🔓 This is a free preview of a Member’s Only post 🔓
“Are you still on task?” my digital productivity assistant asks me.
I Alt+Tab from my guilty Slack channel back to my open Google Doc. The page is blank. The cursor smirks at me in between blinks.
“Welcome back,” my assistant intones in a smooth British accent. I check the progress bar on my current 25 minute sprint. Less than 10% of the way there.
I feel the urge to check Twitter, but then think better of it. Centered.app is watching, and I don’t want to let it down.
I plow ahead.
. . .
Centered.app pitches itself as a mindful todo list, and it has a bunch of ideas that are extremely compelling.
When you open the app you’re presented with a list of todos for the day. Each todo, aside from getting a label, also gets an amount of time associated with it.
This is an important concept — time is the main work input that we can control, and so forcing you to think of todos in units of time can help you be more realistic about how much you can get done.
It also helps to eliminate some of the clutter that comes with using digital todo apps. You probably won’t record a task that will take you 5 seconds.
There is also a calendar view so you can schedule your todos throughout the day.
It’s something we’ve seen before — Dan Ariely’s Timeful did something similar back in the day — and s̶t̶u̶d̶i̶e̶s̶ my personal anecdata show that putting a task on the calendar can help increase the chances it actually gets done.
But what’s really interesting is that Centered isnt’t just about checking off todo items when you’re done with them. At the bottom of the screen it has a “Play” button — that allows you to start a task.
When you hit play on a task, Centered turns itself into a little mini-player that reminds you what your task is, how much time is left, and how long you’ve been focused on the current application.
It also starts to play rhythmic ambient jungle music in the background to help you focus. It works for me most of the time. It reminds a little bit of Focus@Will (of which I am a paying customer) but with a less diverse selection of music.
But that’s not all this watchful little widget does. It’s also working to make sure you’re focused.
If you switch from, say Google Docs, to Slack, or iMessage the rhythmic ambient jungle music pauses and the smooth British voice interrupts:
“Are you still on task?” it asks.
More often than not, I am not on task and this is a welcome reminder. Then, when you finish the task and mark it as complete, Centered.app takes over your screen, and shows you a pretty picture:
Then the British voice comes on again:
“When you hear the chime let yourself feel gratitude for the work you did. Chime!”
This is nice, because I do want to take a moment to feel gratitude for getting something done rather than just plowing on to the next thing (which is my default.) And it’s nice to have a piece of software to support a habit like that.
Centered is trying to make sure you both get things done and you feel good about it.
So what’s not to like?
. . .
I’ve been using Centered.app for about a week. I’m getting more done, and I’m more focused. But something about its current incarnation is bothering me a little bit.