Chances are, your phone’s notifications have become like flies against a windshield. The endless slurry of texts, social notifications and lame attempts at direct marketing has made our brains go into standby mode. Productivity apps that rely on our phone’s notifications are unlikely to have the kind of impact we’d want. One partial workaround is to set a different sound for these apps’ notifications but this doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem.
The salve for this pickle could well be in your humble Fitbit. A Fitbit has three advantages over you phone’s notifications system:
- You can’t do much with a Fitbit so it’s not going to create more distraction.
- It doesn’t hold the negative associations of all the things you stress about on your phone.
- It’s right there on your wrist, holding you to account.
Wouldn’t it be great if your favourite productivity app could communicate with your Fitbit instead? Enter bitTicker:
bitTicker makes your Fitbit vibrate whenever you get a notification from a chosen app. Let me give you three ways you can make this work for you before I give some advice on setting this up.
1) Time your to-dos
You can use a scheduling app like TimeTune (for recurring tasks) or Any.do (for one-offs) to specify the exact day and time to do what you need to do. If you sit down and spend a little time inputting everything you have to get done (and make this process one of your weekly to-dos!) then you won’t waste the time you were meant to spend working or studying; nor will you have your to-do list looming over you.
You’re in the kitchen making a sandwich and then your Fitbit vibrates. You look down at your wrist and read:
And so you go to your desk and do the essay. Removing the choice of when you do the things you’re meant to do can be very liberating!
I’ve tried this with Todoist and it seems to be a bit unreliable. Please let us know if you’ve found an app that works well for you or if you have a good way of using one of the apps mentioned here.
2) Quick reminders
You can use Google Inbox’s reminders feature to follow up on emails when it’s more convenient. Save this for important stuff; it’s a way to stop these things getting buried in all your other messages.
3) Pace yourself
The Pomodoro technique is the simple idea that you get your chores done quicker if you know you’ve got a break coming up. You time yourself for 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes of rest and there are lots of apps that do this for you. If you add your favourite Pomodoro app to bitTicker then the timer will work on your wrist!
The Pomodoro technique can backfire! It only works for things you find boring. This is because interruptions can drain you and cost you a lot of time trying to get back in the zone. To reduce this effect you could try to
a) Use the 5 minutes to do something still related to your task e.g. searching Google Images for photos to put into the assignment you’re writing or asking a friend something about the work.
b) Keep your break neutral rather than doing something else fun and absorbing e.g. make a cup of tea rather than playing Candy Crush.
c) If you have music playing, pause it and then resume it at the end of the 5 minutes.
- Go to the bitTicker website and download the “APK file” for the app.
- Get your phone cable and connect your phone to your computer.
- Move the bitTicker APK onto your phone, to a folder you’ll be able to find easily. Safely disconnect your phone.
- Open up your files folder on your phone and find the file you just transferred. Install bitTicker.
- You should be able to open the app. It has its own setup instructions on the home screen. Make sure you’ve clicked “Test” before going on.
- Click the little plus in the top-right and find your productivity app of choice. It’s best to download an app especially for this use or choose an app that only gives you useful notifications. (Most to-do apps don’t ask you to give the time at which you’d like to complete the task. You might need to look up how to schedule to-dos on your app or else how to schedule reminders.)
- Make sure your phone is not on silence (bitTicker won’t work if it is).
- Let us know how you got on!
Fitbit have stopped allowing this feature on the Fitbit Charge. It only works on the Surge, Blaze and Alta. If you’d like Fitbit to enable text notifications again to let bitTicker work with other models, let them know here.