Last month I was doing my weekly “looking up YouTube videos about language learning instead of actually learning a language” routine and I stumbled upon Yoga’s How I Learned Japanese YouTube video series. Although I know Yoga from MIA since I am a follower of that methodology, I have never watched any of his videos. In one of them, he describes how he used timeboxing to really streamline his studying time. Now I have heard of timeboxing before—people like Elon Musk rely on it to manage their time—but Yoga mentioned how he would set his timeboxes to as little as 30 seconds. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that you could set timeboxes to be as small as this, but for some reason that really put timeboxing on the map for me.
Unfortunately, when I went on Google and searched for a timeboxing app, what I got were a few mobile apps that didn’t really suit my needs, and only 2 web apps which in my opinion didn’t look too great and I didn’t trust making an account on.
So since I graduated with a bachelors in computer science straight into the pandemic-induced recession where I can’t find a job (I live in the USA), I found myself with a lot of time and the right experience needed to set out and create my own timeboxing web app.
The Two Things I Wanted
No barrier to entry. Creating an account should not be a requirement. One of the detractors to all of the other timeboxing web apps was that I had to sign up to use it, and there’s no way that I’m going to trust a website with my login info and email if they can’t even display their button fonts correctly (no offense to aspiring web developers with websites like that).
It must be time agnostic. I do not care that a timebox starts at 9 AM and ends at 10 AM. All I care about is that it’s an hour long. If something pops up during that hour, I can just pause the timebox and resume it later. All that matters is that I get the hour of work done. The timebox shouldn’t be my calendar. Now I hear some of you guys saying “but that ruins the point of timeboxing” so to that I will say this: these are systems that you place on yourself. The only one keeping you accountable is you. Pausing a timebox so you can watch YouTube would be the same breach of contract as deleting a timebox off your calendar because you didn’t do your work in that time. At least with my system, I can keep track of how much time in the timebox I still have left to do.
The Finished Results* and the Future
There’s a lot I still want to add, but I need to keep a balance between simplicity and convenience. There’s only two extra things that I personally need: a way to start the timer at a specific timebox (update: done ☑️), and the option to automatically pause the timer every time a timebox finishes so you can manually start it again (update: done ☑️).
I also would like to look into making a mobile app. I thought that I would be able to make this web app work on mobile by having service workers send push notifications when timeboxes are up, but apparently push notifications and mobile notifications are different things so whoops. I probably should’ve coded this in React so I can port it to React Native but too late now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyways, that’s enough ranting about this project. You can check out the code on GitHub here. More about the technical details are discussed on my non-language blog here.