Magic Dots: User Satisfaction

A reader named Niles McAdams, who told me about his strength increase from bedtime honey, also wrote about his experience with magic dots (a way to mark progress):

I have become a HUGE fan of your Magic Dots idea for many reasons. I started using them to increase the time I spent at my standing desk but since then I’ve used them to keep my writing and programming projects on track.

Here are some of the advantages of Magic Dots:

They can be customized to the individual. Instead of using 10 points and lines to make a box with an X in it, I use six points and lines (10 min. increments) to make a triangle. I would imagine for almost any time increment that a person wished to use, a shape could be found. I used 10 minute increments but one wouldn’t have to — imagine, for example, a grade school child studying a spelling test. The parent could ask the child to study for one triangle or ½ hour where each dot or line represents a 5 minute increment. There are many many shape and increment possibilities – enough for any person or task.

They are mostly an intellectual tool not a physical tool. One doesn’t need a laptop, tablet, smart phone, Fitbit or any other modern technology to use Magic Dots. One could scratch them out in the dirt with a stick if need be (and in fact, I may do just that when it comes time to weed my garden next spring). Of course you need some way of telling time so a watch is handy but if the sun is shining you don’t even need that – a vertical stick in the ground and a few scratches in the ground could record the passage of time well enough. It goes without saying they don’t need electricity — pencil, paper and watch or clock and you are in business.

They can be used to show work history. For a while, I would mark my Magic Dots horizontally, side by side, on a piece of paper. Each new day I would start a new line. This allowed me to see at a glance how much standing I had done during the week.

They can be used to show work by category. A few times I have drawn vertical lines on the paper to represent different work categories, e.g., writing versus programming. I combined this with the line per day technique above. At a glance I could see “on Tuesday I had 3 triangles standing, 2 triangles writing, and 1 triangle programming.

4 Replies to “Magic Dots: User Satisfaction”

  1. I’ve added a “magic dot timer” to my pomodoro app. I thought the 25-minute timebox was the highes resolution time management that I could apply, but being allowed to make a little bit of tangible progress every five minutes *does* make a difference. It’s rather surprising that the constant distraction isn’t actually counterproductive.
    One problem that I find though, as with all gamification, is that I tend to think that if I won’t have enough time to finish a complete pattern, I might as well not start at all. This applies to pomodoros in general as well–if I don’t have a full 25 minutes before that meeting, I often catch myself wasting the 15 minutes that I do have.

  2. My thoughts are similar to those of Niles.
    First, I’ve also gone to a trianlge, but with 5-minute increments, so that each triangle is a half hour. (The half hour blocks minimize the starting friction problem mentioned by @Kristian).
    Second, I’ve also started keeping a record for tracking purposes. I think the initial benefits mentioned in earlier posts were mostly directed to getting started and keeping momentum. Magic dots are also a great tool for tracking work over time.

  3. I’ve been trying this since Seth mentioned it, and it’s not helping much. I am very interested in measuring attention, apt and inapt, and so far I find this particular method difficult to sustain. Trying different variations now.

  4. Seth,
    Do you still have a percentile feedback tracking app on the back burner?

    Seth: Still working on it. I use an R version every day.

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