Obtract: the latest in productivity apps

Fighting procrastination one maze at a time


Your computer and the Interwebz can be useful tools for productivity, but you have to admit, they can be incredibly distracting. One minute you’re focused on the task at hand, and before you know it, you’re on Facebook creeping on your crush’s profile page. Or you decide it's all of a sudden imperative that you clean out your email inbox and update your calendar. Whatever it is you do to procrastinate, Obtract can help you stay on task while giving you the cold, hard facts on just how much time you’re wasting on other things.

Obtract is a Mac app that was developed by Eric St. Onge as his thesis project for his MFA in Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York, NY. The idea of this app is to make staying productive into a game. Once you download Obtract, it runs in the background on your computer and tracks the sites and applications that you use throughout the day. You tell Obtract which websites and applications that you consider distracting, and once every hour you’re given 5 minutes to spend screwing around on these distractions.

After the 5 minutes is up, Obtract presents you with a maze that you must complete in order to “earn” additional minutes for your distraction. In this way, Obtract gently reminds you that you’re procrastinating while still allowing you to continue to do so. If you really aren’t ready to get back to work, then you complete the maze and continue whatever distracting thing you’re doing. But much of the time, just being reminded that you’re slipping off task is enough to get your head back in the game. As St. Onge explains, "If you really want to distract yourself, you're able to, but you have to commit yourself to it.”

Obtract also collects data about how much of your time you spend on distracting activities, and you can share this information with your co-workers. This data tends to make people nervous but also makes people accountable. Although it may be embarrassing for others to know how much time you’re spending on Lol Cats, your embarrassment may be alleviated a little when you find out your co-workers are wasting a lot of time on eBay and Wikipedia. Even if sharing this information makes you a little uncomfortable, it can motivate you too. Never underestimate people’s competitive nature. If your cubicle mate is being more productive than you are, you may feel the urge to “beat” them in the productivity game.

Of course, we encourage you to waste plenty of time reading our blog, but we do recommend giving Obtract a try as well. If nothing else, downloading and playing with this app will provide you with a distraction you can feel productive about.

(Via Fast Company's Co.Design via Lifehacker)

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