Stop procrastinating before it happens

Nicolas Dirand The December 4, 2013

How to stop procrastinating before it’s too late?

With Seriousd we have been working hard to block any distractions that could happen in front of your computer.

So far, Seriousd is acting like this:

  • You pass one hour on facebook? We are OK!
  • You pass one hour and five minutes on facebook? We block you!

Sure it’s effective, and it works.


But let me rephrase the problem:

You have an alarm system that detects fire.Do you want to call the firefighters when your kitchen is already burning OR do you prefer to call the firefighters when you ‘smell’ the smoke?

I think we all agree that we would prefer to take action before anything is burning.

This is where I stand with my next project: A ‘Smoke Detector’ for procrastination!

When you are already procrastinating, instead of being block from the application by Seriousd.

I want to alarm you that you are already ‘losing focus’ before Seriousd even starts to block anything. Long before any builds-up of procrastination.

The earlier I can detect your loss of focus, the easier it is to get back on track.

How can I accomplish such feat? Well this is where I will need *YOU*. Let me explain a bit!

When we are working on our computer, we are producing a lot of ‘events’.

In my research I use 6 of them:

  • Opening a new application window;
  • Staying focus on one application;
  • Switching between applications;
  • Closing a window;
  • Measuring the time between the last keyboard input (as a ratio); and
  • Sounds/Music are played.


Those events are fired at different timespans while you are logging from Seriousd.

With all this data, we can measure how deep you are into the “zone”.

You are may be asking:  “How can those events determinate the quality of my work?”

You Are Procrastinating:

  • Lots of browsers tab/windows opening or closing
  • Less Keyboard input (You probably passively browsing or watching video/reading articles)
  • Lots of switching between applications. (Jumping from the chatbox on facebook to a random video on youtube. etc)
  • Your focus is not on ‘productive’ applications. (I’m talking video games/social networking/IM)

You Are Productive:

  • Fewer windows are open
  • We stay focused longer on one application.
  • We switch less. (There is no incentive to switch between apps, when you are focus on your work.)
  • You focus on productive applications. (Word/Excel/Matlab/Visual Studio/etc)

You are now thinking: “Hey Nicolas, I don’t work like this! I have a very different profile!”

Well, my good friend, I know this, but here I come with a solution for all of us.

Let me show you the roadmap of my grand plan J:

  1. Users install Seriousd with the new data logger,
  2. Users start the logger and capture their session,
  3. Users send me the data and take very short survey before the data is sent,
  4. I do the statistics of all the data you kindly sent me,
  5. I train a machine learning to learn from the massive amount of data we collected, and
  6. I create different profiles so you can use out of the box this new feature!

The good news is that I’m pretty experiences with Machine Learning and Statistics 🙂

Another thing, the ‘procrastination smoke detector’ does not need to be binary! We can be ‘Right’ to a margin. Think about it like a speedometer. You don’t need to go over 130mph to know that you driving too fast! You only need to know your current speed (even if the precision of the measure is not extremely good).

What is important is to detect when you are ‘losing focus’ and to present to the user an early warning. I still have to think how to present this information into the most efficient way, but I see nothing blocking there. Your feedbacks will do the jobs!


Let me add: Every kind soul that helps me with this data collection will get an upgraded pro version of Seriousd!

To finish, this ‘procrastination smoke detector’ feature will be offered for free.

I’m a true believer into computer-assisted productivity. I want to make people more productive. In my view, procrastination can be a real disease. Think about all the things you would have done if only you were a little bit more focused? I really believe that in the ‘modern age’, we gained a lot of new tools, but we also lost more and more the capability to stay focused.

I need you, people!  Help me to fight procrastination! Help me to make this world more productive.

How to use Seriousd Events Logger.

Seriousd is Logging
1.      Launch Seriousd as usual,

2.      Focus on Seriousd and press the ‘L’ key ,
2.1.     The start-up screen pop up. Here you could customize your logging session.
2.2.     Anonymize your data  (the title of the windows will be hashed with sha1 algorithm)
2.3.     If you want to  start the logger at each time you start Seriousd
3. Now theLogger is up and running and can grab events. Work your way as usual.

If you are done ‘logging’, press the ‘L’ key again or close Seriousd.


When do you know if you must stop the logging session? Well, if you feel you starting to move from procrastination to concentration, it’s a good idea to stop here, sending the data and start a new session again. The more the session is without noise, the better I can measure the data. Of course, this is not mandatory.


When the session is terminated, there is another pop-up screen.


Here I ask two questions:

1.      Rate how much you have been productive during this session of logging in.

Choose a number between 1 to 5:

  1. Not productive,
  2. Almost not productive,
  3. Averagely productive,
  4. Productive,
  5. Very productive

add details2.      There is a little survey about the ‘top 5’ applications you have been used during this session. I need the information so I can infer which applications are mostly productive or not productive. Essentially, it will help me to discover nonproductive apps like a video game and serious apps, such as Word/Excel/Matlab/etc.

Three choice possible:  Slide the cursor to the Left= Not-Productive/Middle=Unknown/Right=Productive.

I also show your user ID. I could ask you this ID now or later for various purposes, such as if you want to get some statistics about the data you sent me, or to prove that you have been contributing to the data logging causeJ.


About the Data File?

You can looks at the data file transmitted.

Just navigate to your Documents directory and find a filename looking like this:


2013-10-26 is year-month-day.

16-27-27 is hours-minutes-seconds.

_FocusAlarm_1 mean you rated the productivity of this session to ‘1’ (not productive)

If you take a look into the CSV file you will see something like this.


There are six columns: Event, Process Name, Windows Title, Date, OptionalData1 and OptionalData2

There are six kind of events that you will encounter into this file:

  1.  EV_NEW_WIN: New window detected.
  2.  EV_UP_WIN: Apps Windows currently focus upon.
  3.  EV_APP_SWITCH:  There is a switch of focus between two applications (moving from one apps to another), OptionalData1=the name of the newly focus applications, OptionalData2= is the title of the newly focus application.
  4.  EV_CLOSE_WIN:  Which window has been closed?
  5.  EV_KEY_RATIO:  Into OptionalData1 there is the ratio of active key typing to non-input (Keyboard Input/(Keyboard Input+No Keyboard Input)). It help me to see how much you are active on your keyboard.
  6.  EV_SOUND_PLAYING: Do I really need to explain?

——————- Sample Log Session —————————————————————
EV_KEY_RATIO,,218571632389410775135085191239149962414417521679,2013/10/26 16:27:28,0.209583333333333,

EV_SOUND_PLAYING,System Sound,9333185427423254142184126301231814104223161516,2013/10/26 16:27:29,,

EV_APP_SWITCH,Uplay,156491439714453941516021615054591946165150414,2013/10/26 16:27:29,MiniPomo,13172127816620319782224639206412162149816315101

EV_UP_WIN,MiniPomo,13172127816620319782224639206412162149816315101,2013/10/26 16:27:29,,

EV_KEY_RATIO,,218571632389410775135085191239149962414417521679,2013/10/26 16:27:31,0.237666666666667,

EV_SOUND_PLAYING,System Sound,9333185427423254142184126301231814104223161516,2013/10/26 16:27:32,,

EV_APP_SWITCH,MiniPomo,13172127816620319782224639206412162149816315101,2013/10/26 16:27:32,mintty,25160110772329121723422611122099231951616724315813314

EV_UP_WIN,mintty,25160110772329121723422611122099231951616724315813314,2013/10/26 16:27:32,,

EV_KEY_RATIO,,218571632389410775135085191239149962414417521679,2013/10/26 16:27:34,0.234033333333333,

EV_SOUND_PLAYING,System Sound,9333185427423254142184126301231814104223161516,2013/10/26 16:27:35,,

EV_UP_WIN,mintty,25160110772329121723422611122099231951616724315813314,2013/10/26 16:27:35,,


I hope you have everything you need to participate into this very exciting research project of mine! With the help of the community, we can will understand, measure and optimize the way we work. Like always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me via e-mail.

Spread the word! Start to Log!  I need all the help I can grab 🙂


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