It's called http://idonethis.com.
We email you on a daily basis asking you what you got done today. We put your email response into a calendar and check off the day. Look at your calendar to see your streak from yesterday to motivate you today.
We posted the site on HN back in January and got some great feedback which we incorporated (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2064038) along with some nice press coverage (http://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2011/01/03/idonethis-have-yo...). We're at a few hundred users, a good proportion of whom email us on a daily basis and tell us that that the site is helping their productivity, helping them quit smoking, reminding them to exercise & diet, etc.
1. "It would be cool if I had a web app for this."
2. "Hey, I can build a web app for this."
3. "There must already be an app like this"
4. "In fact, I bet someone has already commented on HN about having built an app inspired by this."
I couldn't have been the only one with similar chain of thoughts, right?
Also true for your first version.
Also, there's a FB "like" icon on the landing page, but once I've logged in, it's gone. I don't know about others, but I'm more likely to like it once I've tried it! This is true both in Firefox and Chrome.
Thanks for the heads up on the back icon. I'll look into the issue.
I'll be using iDoneThis to keep me motivated to write everyday ... hopefully it'll really keep me at it :) Is there any way to change the time zone so it'll email me at the end of my day? I'm in Thailand; GMT+7.
You can still use us! The timings may just be off by one day.
I color every day either black (1 or more things completed) or red (0 things completed). Then I have to look at it all day every day for the rest of the year. Very humbling.
[EDIT: A monthly calendar doesn't work as well. Redemption comes too soon. I need to suffer much longer to affect my long term work habits.]
In dividing up complex overwhelming tasks into small doable tasks, they can become quite small - where do you draw the line, for what counts? Do you also include things from different projects or categories, or from all aspects of your life? as an extreme example, do you include daily chores?
Maybe making it as broad as possible would be effective, because completing anything gets you started, and into a productive frame of mind.
It could be anything from "Add one comment line to function x" to "Read Chapter 7" to "Get sorting in Module 17 working".
Obviously, I like breaking up tasks into smaller and smaller doable pieces, doable in hours, not days, weeks, or months. The entire point is the binaryness of it all. Finishing a one hour task completely is better than finishing a one month task 50% (which really means that 90% is still left).
I learned this approach years ago from my hero of project management, Tom DeMarco
Every task is either complete or not complete. In spite of what many bosses of mine have thought, there is no such thing as "partially complete".
Even when I break things down like this, I still have many "red days". Amazing how easy it is to go through a whole day and achieve nothing. That is the outcome that each of us should be trying to avoid.
Say you task yourself to "fix the leaky pipe under the sink." You get down there with some pliers, check it off, and then the pipe starts leaking again. That probably means you didn't "fix" it. Do you avoid that by only using definitionally-finite verbs (e.g. "tighten the leaky pipe under the sink") or can some days retroactively go from black to red?
Even Seinfeld doesn't write a good joke everyday the point is to at least take a shot at writing a good joke everyday. You know how we procrastinate from exercising by saying - I don't feel like doing a full hour workout. Doesn't matter you can go and do it for 30 minutes or even only 5. Not feeling like doing what you "should" be doing is normal. Nobody is on top of their game 24/7. But you should prevent yourself from quitting by putting in some effort while waiting for good wind to return.
The size of daily goals depend mostly on individual long term strategy and ambition.
You're training yourself to put consistent effort into things that are important to you but probably unpleasant compared to playing Minecraft.
I've tried it before after I first read that article, and it is quite effective.
The working solution for idonethis.com is to simply set it as your browser's home page. I live on my laptop, and to a significant extent, my web browser as well. For people in this category, a browser's home page may have even more of an unavoidable visible presence than a wall calendar would, not to mention perhaps even a greater frequency of exposure. This also serves as a call to action, meaning that every time that one opens a tab to, for example, read a news site, they'll see their calendar first and have to consider whether reading the news is more important than the goals that they have set out for themselves. As a side-note, I have no bookmarks for any news or related sites, in order to force a view of the calendar.
One thing I can see being a solution for "Epic Win!" would be if it displayed its equivalent of the calendar as the iOS device's lock screen and home screen wallpaper. In this way, you simply can't avoid seeing it.
I've found that the key here is actually not in the unavoidability, the key here is reducing the effort required by greatest extent humanely possible. "Epic Win!", in its current state, fails because it takes effort, no matter how minuscule, to launch the app. Getting an automated reminder is great, but it still requires effort, again no matter how minuscule, to click into the body of the email to see the calendar. Using the browser home screen or iOS wallpaper approach means that you're always seeing your calendar as a side-effect of something that you were already doing, and thus itself requires zero intrinsic or additional effort.
Finally, I think you brought up a great point in that "not using an app hides away the shame of not using it". The practical effect of having to deal with that shame is that it increases the effort required, due to emotional reconciliation, which decreases the likelihood of the app being launched.
When you know that shame is unavoidable (since you'll see it as your wallpaper and/or browser home screen) you can no longer "ignore" the shame (e.g., ignore an email, don't open an app). The only way around not feeling the associated negative emotions is to just ensure that you're executing on the goals that you've set out for yourself.
This approach is also supremely motivational from the "carrot" perspective. Seeing your chain of successes, day after day, is profoundly self-affirming, addictive, and habitualizing. You'll get to the point, in a relatively short period of time, where there is simply no force on the face of the planet that will prevent you from continuing your streak.
If someone would please print these, I'd love to buy one.
Opening Chrome's inspector, I see this:
http://uk.lifehacker.com/#!281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret from frame with URL
Domains, protocols and ports must match.
Dunno how long this trick will work... Though if I were them, I'd take the hard-learned lesson and revert.
Somewhat ironically, the first link that appears on the resulting, incorrect page is "Tip your editors". Unlikely, when I can't even read their content.
I recently downloaded King's On Writing in audio book form for my next long drive (I travel full-time, so I drive a lot), in hopes that it would offer similar inspiration. Sounds like I made a good choice.
Also, I think writers have a lot in common with programmers, and that's why there's so much overlap in the sorts of tactics that work for each group.
I set it to start this week and to put the next 6 months on the calendar (I don't need a full year). Mine is now next up to my desk. Thanks! (NB: I have no affiliaton with the site; just found it Googling.)
- find/build a good todo system using GTD (Getting Things Done) methods (capture, organize, review)
- use it to capture all your thoughts and things you have to do. Get it out of your head.
- make weekly and monthly reviews of your work. The things you have accomplished.
- keep a daily log/journal not necessarily of things you have done but make side notes of things that affected you. New articles, a movie that changed your perspective on things, a new idea etc. If it comes back over and over, consider writing more about the subject
- clarify your long term goals vs the short ones. That's the difference between being busy doing client work for money to pay bills and being busy working on projects that will change your life (i.e scratching your own itch)
- track your progress: I track it using three columns. What I have planned for today, what I actually did and what I failed to do. My TODO system automatically assigns a score to that day and reschedules tasks.
In my calendar, I do not have "completed" days, I have scores tracking my performance.
- define what is important to you and develop the habits you want to have: Exercise every day? (20 points), Work for clients (20 points), work on your weekly/monthly personal goal (e.g learn zsh) (50 points). Obviously, the number of points is subjective and based on what you believe is important
I'm sure there is more but that's the basic idea. I see my productivity as a system consistenly looking to be improved and become more efficient
If you go to your Quantter settings (top left of profile page), select your "favorite activity" (=the hashtag you 'Quantt'/quantify) and you will seen a green check each time you do that activity at least once. The number of consecutive days you did this activity is your streak (given at the top of your Quantter profile page).
Finally you can follow 5 other people's streak, just by going on their Quantter page (while being logged in): http://www.quantter.com/user/TwitterUsername (eg. http://www.quantter.com/user/egadenne)
and you click on "Follow Username" link under the grid.
As mentioned here, another very good implementation of Seinfeld "don't break the chain" is Kyle Bragger Streak.ly.
Also I've found that things that I can tick-off every single day get huge, almost never breaking streaks, while things that I need to do 1-2 times per week aren't solved that well by this method.
It reminds me of the automated test suites you have in IDEs such as Netbeans, which display a huge green bar when 100% of your tests pass. It's such a goog feeling to see this green bar that you work harder to make tests pass again.
Maybe it's just me but I find that I sometimes need a break of a day or two to solve certain problems or put tasks in perspective.
But you can adapt this method to a regular calendar by marking X's on that day and connected days when you do the action.
So for something like resistance training that you want to do every four days, you can "catch up" on the second, third or fourth unmarked day, but if you go more than four days, the chain is broken.
Note that you can potentially go a week between sessions by being early once then late the next time, so it's a little different than a calendar with multi-day intervals. But that extra flexibility might be helpful for some tasks.
At the beginning of this year, I moved away from it because I felt like it was a bit too much: it was forcing me to just output and quality generally suffered. I am still trying to find a good balance for it, but the calendar method is really a great way to motivate you to work and also shows you that you really can just keep moving forward.
Humans are creatures of habit. If your habit is to slack off five days of the week then you will find it difficult to be productive on the remaining two days. If on the other hand you just start doing things, after a couple of days it's normal. I've been there, I've done that. Whatever you want to do, just start doing it. Even if you suck at first.
It's like quitting smoking. First few days are a little difficult. After 3 weeks you don't think about it.
And put a nice picture on your wall instead. ;)
Because often, it's good to recognize that we need to involve other people and relationships in getting stuff done, and not just do everything solo. This rule of talking to 3 people a day means you probably won't be talking to the SAME 3 people every day, so you have to keep up your relationships and meet enough new people. Also a great measure of success.
blog post announcing it: http://techno-weenie.net/2008/10/6/calendar-about-nothing/
"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start."
And the problem with the streak is that once you break it, you no longer have an unbroken streak to motivate you to return to the habit. If anything, you don't want to look at your calendar any more because it hurts to look at the broken streak.
So disappointingly, the streak calendar is as powerful at demotivating you to restart the streak as it was at motivating you to continue an unbroken streak.
The demotivation of an "unbroken streak" is a kind of perfectionism, of noting what has not been done rather than what has. Interesting, because I think the idea itself is a way to combat perfectionism, in that Jerry notes done having written something (not how much).
When it does work, perhaps it works by turning perfection against itself. Perhaps there is a way to do the same judo trick on the demotivation you note?
and a new site
It's big. You wake up every day looking at it. And it brings us back in a connecting way to the real life.
Semi-unrelated: Same reason I'd still rather use a Moleskin to gather and write out my thoughts and ideas over TextMate, Photoshop, etc.
I put it on the home screen, so I get to see that badge many times a day, much more often than I would see a physical calendar.
Let's see how I do. Will be printing or ordering a calendar this weekend
This article just changed my life.