Research, Systems

Tasked with promoting good work habits on the Carnegie Mellon campus, Nina Flores, Youjin Nam, and I tackled the common vice of time management through a system of physical, digital, and spatial components reminding students to reflect on their work and progress.

The Problem
Few people think twice about their work habits. As long as the deed gets done, little mind gets paid towards the process. Sleep and well-being become matter-of-fact sacrifices, and a lack of methodology seems to be common.

After speaking to many students on campus, we found that even though roadblocks come and people become overwhelmed or unmotivated while working, more often than not they expect the moment to pass and don't prescribe the solution to be a change in work habits. For those that have good working habits, maintaining good habits becomes difficult during changes in the environment.
The Research
We talked to and interviewed with several students from Carnegie Mellon. A majority cited time management as a common thread when it comes to bad working habits.

There is also a higher tendency for people to slack when working alone, whereas when working in studio environments, the shared space and peer pressure makes them work more efficiently. Some also cite the feeling of being overwhelmed as a common trigger for bad work habits. Therefore, a support system 0r human presence was crucial to individuals working remotely. Some even skype or keep in contact with others while working in order to keep themselves in check. A percentage of people cited distractions as the instigator of bad time management. If distracted, it became very difficult to get back to work. Even water or food breaks could potentially lead to procrastination.
The Product
In order to reduce poor time management, we wanted to create a support system for people working individually and remotely in a way that would resemble a human presence without intruding workflow. We wanted to keep people on task through reminders, words of encouragements, and tips for better time management. These products would have to have low barriers of engagement and be intuitive to use. Backed with the knowledge that people have the most trouble staying on task when working alone, we set out to integrate our message into the workflow of a typical student at Carnegie Mellon working by his/herself. 

We used tangled strings to visualize the idea of being stuck or overwhelmed by work and played around with different compositions given the medium in use. We intentionally used bright colors to speak to a younger audience and were careful not to use language that was too didactic or accusatory as to not stress students out even more.

The choice of DIN Alternate as the main typeface serves as an extension of the aggravated feeling communicated through the tangled strings. The boldness says that the matter at hand is urgent and Open Sans hones in the agitation and delivers an assertiveness that can be trusted.

The digital piece engages its audience at the precipice of distraction. We created a Google chrome plug-in that pops up customizable messages every time users attempt to go to a website they flagged as distracting. The plug-in uses a settings page to customize the pop-up messages and listing distraction websites.

The spatial piece is built around the idea that everyone takes water breaks in between working, but not everyone returns from these water breaks ready to work. We distributed water bottles with words of encouragement while gently nudging the audience to get back to work. 

The print piece is a set of table cards placed in public workspaces that may be picked up and read by distracted students in between working. We printed tips for improving work management on the card along with instructions for finding our Chrome extension to draw a connection to the digital piece.
Next Project -
Taiwanese Students Association