Today, we’re going to talk about a global issue that has affected more people than the coronavirus: Procrastination.
There are people everywhere, even some people that you know, that can’t stop doing it. It might even be a habit that even plagues you. What’s more, I would be willing to bet that right now, procrastination is causing problems in your life or the life of someone you love. If it weren’t, why would you be reading this?
Procrastination is such an ingrained part of the human experience that people bond over it. There are procrastination support groups where people gather (with most members arriving late) to commiserate or talk about ways to stop it altogether
While doing some research why people procrastinate by observing in one of said groups, I met Artem Stenko, the creator of Due Focus.
Artem and his team are building DueFocus for the purpose of keeping procrastinators, distributed teams, and people in typically unstructured environments (like remote workers) on track.
I happen to know a lot of people that are easily distracted, so I thought it would be great to find out how Due Focus can make a difference.
YamteQ: Procrastination is the cosmic force that led us into this conversation – I definitely have been fighting it my whole life. Obviously, you’ve been able to recognize it as an issue for the masses. Can you tell us about yourself and your own stories of procrastination?
Artem: Hi, my name is Artem, and I am a Product Owner at DueFocus. Throughout my career, I always worried that I don’t know how much I was distracted by my bad habits and unnecessary actions. Moreover, to confirm the effectiveness of my actions during the execution of tasks. Mainly, this concerned a long-term goal where there is a tangible result only at the end of the path, but procrastination begins in the middle of it.
It may sound pretentious and unusual, but we found a way to evaluate the effectiveness of actions and time consumption while working in front of your computer.
Now, we are actively working both on improving our algorithm for reaching focus, and on scenarios for developing the habit of efficient actions when handling of personal and team tasks. There are also other features we are currently working on maximizing productivity.
YamteQ: How did this bring you to the idea for DueFocus?
Artem: Here is the main reason that led us to this point: When it comes to getting things done, businesses don’t ask “How?” Their main interest is “When?”
Meanwhile, the performer is concerned with “How exactly?”, because without knowing that, he cannot give a 100% accurate answer to the question “When?”.
I think we are all familiar with the following questions:
“Where does this estimate come from? Why so long? When will it be in production? Hello, are you here? What are you doing?!?”
DueFocus aims to give real-time answers to these questions by reducing the time spent on unnecessary actions.
YamteQ: Wow, that’s interesting! Can you tell us about the progress of DueFocus so far? For example, is there a team behind the product or have you developed it solo? How many early adapters have tried it out?
Artem: Of course, this is teamwork that began in 2017. In the middle of 2018, we released the 1st MVP version, and, at about the same moment, we came up with the idea of focus analysis, which radically changed our understanding and philosophy on time and task management.
This required the need to remake the application, a change of technology and reprocessing original scenarios. That is still in progress. There are so many variables to consider, but despite this long journey, we haven’t lost our enthusiasm for accomplishing the final goal. I will explain more about that now.
At the moment, we’ve made it to the Top-3 “Product Hunt“. We are trending in the following topics: productivity, time tracking, task management. At the time of the pre-release, we had 15 teams with a total of 450+ users. We are very grateful to all the dedicated users, who stay with us, share their flow, and experience our mission.
YamteQ: How does Due Focus work for the individual that needs to self-manage (like remote employees) vs. for people that need to be productive on teams?
Artem: This is a “loaded” question since each user or each team solves a specific problem. I will try to give a detailed conceptual answer.
My team and I grew up professionally in the culture and processes of outsourcing companies and the service business. In this world, management rules can change depending on the client, project, individual executor, internal processes, etc.
In the same way, the difference in the tools used for development and management, even within the same company, can vary considerably in different departments due to the client or team habits. Like different project management methodologies, due to the difference in their understanding, and for the sake of adapting to your own needs or preferences, they are often performed to a different degree correctly.
If you work with two or three different clients, then your working day turns into an assortment of switching between applications and rules. And even when after a while you get used to such a pace, the important question remains: “How effective is the flow you’ve chosen or implemented?”
The monitoring and confirming the effectiveness of work should be based on artifact data collected in the context of the work, that is, based on KPI metrics for a specific SLA.
The buffer of a human operative and long-term memory has a limit. Controlling delegated tasks, keeping the backlog up-to-date, and checking the results daily lead to tremendous communication costs, especially for those who work remotely. As well as submitting weekly/monthly reports that also requires effort and a lot of time. Especially when the logging rules for the client and for the internal accounting are different.
Even if you are a freelancer, sooner or later, the rules of the employer will force you to keep endless records of your actions or submit reports. Imagine, there are companies whose employees are required to write reporting comments every hour!
We interviewed more than 250 managers, and the truth is that almost no one reads reports. Just like more than 83% of the managers surveyed don’t monitor screenshots of employees. They don’t have time to analyze the activity, yet they force the performers to use them for pseudo control! What the point of this?
And it takes away from real productivity. Why should we spend time putting together reports no will ever read, especially when there is a backlog of important tasks that need to be completed. We needed to find a way to get back to doing actual work!
Therefore, we needed a tool capable of automating and unifying the difference in approaches and processes when working with clients. This tool also needed to be capable of collecting and analyzing the information, artifacts, and simplifying reporting for all departments.
Armed with React+Go microservices, we made it and want to share it with you.
YamteQ: So why do you need all these reports, artifacts and metrics?
The roots of this question are buried in the conflict between “Motivation”, “Reaction”, and “Trust”.
Basically, in the relationship between a performer and a contractor. That is why to understand “WHEN?” as accurately as possible, to resolve conflicts and simplify management processes and reduce risks, you must first answer the question “HOW EXACTLY?”
To understand where you will be or when you will be at the right point, you need to know your speed of movement and efficiency! But we are not machines, and we do not have a constant state of fulfillment of the given functions for a huge number of reasons!
Our team asked this question and subsequently took up the solution to this problem. We set ourselves the goal of finding a way to manage current and over priority tasks with maximum efficiency, completely dependent on the psychology of a person, a person’s needs and behavior. 2 years passed and, finally, we have found it.
Based on the research, the first step on this path is the unification of time management, as well as the definition of norms and rules for the effectiveness of each person’s actions.
Our team was inspired by the work of Cal Newport, who outlined the basics of his ideas in several books, in particular in: “Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. However, we decided to dive deeper by projecting his theories and parallel studies in the field of human labor into everyday workflow and implement a tool for calculating these norms.
Having developed our own algorithm, we succeeded in measuring how deeply and for how long a person can plunge into his Deep Focus during the day, i.e. give maximum efficiency in the process of fulfilling intellectual or creative tasks, despite distractions like parallel tasks, corporate culture, authentic business processes, and other diversions like social media, communication with colleagues, etc.
Thanks to the participation of our early adopters, we create analytics of intellectual labor to determine the individual capabilities of each role and its standards. These standards help to establish not only a personal balance in the work but also a balance in the relationship between the contractor and the employer. We believe that this is useful both for self-management and for teams.
Ultimately, this tool should predict the answer to the question “WHEN?” and foreshadow burnout due to excessive workload on the performer.
YamteQ: What is the technology behind the app?
Artem: We have chosen Golang as our main platform for backend development. We use various types of Databases for each microservice (from OS file systems to SQL solutions). We used TypeScript, React, Electron, Redux-Saga, Electron-Redux, Webpack, Gulp, Electron Builder, Prettier, Eslint, Husky, Jest, Selenium WebDriver, Gitlab CI/CD, C++(Node Addons), Git, SCSS/HTML5, JSON-RPC. as our development platforms for the client application. A strictly defined Continuous Integration process delivered new microservices to the server, as well as to the new client version.
YamteQ: DueFocus can integrate with an impressive list of other productivity tools! Trello, Outlook, Google Calendar, and Asana just to name a few. How will the integration enhance the app users’ experiences with these tools?
Artem: That’s right. DueFocus has a two-way API integration with the most popular task management tools such as Jira, Asana, Trello, etc. It helps users to process tasks, manage, and supplement their details from within our application. I don’t advise anyone as to which of them is best as a task management software — this is purely a matter of taste and personal convenience! Our level of compatibility with all of them is about the same across the board.
My team has tried lots of project management tools as we sought the perfect solution for our goals, and, in the end, we chose ClickUp. This is the most up-to-date, multivariate solution that is actively and quickly supported. ClickUp uses the latest technologies and has a great team!
However, starting February 2020, we’ve switched to our internal task manager, which, at the moment, has the minimum necessary functions for the project and team management. And, we need it for the next “prediction …” algorithm we are developing. So DueFocus Tasks will also develop and improve, especially if our users require it.
YamteQ: What would you like to see happen with Due Focus in the next 12 months?
I think it is clear to any marketer that behind the uniqueness lies both the strength of the product and its weakness. Personally, in 2020 I would like to continue our mission and move as much as possible from uniqueness to an understandable and accepted norm among innovators and continue to facilitate and improve our scenarios.
For the sake of this goal, now we have free early access to pretexts for anyone that needs a tool for multivariate work scenarios for processing tasks and recording time and efficiency. Also, creating easy-to-read statements that you can share, send, or turn into an invoice, and several necessary settings and rules for managing project resources, and real-time analytics of the actions of all its participants.
In the future, having processed all your scripts, we will bring the tool to full automation.
We can also supply you with personal focus metrics (KPI & AMP (Autonomy → Mastery → Purpose), which will serve as confirmation each employee’s skills and be personal accumulative metrics.
We already give you a simple and clear expression of the overall load on the project and the individual performer at every point in time, and after collecting data and conducting research, we’ll classify all roles according to Newport’s Deep Work Scheduling Philosophy (Monastic / Bimodal / Rhythmic / Journalistic).
Due Focus will accurately identify the most effective periods of interaction for teams working both in offices and remote teams located in different time zones. It will calculate the appropriate load type for each role and eventually focus on building trust with new employers or outsourcing clients and maintain mutually beneficial long-term relations in all operating processes.
In conclusion, we are truly grateful to Artem who has taken his time to explain this technology that he and his team are creating in great depth.
Productivity and trust are essential to the success of remote work in the future. Learning about the science behind analyzing it has been so interesting.
We hope that the ability to monitor the benefits of teamwork and remote work through algorithms and analytics will help remote work become more accepted by traditional organizations in the future, as well as facilitate the success of completely virtual companies.