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Productivity Log: user types & timers

September 15, 2019
5 min read

An early step in UX design methodology is creating user types or personas for your product. For this exercise, I wanted to explore how my app might serve different user types, specifically the timers.

A productivity log solves a personal problem I have: keeping track of the work I do each day. As a user, I didn’t feel I needed to conduct UX research to develop personas. Instead, I jump-started with user types based on the roles I’ve had in the past.


The fundamental purpose of my app is to periodically prompt you to write down what you’re working on. A basic timer could do this every 30 minutes. The app goes a step further by combining the prompt with a Pomodoro timer to help users actively manage focus time, breaks, and reporting.

I'm adding variants of the Pomodoro timer that I'm calling a Maker timer and Smart timer (for now). The Maker timer and Smart timer are based on an essay by Paul Graham explaining the differences between Maker’s and Manager’s schedules. In short, makers need long periods of focus to be productive, while managers tend to have hourly tasks and meetings.

The Maker Timer is similar to the Pomodoro timer, but would allow longer focus periods with fewer breaks. You'd work for an hour until you took a break, but be prompted every 30 minutes to write down what you're working on.

I don’t think there's a need for a Manager Timer. The biggest problem I've found with using a Pomodoro timer for the last few years is that it's hard to keep it in sync with my schedule. The solution instead is a Smart timer setting to keep the app in sync with a clock. Instead of stopping after exactly 25 minutes, you'd stop at 10:25 or 10:55, allowing for a five-minute break before the hour.

Here are the settings I came up with for each timer:

Basic Timer

- Prompt to add a journal entry periodically (i.e. every 30 min)

Pomodoro Timer

- Focus session for ~25 minutes
- prompt to add a journal entry at the end of each session
- take a short break
- take a longer break after multiple sessions

Maker Timer

- a maker session would last 1-2 hours
- get in the flow to manage a complex task during each session
- prompt to add a journal entry 2-4 times per sessions (i.e. every 30 min)
- take a break after each session

Smart Timer (option)

- the timer would match the session to the time
- arrange short breaks 5 minutes before the hour/half hour
- arrange long breaks after the hours
- would be able to check your calendar and schedule around events

User Types

Once I had my timer solutions, I needed to think about how well they’d serve different user types. To expedite the process, I looked at my own role as a designer, a developer, and a start-up founder.

For each user type, I considered their productivity based on:

- wants: how they prefer to be productive
- habits: how they most frequently go about being productive
- pain points: what makes it hard to measure productivity
- platforms they’d typically use
- quantity of unique tasks they’d manage per day
- the software they’d use most often and be most familiar with
- productivity management tools they might use


As a designer, I would use the app based on context. If I’m just freelancing from home, the Pomodoro timer would keep me focused and energized. If I really needed to push through something, I could switch to the Maker timer and take fewer breaks. I wouldn’t need the Smart Timer unless I had scheduled tasks to accomplish.

If I was working on-site, I’d use the Pomodoro timer in brainstorming sessions and the Maker Timer when I’m trying to be productive. I’d probably leave the Smart Timer on, so I’d be prepared for meetings.

Platform-wise, I’d want my app to work on my desktop, phone, and Apple Watch. It would be helpful to auto-start when I use professional apps like Sketch or Adobe apps. It would be very helpful if it could be aware of tasks assigned to me in Jira, Trello, or my personal task management apps like OmniFocus or Todoist.


As a developer, I’d use the Maker Timer exclusively. The only option I might change is how long the work sessions are, but most likely I’d want to take a break every hour just to stretch. The Smart Timer would be useful for days that I have meetings and have to leave at a particular time, otherwise, I’d keep it off.

I’d use my app almost exclusively on my desktop. If I wanted to use it to try to hack my life, I might consider using it on my phone or Apple Watch. I’d want the app to be smart enough to know when I’m working/using software tools like Xcode or the terminal. Bonus points if it can automatically track when I push git commits and link directly to Jira tickets. I’d also expect it to have “code completion” abilities like my IDE - it should be able to suggest words/entries for me with just a few characters.


As a founder / PM, I’d use the Basic Timer on days full of meetings or when I’m on the go. All other times would be the Pomodoro timer. The Smart Timer option would always be on. I’d want it to be discreet during meetings. I’d need to be able to add tasks at any time and be able to set aside time to triage everything. I’d also be interested in getting my team to use my app, to help boost their productivity.

I’d use this app on all of my devices. I’d need quick entries for my Apple Watch. I’d need metrics. Bonus points if it can automatically track who I’ve emailed (with subject line) or files I’ve worked on (Docs, Sheets). It needs to be extremely smart about my calendar and not get in the way.

Tagged: PersonasSketchUX

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