BTTN: An Anti-Procrastination App
In my Persuasive design class under HCI, we were given the task to solve any behavioral problem or unhealthy habits through psychology research. My team and I decided to combat procrastination by using scheduling and self-introspection methods such as emotional regulation and reframing to help users understand why they are procrastinating and how to combat those feelings of anxiety.
Role: Product Design, Research, Illustration
Tools: XD, Illustrator
Collaborators: Anukriti Kedia, Saloni Sabnis, Bolade Fatade, Margaret Williams
Duration: 6 weeks
Phase 1: Discovery
Firstly, we wanted to narrow the target users who will use this anti-procrastination product. We focused on designing a product that would help self-motivated professionals and students who wanted to increase their productivity level and decrease procrastination.
To start researching, we read psychology and behavioral study research papers to get a sense of what induces procrastination and how to combat it.
Here are the main points we found from existing research:
Internally imposed deadlines are not as effective as external deadlines from other people or things, and might lead to lower task performance (Ariely & Wertenbroch, 2002)
People have trouble visualizing their future selves and aren’t good at doing things for the long term, as they favor feeling good in the present term (Ariely, 2012)
Negative moods with present task increases procrastination ((Lay, 1994; Tykocinski & Pittman, 1998)
A way to combat procrastination is through self-affirmation, which can restore self competence, and allow them to reflect on self-worth (Cascio, O’Donnell, Tinney, Lieerman, Taylor, Stecther & Falk, 2016)
Another way to beat procrastination is through reframing - shifting a negative image to a positive one (Evans et al,. 2009)
Through research, we found methods and focuses that might combat procrastination such as making it easier for people to view their future selves, affirmations to keep people motivated, and reframing daunting tasks to positive tasks. Next, we interviewed our target users to see what they personally tackled
We interviewed 9 students from ages 20 to 30 and from various disciplines what their procrastination habits were, their procrastination rating (10 being severe), and how it affects them emotionally & psychology, and their preferred interventions. Our target users were self-motivated professionals and students who wanted to increase their productivity level and decrease procrastination.
We found that:
Uninteresting tasks, high concentration and difficult tasks induced procrastination and it made them feel guilt and low-self esteem. To mitigate procrastination, people used to-do lists, social accountability, and visualizations of deadlines.
After gathering our findings, we designed three prototypes that tackled 3 methods of combating procrastination through our research. The 3 methods for anti-procrastination including visualizing the future self, emotional regulation, and a digital buddy that talks through user’s problems and gives self-affirmations to persuade people to stop procrastinating.
We decided to focus more on tackling the emotional side of procrastination instead of the scheduling route so that people can change their thought processes from the root of the cause of procrastination.
Phase 2: Design and Lo-Fi Prototyping
Concept 1: Orb
The first concept, Orb, mainly targeted the idea of visualizing the future self to motivate users towards goal pursuit through an abstract representation and constant feedback. This orb would present itself to the user through browser/lock screens, serving as a constant reminder of their future self. The soft colors would mitigate the intimidation of procrastination and at a glance colors would serve as a reminder for the individual of their goal progress.
Lo-Fi Prototype Features Include:
Simple form of a circle as a metaphor for balance and a basic palette of colors to represent goal fulfillment
Users would choose what factors contributed the most to the image they held of their future self. Based on the user’s selection, the app would assign a color to each of the variables and schedule subgoals for corresponding categories
As tasks are completed, the future orb will start filling up with color and serve as motivation towards completing tasks through visualization and reminders
Based on learnings from the user interviews, the aim of the app was to build on a more holistic sense of self by reducing procrastination not just for work related tasks, but also personal goals as well
Concept 2: Digital Buddy
The digital buddy was a voice bot scheduling assistant that resides within the app and utilises touch as well as voice inputs, and helps to increase awareness of emotions related to tasks and regulating them as a means of preventing procrastination.
Lo-Fi Prototype Features include:
Simple tagging of emojis to reflect user’s mood on tasks
User adds tasks and deadlines using voice for easy input, and plits it into smaller tasks
Used ‘reframing’ as a technique to change negative thoughts towards tasks, and used reframed thoughts as reminders for users for tasks completion
Summary analytics on historical behavior and emotion for awareness of patterns
Concept 3: Flowers
This concept integrates a chatbot counselor with an emotional regulation dashboard & progress indicators using a friendly animated flower. It offers the option to choose two different personalities as the chatbot counselor – either a friendly-minded bot or a logically-minded bot. During stressful periods, the app provides uses affirmations & counseling using psychological techniques such as the “Four Walls” approach.
Using reframing, the dashboard displays progress on daunting tasks by creating an animated flower that grows visually in direct proportion to progress made
This flower uses positive reinforcement – if a user fails to complete a task, it doesn’t “wilt” not “reduce”. It just stops growing.
graphically displays a summary of your emotional timeline throughout the tracked working period. Specific metrics include chat summaries, most & least productive times and tasks as well as information on previous weeks.
Chat bot provides counseling during stressful times and can help persuade users to work using psychological persuasive techniques such as “four walls”
After getting user feedback from the three concepts and wire frames, we compiled our findings. Here are some insights:
For the first concept, users like that they could instantly visualize their performance and thought that abstracting goals was a clever design choice. However, they users found that repeatedly seeing “future self” in the copy was awkward, and was unsettled by constantly seeing their future self displayed, as they weren’t sure how it was being measured (goals? time?)
For the second concept, users liked the simple interface and auto breakdown of deadlines. They also liked the historical performance and the motivational reminders. However, users were confused about the focus mode/Do Not Disturb mode. Some of the options for rescheduling was too limiting to be effective.
For the third concept, participants liked the choosing of personalities for the bot, but they thought that it might be against their best interest if they chose a friendly versus a logical bot. They liked the 4 walls persuasive techniques, but were indifferent to the flower metaphor
After getting user feedback, we tried combining all the positive features of each prototype and collage them into one final design.
Phase 3: Final Design
We combined features of previous prototypes to create Bttn. Bttn is a chatbot which intelligently breaks up and schedules tasks and helps with emotion regulation.
A stand-alone app, Bttn uses a Voice User interface along with intuitive gestures to facilitate ease of use.
We narrowed down the reasons for people’s negative moods towards certain tasks to an initial 3 reasons of “difficulty, fear of failure and lack of interest”, based on research and testing. Furthermore, it customizes interventions– when a user reports that a task is too difficult, Bttn breaks down large tasks into smaller ones. For fear of failure, Bttn displays self-affirming messages. If there’s a lack of interest, Bttn asks you to reframe it as either a challenge or an activity with a reward. To understand how you’re feeling in a quick and easy way about a certain task, you can swipe the task left in a “negative” direction or the right in a “positive” direction similar to function of Tinder. At the scheduled time, it reminds the user of their personal reasons to complete.
Bttn learns from user’s past behaviors and uses historical data to send self-affirming messages for tasks associated with feelings of not being able to overcome challenges. Sentence structures would include options for reframing these tasks as challenges, positive associations or rewards. We reframed procrastination as rescheduling in order to counteract negative emotions attached to it, and provided a visual timeline that reduces distance from future self by demonstrating how current decision may impact the future. There’s no penalty if a task isn’t completed– it’s just rescheduled.
Summary analytics on historical behavior would help users not only with creating awareness about patterns responsible for their procrastination, but can also serve as an emotion regulation mechanism by providing proof that they were able to overcome their negative emotions towards task completion.
To reschedule, you can click on one of the highlighted colors that are open spaces and Bttn will advise you if that space is ready to be filled based on the tasks between it. Bttn advises you that with color coding the places in the schedule with the red color meaning “not at all a good fit” or orange meaning “somewhat of a good fit” and green meaning “best fit.” So by just looking at the colors of the schedule blocks, you can tell what is a good time to reschedule.