Love what's good.
June 2018 - ongoing
I built a chrome extension to help me intentionally change my likes and dislikes using self-reflection.
The summer after graduating I found myself struggling to be productive. Outside of the structure provided by school or work getting things done was tricky. Self-discipline is tricky. I knew I should work hard. I knew the ways it would be beneficial. But I just didn't want to.
“This leads to the simplest and most obvious answer to the timeless question, why don’t we do things we know we should do? Because we don’t feel like it. Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information or discipline or reason but, rather, of emotion. Self-control is an emotional problem; laziness is an emotional problem; procrastination is an emotional problem … [and] emotional problems can only have emotional solutions.” — Mark Manson
I decided to do a self-imposed hackathon (urgency builds motivation, right?) to come up with a solution to my productivity struggles. It began with an idea - wouldn't it be easier if I just liked being productive and disliked being unproductive? I wouldn't have to struggle to get work done if I really enjoyed the feeling of being productive. In other words, I need to nurture a love for what is good for me and a hate for what is bad for me. It won’t be hard to work on projects if I love doing it. It won’t be hard to say no to distractions if I hate the feeling of being distracted. It will be easy to eat healthy if I love eating healthy. It will be easy to avoid junk food if I hate eating junk food.
So how do I build a desire for being productive?
I went into it on one big assumption - that it is possible to intentionally change your likes and dislikes, and this is do-able through self-reflection.
I could anecdotally validate this assumption. I had a morning exercise that wasn't terribly fun. But I really enjoyed the feeling of being fit. And that feeling then made the morning exercise necessary because I wanted that feeling. It re-inforced my identity that I was someone who is fit, and I liked that identity, and so I found I was able to keep the morning exercise because it was in-line with the person I wanted to be. I think there's great power to the statements you tell yourself, and end up believing are true. If you tell yourself "I'm terrible at math" or "I suck at sports" enough times you believe it, and it shows in your actions. If you say "I like working out" enough times, maybe you'll start to believe it too.
I had an idea that users would write a statement they wanted to identify with (ie. "I like eating vegetables") and with it the positive feeling they wanted to nurture ("..because I like feeling healthy"). They would then periodically read the statement and log how 'true' it felt to them, how well they identified with it. The more times they read it, the more they focus on that positive feeling. In theory, this reinforces it and builds it up so it becomes stronger and easier to identify with.
I also thought about tracking progress using goal visualization - which should boost user motivation.
"[people] judge easy-to-visualize goals to be closer than difficult-to-visualize goals, which in turn increases effort and commitment" (Cheema & Bagchi, 2011).
I included the typical five range smiley faces to visualize a range of like to dislike. Dots underneath indicate the number of times each had been selected. I thought that a rather clever way of showing progress would be by older dots fading away. So you can see progress as the dots (ideally) move toward the side of the range you want them too.
This was followed by some higher fidelity prototypes made in Sketch.
The design went through a few iterations along the way. Notably the statement pages was redone. Re-arranging content, designing for a better visual hierarchy, and using more natural language resulted in a screen that flowed and was more conducive to an identity statement.
It's live on the chrome store! Get it here