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the Zone App

This project began with my long lasting passion for organization, tracking, and the search for better work habits.  Most would consider me a very organized person in both my personal and work life. While this is generally a positive aspect of my personality there are consequences that come with this life style.  Often work and organization can overwhelm my world such that my push toward getting a specific task done inhibits my focus on other equally important tasks.  For this reason, I have been hesitant to implement tracking apps in the past.  I am worried that the heightened awareness that comes with tracking apps would amplify the narrow focus I tend to get stuck in?  

In order to explore what I do and do not like about tracking apps that aim to help your work habits I implemented a few into my life.  Two of these apps included the Reporter App and Toggl.  The Reporter App is a customizable survey app that randomly asks you questions about your day.  The app stores your answers into simple visualizations and helps you keep a record/journal of random variables throughout your day.  This app does a wonderful job of helping you to note important aspects of your day that may contribute to your work habits.  However, I found the randomization of the surveys to be very distracting when I was working.  Often, when I was in the middle of a work session, a notification would pop up on my phone to tell me that it was time to “report”.  Most of the time I would find myself ignoring the notification in order not to break up my work session.  Then after the work session I would notice the notification again and continued to ignore it since I was not working and the answers would not be applicable.  What I liked about the Reporter app however, was the simple and immediate opportunity to analyze your answers.  Overall I had a much more positive experience with the Toggl app.  I used the Toggl app to track my work sessions throughout the semester.  If I was doing homework for one class I would start and stop a timer at the beginning and end of the work session, respectively.  Now I have a very comprehensive timeline of how much time I spend on each class.  I found this app very easy to use and so quick to implement that it barely creeped into my work sessions.  Still however, I had a weird feeling that tracking my time for each class and noting that timing in the moment was motivating my work in negative ways.  Noting the time ticking by instead of focusing on the task at hand is a common result of time tracking and I often find myself doing just that.  Of course, having the data after the fact has been interesting to analyze and motivates changes in my work habits. 

My aim for this project was to think critically about how a mobile application could benefit or harm your work habits.  Ultimately, I tried to design and build an application that took all of the positive aspects of tracking apps but eliminated the negative effects that they can have on work habits in particular.