Quick Idea: Mood-based GTD System

I have no idea if something like this has been created, as I’ve only just had a few minutes to mull it over in my mind. It sounds more like a psychology experiment than a truly achievable computer science experiment.

Lately I’ve been finding out that my brain doesn’t work well on the 9-5, M-F work schedule that seems to work out for most people in this world. I’m not really sure why this is, but it seems to be built into my brain, as it’s been very hard for me to break. I’ve tried many things to try to jump start my brain, but have been unable to get something that keeps me on a regular schedule. I can wake up physically at 7am every morning in order to have an extra hour of time to get things done, but that doesn’t make me get things done.

While my GTD system does allow me to easily keep track of the things I need to get done, there is no driving factor to force me to do those things on my list. My brain doesn’t work well with broad goals, such as family obligation, bills, etc. For some reason, I can’t seem to draw motivation from the idea that I’m going to be a failure for the rest of my life if I don’t complete each of my next actions. The concept that one small step from the list will be one more step toward the completed goal just doesn’t seem to push me in the right direction.

So, the idea that I’m proposing is somewhere in between a solid programming task and a psychology experiment.

Productivity Heat Map

Productivity Heat Map

Using the concept of “heat maps” to determine when I am at my peak productivity levels and expanding it even further to factor in the chaos-based system that my mind employs when dealing with day to day events, we could come up with some sort of hybrid system that allows me to use my strengths and weaknesses to my advantage.

What this system would do, in theory, is allow me to determine, at any given moment, exactly what task in my “next actions” list would be best for me to undertake.

Most people who use the GTD system have found that it truly does make them more productive, but those same people are most likely more personally motivated than I am. That seems like a cop out, and in a way, I guess it is. Just crying “I don’t work like that” obviously doesn’t lend me any credibility, and certainly does not put me in a situation that could involve changing myself.

Sitting and figuring out that my brain doesn’t work like most people’s is a strange concept. I have been failing repeatedly over the years to really get myself into some sort of productive mood and really get ahead when I have the chances. There are two obvious conclusions: I am doomed to failure, or I need to change the way I think about the way my brain works, and embrace the differences from the “conventional” systems.

The first step to figuring out how to get myself regularly into a productive mood is to figure out when these moods hit, and how to use them properly to my advantage.

Think Out of the Box

Think Out of the Box

The idea here is to use some sort of psychological mood survey to figure out at any given moment how I am feeling, and to determine which of my listed tasks would be best suited to that mood. This seems like a lot of work, but given the way I’ve been feeling lately, any sort of change to my habits could become an invaluable experience.

All of the concepts here are very high-level. I don’t really know personally what kind of intricate work would go into bringing a system like this into reality, but I always have enjoyed working on the concept planning stage, whether or not I see the projects through to a usable product.

Another issue that I find while assessing my productivity practices is that my schedule certainly does not fit with the people in my life. My wife works from 8am to 6pm every Monday through Friday. My son is awake from 8am to 1pm and 3pm to 8pm every day. Though I don’t know what my peak productivity periods are just yet, I know that they don’t quite mesh well with those schedules of the other people in my life.

So, we would have to include in this tool some sort of functionality to factor in the schedules of the people around you and your prior engagements in order to provide you with a simple-to-use system which puts all of your restrictions in context and allows you to get down and dirty with the work you need to do, when you are feeling best to do it.

Yet another issue I have come across, which I’ve mentioned in the past, is that there is no functionality in my GTD system that forces me to do something at any given time. As it is now, my system is very unobtrusive. For most people, this would be a very good thing. The problem I have with this is that at any given moment, there is no imperative need for me to go to my system to discover what I need to next.

Hey! Pay Attention!

Hey! Pay Attention!

So, another feature we have to put in here is some sort of annoying messaging system that bothers you to the point that you finally go and do what you are supposed to do.

Like I said, this certainly will be an annoying deal breaker for a lot of people, but I think that I really do need functionality like this in order to keep myself focused on the goals ahead of me.

This “Quick Idea” certainly turned out to be quite a large post, with many, many good ideas contained within.

Whether or not a product could be built like this is not really the question. I have faith that something like this could come to market (if it hasn’t already) and could easily become a must-have killer app for many knowledge workers out there today.

The real question is whether something like this could be built to suit many people, regardless of their psychological standing, family situations and work situations.

Chalk this idea up on the drawing board with the many others I’ve presented here, as well as the many more ideas that I’ve never put into writing. Maybe I’ll make the time to get started on this, but for now, it’s being filed under “Someday/Maybe” with all of the other moldy ideas.

  • Pingback: The Idea Behind NagTech | NagTech()

  • Billygates

    I had a similar thought this morning. I’m just starting to work with GTD, but the standard categories don’t quite work for me and motivation and focus are big issues.
    So perhaps in pre-processing tasks they should be filed by moods, and these would take the place of the location- or tool-based contexts that make up the standard GTD categories. After all, the reason for those suggested categories is they fall naturally into most people’s “what can I do when…”. It’s just that for those of us with mood or motivational issues, the internal contexts are more dominant than the external ones.