Mobile Productivity App • Ongoing Personal Project • 2014-Present
• Mobile productivity app, currently in conceptual phase, based on psychological research in goal setting, behavioral self-regulation, motivation, individual differences, flow, counseling, social psychology, game mechanics, and more.
• Ongoing personal project that I absolutely love thinking about, explaining, and discussing!
• Create a task management app that not only helps people stay productive, but also become more through the power of goal setting and personal feedback.
• Help people discover their high-level life goals while setting practical and actionable lower-level goals.
• Creating an intuitive productivity app that doesn't involve making lists on lists on lists on lists.
• Fighting 'featuritis' and determining the app's minimum viable product
• Getting the app in users' hands to learn and try out.
GoalKeeper is inspired by the body of psychology research I immersed myself in while writing my undergrad senior thesis paper (which you can download below). The paper was all about goal setting -- specifically, how people can set effective goals in order to: A) actually get things done, B) feel happier on a day-to-day basis, C) feel a deeper sense of meaning-in-life on a long-term basis, and finally D) how each of these outcomes mutually contribute to one another with a sort of "rock tumbler" effect.
After learning a ton about goal setting, productivity, and motivation, I realized that most modern productivity apps (e.g., Reminders, Wunderlist, Clear, Dispatch, 30/30, etc.) present a number of practical solutions for people to stay on-track, but aren't built to do much else. With this, I became obsessed with designing a system that not only helps people stay productive, but also helps people become more productive.
You can download my thesis paper "The Influence of Goal Setting on Performance and Wellbeing (2013)" right here. The paper also was made into a slide deck/poster board thingie, if you'd rather see diagrams and pictures than read a 25-page academic paper.
Interface & Interactions
GoalKeeper handles in a way that is quite different than standard To-Do List software, but it’s very much in-tune with the way people naturally think. Goals stack up into hierarchies -- broad/abstract “be” goals break down into smaller-scale “do” goals, which break down into actionable tasks, which can be broken down into even smaller subtasks ad infinitum. People vary in the level of abstraction at which they generally think about their goals, aspirations, day-to-day tasks, and lives in general. It has been shown, however, that simply being exposed to new and different frames of thinking can increase motivation, boost performance, and make people feel happier/more meaningful. To be able to toggle between “big picture” thinking and actionable minutia; between “be” goals and “do” goals with a slight gesture of the hand is at the heart of the GoalKeeper interface.
Every GoalKeeper item exists on a single plane: the user’s entire ‘network’ of goals, which comprises the app’s zooming user interface. In this regard, interaction with GoalKeeper is more akin to Google Maps than it is to the iOS “Reminders” app. Goals and tasks are represented by circles, rather than lists nested within lists nested within more lists. In a (very condensed) nutshell, users simply tap and type to create individual tasks, then draw circles around or drag together related tasks in order to group them into goals. This can be done to whatever level of abstraction the user wishes to operate at -- so, a massive life goal could contain five different smaller goals, all of which contain numerous individual tasks. As tasks are completed, users simply check them off, which eventually leads to entire goals being checked off. The beauty of this interface is that the user is constantly able to see, at-a-glance, not only the things that they need to do that day, but also what bigger motivations lie behind those smaller tasks. Completing a big project seems more meaningful when it’s perceived within the overarching goal of “Being A Success,” and “Being A Success” seems a lot less daunting and much more achievable when you’re able to zoom in and see that its comprised of actionable, completable subgoals and subtasks with the pinch of a few fingers.
Ongoing Vision & Next Steps
GoalKeeper is still very much a work in progress. With each person I test the idea and interface with, I come up with new ideas of how to make it more usable and helpful. I’ve also thought of a metric ton of additional features based on psychology research that I believe could make GoalKeeper an absolutely incredible, innovative productivity tool. These features include things such as an instrument for measuring and predicting ‘flow’, a number of tracked and user-accessible statistics, a built-in task timer, dynamic difficulty mechanics, a number of different community/social features, and a complex point and reward system that (I promise) goes deeper than the average gamification system. All of these features align with the general mantra of my GoalKeeper project: a productivity app should work with the user, challenge the user, teach the user about themselves, and leave the user better for having utilized it. This may seem like a lofty mission, but I genuinely believe that the vision I have for GoalKeeper can be achieved.
GoalKeeper is one of my most intrinsically-motivated and perpetually thought-about personal projects as a designer. I love thinking about it, designing for it, and talking about it. The only thing that has proved difficult for me is the means of actually developing it. I’d love to gather a team to actually start working on making GoalKeeper a reality, so if you’re interested in collaborating (or know anybody who would be) please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! The same goes for those of you who are just curious to learn more about the project, the mechanics behind it, or even to talk about how to implement effective goal setting in your own life. I’m always open and eager to talk about this stuff.