Jordan Moore

Managing Daily Tasks

Writing my to-do list for the day is a key part of my morning routine and essential to state setting and priming. Before I have a chance to get distracted by emails and other notifications vying for my attention I sit down with my morning coffee and write down the tasks I want to complete for the day.

I use elements from Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal to list out today’s tasks. Each task starts with a bullet point followed by a short description of the task. When completed the bullet point is crossed out so it changes from “•” to “×”. If I didn’t finish a task and I still consider it to be a valuable thing to do I move it to tomorrow’s list by replacing the bullet point with “>” indicating that the task has been deferred.

If the task is delegated or can be deleted from the list before starting, then it gets a nice, satisfying line through it. Using this system means that when reviewing my list at the end of the day I get a quick visual reference ensuring every bulleted task has been in some way and nothing slips through the net.

You can go deeper with Bullet Journalling using tools like the Ryder’s Future Log for planning goals for the month, but I found that in practice navigating between pages became more frustrating than helpful. I found the most value in the daily task management part of the system so I have no qualms about utilising only that part of the Bullet Journal methodology.

So why not software?

One of biggest advantages is where it falls short for me in managing daily tasks. Software is faster than pen and paper. It’s easy to create a new task and add it to your list, which makes it easy to fill your list with things to do without a chance to properly think through the value of each task. I have been through countless task manager and to-do list tools to find one that sticks but in the end, I have always come back to pen and paper.

Unlike a physical book, has to compete for your attention amongst other open apps, windows and browser tabs. I remember using a popular app based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology and thinking it was working for me as I logged numerous tasks rapidly and proceeded to get to work. However, the problem started as soon as I started working on the tasks I had just set myself. The app would be hidden under multiple windows and sometimes I would go for days before realising it was still open with old, irrelevant tasks (and some forgotten items).

Such apps allow you to set due dates and notifications, but I find they take me out of my current flow and I end up working the app rather than the app working for me. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you have to bend to fit the opinions of an app - what happens if you decide to change your to-do writing style or system? The software probably wants you to do it a certain way.

Why pen and paper?

The great thing about pen and paper is its inefficiency. It takes time to write the list, and that’s the beauty of it! Editing is clunky and it gets annoying when you have to rewrite tasks that you need to move from day to day. For that reason, it encourages taking time to write better, more realistic goals. is too forgiving in that regard, pen and paper hold you more accountable and it promotes thinking through big tasks and breaking them down into achievable subtasks that can be done today.

Using a good old fashioned notebook has the additional advantage of taking your eyes off the screen. That pause enforces a small step back and seeing the bigger picture. It’s therapeutic.

Released: Wipe Screen

Wipe Screen screenshot

Wipe Screen attempts to solve the following problems:

  • Cleaning a dirty display
  • Keeping the device switched on without having to log out and log back in again
  • Keeping you in flow

It’s a fullscreen black screen app designed to show up dirt. Grab a screen wipe and wipe your laptop screen or your touch device.

Touch support is patchy for now as the fullscreen API isn’t reliable on smaller displays. Rotating your iOS device will have the same effect for the meantime.

Next steps:

  • Turn into a bookmarklet rather than a bookmark
  • Offer white alternative colour for stubborn stains

My Instapaper feed looks a lot like my Steam account. I have gathered many items with the good intention of making use of them on a rainy day, but they eventually gather dust on their virtual shelves.

Occasionally I’ll try and blast through a set of articles that I considered at one point to have potential value to me. When I’m strapped for time I’ll try Instapaper’s “speak” feature, which is effectively a shortcut to iOS’ dictation feature. I usually end up cancelling the dictation after it reads a few paragraphs. Perhaps I forget how bad it is or maybe I’m expecting some advances in the technology since I last used it that make it sound more natural and human-like.

With AI being applied to more and more tasks, fields and entire industries I notice how far it falls short of key human traits such as empathy and storytelling, and empathy within storytelling for that matter. We have thousands of years of experience on the robots when it comes to communicating oral wisdom from campfires and passing ideas down through generations.

AI narration is improving, however, services like Narro offer bots with various dialects that have fairly accurate speech patterns and rhythm. But ultimately the narration ends up having a passive effect as AI hasn’t managed to emulate the human capability of captivating an audience to deliver a message. Robots rely on punctuation like a musical score to inform the pace at which they communicate text, though we lack punctuation for instinctive human storytelling tools like drama and the pause to allow certain ideas to simmer in the minds of the listener. This is why uninteresting speakers often fail to communicate their idea — the audience becomes disengaged from the message.

On a relevant note, another key human trait in storytelling is context. With a contextual understanding of the topic, humans know when to employ the storytelling tools mentioned previously. Consider this example from a recent opinion piece in the New York Times about the dangers of relying on Google rather than investing in deep understanding:

Google is good at finding information, but the brain beats it in two essential ways. Champions of Google underestimate how much the meaning of words and sentences changes with context. Consider vocabulary. Every teacher knows that a sixth grader, armed with a thesaurus, will often submit a paper studded with words used in not-quite-correct ways, like the student who looked up “meticulous,” saw it meant “very careful,” and wrote “I was meticulous when I fell off the cliff.”

From You Still Need Your Brain by Daniel T. Willingham

A classic example of schoolchildren discovering a tool like a thesaurus and employing the technology incorrectly. With AI dictation we are cutting out the middleman leaving it open for potential missteps like this not necessarily with words, but the in the power of those words.

P.S If you are looking for a startup idea, please feel free to design a subscription service with great human storytellers willing to read my Instapaper feed for me, thanks!

Looking back over the vast majority of user testing sessions I have conducted, I noticed a pattern in where I felt I got the most value from each individual session.

I’m talking about the moment where the room is silent and there’s that awkward pause where the user is struggling and everything in your being is telling you to help them. It’s the moment in the session when they’ve been struck by genuine confusion that causes a gap in the person articulating thoughts back to you as they move through the prototype. If you cave and give into your inherent human desire to help then you risk losing highly valuable insights. You’ll know that moment is happening because you’ll feel it in your gut. You’ll see the obvious on screen where the person sees something else. You’ll see it in their eyes and you’ll want to help by telling them the answer or even ask them something like “What did you expect to happen here?”

Exercise restraint and give that moment time to breathe.

Wait for the silence to become uncomfortable and then keep waiting. If you speak first, you lose. Whatever they say first will be an insight. Even if it’s simply “I’m stuck…” or an “I don’t know what to do here…” that gives you a foundation upon which to build a line of questioning to dig deeper. Or they’ll tell you the answer and it will be gold.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that after that moment in the session it’s generally the point at which the person loosens up a bit more and talks more candidly about their thought process and becomes more openly critical about your work. For me, this is what defines a useful user testing session versus a session resulting in a blank page with a lack of insights. Otherwise, we could end up going through the motions in a session where you both know the person isn’t being entirely honest because they don’t want to offend people and you end up receiving low-quality feedback, or some of the feedback simply isn’t communicated because that barrier hasn’t been removed.

I believe it’s still important to lay the groundwork in making them feel at ease, like reassuring them that you didn’t design this thing and that it was the team back in the office (even though you totally designed it), and the fact that you’re helping us make this thing better (which is true) — it’s in that moment of awkwardness where they struggle and you exercise restraint — that’s where the real value lies.

Method UX

Christian Bale famously lost 63lbs for the role of insomniac Trevor Reznik in Brad Anderson’s psychological thriller The Machinist. Bale’s disturbing body transformation happened over the course of 4 months during which he forced himself into a diet of a can of tuna and an apple per day, keeping himself isolated for prolonged periods of time and going without proper rest. His dedication to the role before filming even began is a common reference point for people describing method acting.

Method acting is a technique derived from Constantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor and theatre director who between 1911 and 1916 used a methodology to train actors in the quest for theatrical truth. In essence the goals of Stanislavski’s System were to portray actors on stage as natural, believable characters. To achieve these goals actors would rely on recalling emotional memories and past experiences to bring those feelings to the role they had to portray. Actors would also use “If” (often refered to as the “Magic If”) to answer the question “What would I do if I was in this situation?” by envisioning themselves in the characters situation.

Like Christian Bale, many actors in the film industry such as Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro and Joaquin Pheonix employ the modern day interpretation of Stanislavski’s System — method acting. The method starts before filming giving the actor time to plan and prepare for the role leaving them better equipped to deliver a stronger performance during filming with a relatable, believable character.

Don’t think that I’m suggesting that we as designers for the Web take on extreme diets or the kind of psychological experimentation that could be potentially damaging without professional advice. I can’t help but admire the lengths method actors go to for their art. Perhaps we can learn from the emotional investment they make to a role before production begins. Isn’t that the whole point of UX research? We throw the word “empathy” around boardrooms and company about pages to show that we care about the people we are making the product for. To me, empathy has become an empty promise - a buzzword to appease potential clients.

To be truly empathetic I believe it involves going further than a few demographically informed personas that we assume are going to represent real people who use the things we make. Think about the project you’re working on now - how much of a difference would it make if you lived as the person you are making this for? How would they feel using the product? Where does it fit in their everyday lives? My hunch is that we would be able to make more well informed decisions that resonate with those people by diving right into the role, then we would have better tools to answer “What would I do if I was in this situation?”

There is no doubt that with this approach it can be emotionally taxing. There’s a balance and a scale in regards to how far you pursue it.

After filming of The Machinist wrapped up Christian Bale’s next role was Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. He gained 100lbs in six months and started rigourously learning martial arts for the many tightly choreographed fight sequences in the film.