Operating System? Help Me Operate


I want my computing platforms to help me reach goals and get things done. At this point, I have hacked and slashed my current “system” which involved manual process and automated scripts, to try to help me progress.

However, I often feel like I am fighting my environment, and long for an update to my devices that say “ok, let’s really help you be super human”.

Beyond using Google tools (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Calendar, etc), I also use Asana, Coach.me, and Anki to store, track, and learn. I trick out my Gmail, somewhat akin to how Greg Wilson does, and after reading Algorithms to Live By I stopped trying to build the perfect system and embraced things like caching. My hacks make sure that important data gets into multiple systems, allowing me to search from any of them and get to what I need.

When I saw that Thomas and Amy were working on a new task system: Sweep it reminded me of the friction that I face with driving habits. I have found that I can become reliable at doing something when I do it daily. The difference between doing something twice a week vs. daily is huge for me, so I try hard to find a way to make the unit of work a daily thing, even though for many things this isn’t possible.

How do I handle daily habits via my phone?

I have a folder called “👊” that houses the apps that represent a habit. In there lives a tracker app, such as Coach.me (there are others such as HabitHub (Android, soon iOS) or Productive (on iOS)) to make sure I am tracking the work. In here I track the daily status for things like: Exercise, Study, Ate Healthy, etc. I have alerts in the morning and evening to make sure to check in and check off. Some of the apps have that built in, else you need to just use the Calendar.

The rest of the folder contains the specific apps that map to the activities. E.g. 100 push ups for a quick exercise, Duolingo for language learning, Headspace for meditation, Metabolic for food tracking, etc.

This manual tracking is far from ideal and what I really need are the following features:

Smart notifications

You want to be reminded and nudged to do the work, but in a smart way. Elevate has a smart notification system that will only bother you at a certain time if you haven’t done the work (duh).

Some of the trackers have decent features here, but still often go a lil off. I don’t need to be told “there are 4 items to be done today”, I got that.

Google Calendar has a feature specifically for habits, based on the acquisition of Timeful. You need to block time to get things done. Sure, you can block off a set time, and that can work, but the habit feature is smarter than that. If an emergency meeting is placed right over your time slot it will find another time for you, to make sure you don’t miss it.

Smart badges

Show me how many I have left as a badge. Productive even has a nice option where you can tag a habit to a time of the day, and not show you a count if it isn’t time yet.

Usage detection

For habits that have an app associated with them, they know when you are actually complete (vs. the app just being launched say). It would be nice to have an API so the app could give that information to the system. Then you would get tasks auto checked off, and could even show badge colors (yellow for started but not complete?).

Some activities that aren’t simply about app usage could still track. Were you at the gym for an hour? Did you run or bike? There is a lot of context that can be used.

Magic Folder

I want to go beyond a folder. On Android you can create a much deeper experience, which I hope to see. I would love to have a rich widget that shows me information and auto hides apps when they are done for the day.

I haven’t even gotten to the tracking of actual outcomes yet. In a world where so many of the brightest minds are fighting for attention, I am hoping that we can pivot the zero sum game of 24 hours a day to start helping us become productive.

What do you find useful in the daily slog?

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