many app developers are fond of encouraging users to track “streaks” designed along the lines of the “Seinfeld Strategy.” This tactic involves keeping track of how many days a single activity is continued without an interruption. The study shows that 77% of the habit formation apps included task tracking to encourage streaks, but point out that this technique isn’t effective for creating long-term habits.

These are subtle points, but if you are designer or developer, you can use them to direct your attention toward strategies that are proven to work. Bottom line – they can make the difference between an app that goes viral versus another one of the many which languish in the Apple or Android app stores.

If you find value from this kind of insight, take a moment to join my mailing list for Productivity Developers by visiting http://www.2time-sys.com/application-designers/. There’s more content available and under development that may be helpful to you as a time-based productivity app designer.

Introducing The Notified Self

Notified Self - 2Time LabsI just released a new post on Medium about notifications, interruptions and notifications that will occupy the attention of 2Time Labs for the next several months.

It’s a new concept called “The Notified Self” – the vision of a professional who is perfectly notified by the digital ecosystem formed by his/her devices, apps, platforms and programs. It’s the logical next step after the Quantified Self (QS).

In other words, now that all this new data is available from QS, how does it need to be managed in order to benefit the user? Or in other words, how do we focus our attention on the data so we don’t become overwhelmed?

Click here to see my long form post on how this problem needs to be tackled with respect to Interruptions. It’s the first part of a three part series. The second part on The Warned Self is here.

If this a topic you already have an interest in, it might be an opportunity to apply to the next InnerLab.

Quora Update – Recent questions I’m Answering

I continue to enjoy Quora – the question and answer website in which thought-leaders can interact with other users in a close, social network.

It’s a great opportunity to bring the latest research, plus the ideas here at 2Time Labs, with a much wider audience. Here are some of the questions I have answered recently. Take a moment to go through them and find and read the responses. Then, take a moment to Follow me on my profile page if you’d like to see my responses in the future.

What are some time management and task organization apps to replace Timeful when they shut down?

How should I manage my time properly?

Discover the science of time management [Research]

Here’s a new way to discover the research data behind time management – especially the stuff that’s most recent. Simply follow my hashtag “#scienceoftimemanagement” on Twitter. (Sometimes it shows up without the hashtag – just “scienceoftimemanagement.”)

It’s simple. I have two Twitter accounts – @2TimeLabs and @fwade. The first one sticks to the scientific findings I have discovered in academic papers that have been rigorously peer-reviewed. These studies typically involve hundreds of people and build (one step at a time) on the foundation of prior studies. They are very different from bloggers who wake up in the morning with good ideas and turn them into SEO-optimized, Top 10 posts before lunch-time!

The second one, @fwade, is may daily account that send out all manner of content related to time management. It picks up the best feeds from around the internet and RT’s them, while adding on the best content I can find on a daily basis. You won’t find me tweeting about my non-existent cats, or the reasons why Trump shouldn’t be elected President. It all about one topic – time-based productivity and all its variations.

Enjoy them both by visiting their pages and I’ll see you over there.