QS18 Preview: Maggie Delano and the Pomodoro Trail to a PhD

Maggie’s Tools: Strict Workflow and RescueTime

Maggie Delano is a professor of engineering and very experienced self-tracker whose pioneering work on DIY measurements systems includes a fluid status monitor for patients with congestive heart failure and a wearable device that continuously measures single lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and three axis acceleration data for up to one week. She wrote the first Quantified Self code of conduct, organized a sponsorship program for QS15, and started the QS Boston Women’s Meetup.

In addition to her DIY hardware projects, Maggie has also spent time tracking her work efficiency, a project she’ll present at QS18. While completing her PhD dissertation, she wondered if she could make her time more efficient rather than just adding in more work hours during the day. She began using the the Pomodoro Method (25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break) and collected a very large amount of data that helped her learn about her personal work habits.

Her instrumentation included RescueTime to track her computer usage and Strict Workflow to cut out distractions during each pomodoro segment. After collecting this data over five years and redefining a successful work day in terms of distraction-free time instead of total time, she established a “cadence” for productivity. This deceptively simple project underlines the fact that the value of self-tracking doesn’t lie in complex tools or advanced technology, even for people who are expert engineers. To learn and practice a good working cadence, complex tools would be disruptive. RescueTime and Strict Workflow are relatively simple ways to create a record and restrict distractions, and this alone formed the basis of important learning.

Maggie will present her project and answer questions at QS18 Conference coming up in just two weeks. If you come, you can also ask her insanely deep questions about recording electrical signals from the body.

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