In the fag end of 2020, I discovered Horo (a timer app) through a fellow nerd in our Tools club (guild.xperian.org). Are you wondering what is a tools club now 🙈 That is for later. Let's dig into Horo App for today.
Horo is a simple menu timer app for mac. The basic version of the app is free. The pro version is ₹ 540 (one-time) which translates to 7 USD. You could live with the free version if you don't want stats and charts for review. I personally prefer to reflect on the data so I went for the paid version.
Rationale: Reflection makes you connect the dots for revealing patterns which is impossible to see when the dots are forming.
Horo data helped me see the leaks in my time logs everyday. Every reflection was painful as it was a mirror of my inefficiency but in just 30 days, I found ways to heal the pain as well.
The problem solving brain in me needed to understand the problem deeply so it can go and fix it. The problem is revealed only when data is tracked consistently for a period of time.
So here are my learnings from 45 days of tracking using horo and suggestions for you to use it right from day one.
- The tool is as good as you use it. It is not going to do magic by itself. You are the magic and the tool is just a catalyst. Use the tool.
- It is a well known phenomenon that, cognitive switching levies high penalty on our brain. Multitasking is a myth. It is true. Whether we call it cognitive switching or multitasking, the need to manage many things at a time is also real. I don't want to brush away that innate need in us under the carpet in the name of concepts and phenomenon.
We do many things in a day. Some happens as demon process (a computer science terminology for parallel threads). Some follow-ups need to happen to get things done. Some tasks need processing times. Some tasks need to run in batches for more efficiency. It is inevitable.
Yes, the cognitive switching is costly on our brains. Even if we cannot not remove it fully, we can at-least reduce the cost. That is what I want to share with you here.
Let's figure out how
For all my tasks I run a separate timer. When the task is done, I kill that timer (yes literally). This way I can manage many without losing sight on what matters the most. It is impossible for you to manage things when many projects are on going in your head. It is also impossible to not pay attention to multiple tasks. Focus on your highlight task only is a BS advice.
For example: Video upload is a task on the internet. I just need to click the button and the processing happens. This task takes time. After the processing is complete I need to attend to it once the upload is complete like adding thumbnails, getting the embeds and other polishing activities. This is a sequence of activities (a checklist if you will) which has its dependencies intertwined.
Now while the video is uploading I might be writing a post or sketching some ideas or quickly reading a newsletter. Now this is a task 2 in parallel to task 1. This could never be tracked before, now I can with horo app. I track with many instances of timer. It feels weird in the beginning. Later you will realise that the weirdness comes from your weird life and not from the app 😜
- I get to reflect on a number of distractions that come my way. A ding here and a ding there. I keep most notifications off when I do super important tasks but you can't ignore some client calls or family calls even when you are under a timer. I will ensure to respectfully attend in a min and tell them I will call back in "n" mins. A text message doesn't cut it in many cases.
Knowing me I will forget if there is no horo. I need a timer for that "n" mins. If I promised the next day, it gets managed in my reminder app. The hastag makes my life so much simple and creates an awe in the other person for respecting their time. Thanks horo 🙈
- At a time I do only one task. Truly. That is all your brain can accomplish. So without turning on horo for that task + estimated time, I don't start the task. Without closing the task in horo I don't go for next task. If I had to be away like driving or went for a walk, I use the time timer in my phone for the same purpose. It is a workaround and I know how you feel when you read this. It is unfortunate that horo is not available for phones. The best part is my focus is focussed on that one task with all reminders and demon processes taken care of on the side.
- Distraction is inevitable in this modern world. The winner is the one who says NO gracefully when a focused task is happening and manages it in the background. Taking care human emotions and relationships is more important now because your NO could sound like a rejection to the other person. It may be hard on them. Take a minute and explain them you will call back and they do understand.
This is not a complete review of the horo app. I am not too concerned about the features and how to use it. I focused only on principles and applications in this post. May be one post later on just the various features 😅
There are many ways you can harness your productivity, Horo is just one way. In my opinion it is the most effective way I have discovered so far in the past decade of my productivity deep dive.
Here is a quick demo on how I use horo showing you some features that you should bother about (I kept notifications on for this to show how it feels when you do a task).
The underlying first principle is doing one task at a time AND balancing everything else on the side. You can't ignore other tasks is the lesson we need to learn.
This is not an affiliate post. May be Matthew Palmer should read this 😅
🥂 to balancing!