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Smart Timer

Your assistant to practice better time-management


3 Weeks in Feb 2018


Product Designer


Individual Project



User Persona


Psychologically, one may avoid negative emotions and to delay stressful task. It may associate with perfectionism, fear and avoidance of the outcome below expectation. Only having big goal and long term plan is another reason. People are less motivated to start when there is lack of short term plans and approaching deadlines. 

For procrastination management, methods include adjust of mindset such as "I just work on the paper for 1 hour" instead of "I need to work on a 20-page paper", seek for a buddy to work together which social/peer pressure gets to function, set realistic goal from "I want to learn coding" to "Watch online course in JavaScript twice a week", and move away from distractions like "studying in library" or "turn off notification of your phone". 

Having these knowledge, I start to think how I can design a product that helps people overcome procrastination.


I read about a concept of "5-minute" rule. A lot of the time we procrastinate because the difficulty is exaggerated so we are reluctant to start. If we get to work on it for 5 minutes, we may find it not as hard as we thought so we can continue to work for longer. This can be integrated as a feature to my Smart Timer App.


Though there are existing Apps to disable your phone during a period, or some people choose to turn on flight mode when studying, it is less practical for college students or working people who still need to keep communication on. Based on user interviews, the distraction that stop target user group from working are mainly social media such as Facebook, Instagram, or video streaming App such as Youtube and Netflix, games, or anything than can be browsed to kill time such as Amazon or Taobao. Therefore, we only need to block a group of Apps, and keep other useful Apps on such as Slack and Safari. 

I also notice that me as target user as well, have problems of wasting small chunks of time during on weekend. For example, when I do the laundry which takes 30 minutes, a lot of the time I feel 30 minutes is not enough for me to work on a project, so I just end up with playing with my phone doing meaningless stuff instead. If for housework, we can as multitask as possible and reduce the time being wasted on waiting, we can have longer time to focus working on project. 

Key Features

  • Block distracting Apps

  • Suggest and time multitasking 

  • Track and record productivity 

Experience Map 

User Journey 


Users set a length of the timer, and optionally enter a task what they are going to work on in the duration. This is to help tracking productivity in the report page. Then users get started to work and the distracting Apps in the blocklist are disabled. 

When the timer is done, blocked Apps are unblocked and the work time is recorded into the productivity record. 


Users set a length of the timer and start the timer. When the timer is done and users need to work again, distracting Apps are disabled for a while which users can set a customized duration, so users get to cool down and start to work. 



Users set a length of the timer and choose what task they are working on. Optionally, they are suggested with other tasks that they can multitask with. 

User Flow Chart


Based on my research, I started to prototype. 

User Testing 

I interviewed 5 people and all of the feedback is constructive and inspiring. Some of the suggestions are easier to adopt and some I need to spend more efforts to think about (like how to be more entertaining). Full interview process is recorded in the pdf below.     

            Click the icon to view the full user testing report              

Interview Script 

Do you have procrastination?

What is the biggest factors that stop you from getting to work?

What is your first impression of the App? What is this App for?

What do you think the different colours in Report by Work stand for?

Do you think this App will help you mange your time better?

How probable will you recommend this App to your friend?

What are the things you feel inconvenient or you don’t like?

What improvement do you think can be made?

Imagine you are planning to study GRE test for 75 minutes, how can you set a timer?

Imagine you just finished the study and wanna take a 20 minute break watching some fun video, how can you set a timer?


From the user testing process, I found out users may think differently from designers. I feel very lucky that my testers all gave me constructive and inspiring feedback.

The suggestions can be summarized as following:

UI Design

If icons are correctly expressing its content?

If anything can be removed or merged to make the screen looks cleaner?

If the colours are intuitive or confusing?


If a block after Play timer is done will be more powerful to get users to work?

If a more complex cancel flow can get users to stay?

If users need multitask with tasks entered or they just need a multi-timer?

If the three modes actually have overlap, like studying while waiting for laundry?


Whether the timer can be more entertaining than just a timer, like build a connection with the user?


General UI

The content of the previous hamburger menu is more like settings, so I changed the icon and its position to fit user habits.             



PLAY blocklist feature

From user testing, I learned that the App can be more "cruel" to treat procrastination. If simply invite users to study for 5 minutes after playing, users can just choose not to. Therefore, turning on blocklist after the play timer is done can be helpful. For example, if user just wants to watch Youtube for 20 minutes, when 20 minutes is done, users are forced to exit Youtube and not able to enter it for a while, and users can customize the unblock time like "10 minutes after the play timer is done".  Therefore the screen changes correspondently. 




From user testing, I learned that in "By date" page users are confused whether the time refers to total time using the App on that day, or work time only. Users care only their work time and when they play such as hang out with their friends, they don't really need to turn on timer. Also, date indication should be added.  For "By task" page, most users can understand the different levels of blue means how much time you spent working on that task, but the red color is very confusing to be interpreted as "Did not work on the task on that day". Therefore, I changed the color and add legends. 




After- Legend hidden

After- Legend expanded

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