MindPerformanceHacks 2fBuildAnExoself

Hack #17: Build an Exoself

Take a Hipster PDA, combine it with a pocket countdown timer called the MotivAider, and gain better control of your thoughts, emotions, and activities.

Additions and Suggestions

You can create separate "domains" within the exoself stack by writing cards in different colours of ink; alternatively, you can use different colours of index card.

Example: I write my Work cards in red and my Home cards in black. If I have any cards left in the Work domain at the end of the day, I take them all and place them behind my Home cards in the stack, retaining their order. Now the Home cards are on top, and I can see what I need to do at home that night. In the morning, I put the Work cards in front again. This can also apply to various projects I have, other locations, etc.

-- Ron Hale-Evans

The MotivAider and its alternatives (see discussion below for more details):


What if you used the Ical application in the Iphone, and just stuck in recurring "events" every 45 minutes? --MarkCrane?

Another alternative would be the "Alarmed" application for the iPhone. This application allows for many simultaneously programmed repeated reminders with a message. I use this on my iPod, with the downside being that it cannot vibrate, but it chirps instead. --TSchrec

Another possibility that I considered is to have a list of things that you go through every time the MotivAider (or otherwise) goes off. You could combine the very first hack in the book (neumonic pegs) with this one and run through the items every time it goes off. One of the items on your list could be to check your stack. If you're busy with something else you could just check your stack, or go just as far down your list as you want. For example, you might say "one is a gun" so imagine shooting a bullet through the stack of cards. Another thing that I myself want to remind myself of is to remember to eat healthy, because if I don't pay attention I'll tend to eat junk. So you could say "two is a shoe" and imagine someone nawing away at an old leather boot. So if you just had two or three things that you wanted to remember to do, you wouldn't need to put something on every peg. Of course you could also use the pegs without the stack, and just be reminded of any principles or ideas that you want to keep in mind. I heard that it takes 21 days to break a habit, that might be a great thing to put on the first or second peg.

By the way, Ron, I love the book. I've read probably 15 pages of it skipping around and I already have found myself using several of the techniques. The "hacks" series in general is great, but I think this book really stands out. Thank you for writing it, I expect it to be a great resource to have.

BTW, I'm glad this book was published by O'Reilly; I've never had a book by them that wasn't really done well. Because of that past, I was quick to pick up your book where otherwise I might been less likely. I hope they keep up their high standards in the future, so far they've done a great job.

-- Pete Jenkins

As an alternative to the MotivAider, consider the Casio "Futurist" watch. It's a cheap digital watch ($40 or so, cheaper than the MotivAider), featuring a vibration alarm that can be set, for example, to vibrate every 5 minutes like the MotivAider. I've been using this for some time in much the same way as described in this hack, and it does the job well.

The main drawback is that it is not very stylish, so I usually keep it in my pocket rather than on my wrist! ThufirHawat.

Thanks for the info, Thufir. Very cool! Too bad I just bought a new watch a couple of weeks ago or I would have bought one of these instead and lightened my pockets a little by leaving the MotivAider home. The Futurist line doesn't look too ugly to me, but then you should see the watch I'm wearing now.

-- Ron Hale-Evans [[DateTime?(2006-03-06T02:23:04Z)]]

Another suggestion: If you have a cell phone with an alarm option, you can set up motivational messages at various times of the day. I have a Motorola V330 and was able to set up a series of vibrating alarms at various times during the day. Then for the alarm name, you put in your motivational message. I can see using this as a way to hack sleep with audiable alarms and performance during the day with vibe alarms. --Chris Elliott.

The picture of the MotivAider I saw looked a little chunky; Invisible Clock looks a more managable size. It seems to me to have a few more alarms. $39 too. --- AndyGavin

Wow. I was thinking about ordering the second edition of the MotivAider just because it had random alarms, but while the Invisible Clock can't do that, it has tons of other features, and looks to be Just the Thing. I will order one pronto. The main drawback seems to be that it lacks the simplicity of the MotivAider, but it seems very powerful. Maybe now I can remind myself to do other things than just look at my stack.

-- Ron Hale-Evans [[DateTime?(2006-04-10T01:52:43Z)]]

I've just bought myself an Invisible Clock. It does the job; it certainly has lots of features to set alarms for when you want them. The vibration alarm is a little bit loud, making a buzzing sound. You can adjust the power of the vibration down, which helps, although that makes you more likely to miss the vibration altogether. Overall, I don't think it's quite discreet enough to use in a situation where you are talking to other people and don't want it to be noticed, such as a meeting. For other situations it's fine.

Any feedback on how silent the alarm on the MotivAider is?


I now have both the MotivAider (first model) and the InvisibleClock II. I ordered the strong vibration alarm on the InvisibleClock, instead of the quiet alarm, which is meant for therapists and other people who need to be discreet. My MotivAider alarm is a lot quieter than my InvisibleClock, which can be almost embarrassing, even on the quietest vibration setting. However, even the MotivAider will buzz like a chainsaw if it's touching something in your pocket that acts as a sounding board, such as a pocket knife or a hard keychain. I have occasionally heard the MotivAider buzzing in my pants pocket from another room in the apartment when I've mistakenly left it switched on after changing clothes. My model does have an analog vibration intensity control, however, and I believe I have it turned all the way up.

The real advantage of the MotivAider in my opinion is its extreme simplicity of interface. You really don't even need a manual if you know what it's supposed to be: a repeating silent timer. It has an "time up" button, a "time down" button, and an on/off switch. It's a beautifully-designed single-function device. It also seems more rugged than the InvisibleClock; you could probably step hard on the MotivAider without hurting it. But if you already have the InvisibleClock and you understand its interface, I recommend you stick with that. It's what I'm using now myself.

-- Ron Hale-Evans [[DateTime?(2006-04-19T22:19:12Z)]]

The "powerseed" certainly looks pretty. But does it really help?

I wrote a small Java Mobile app just for this purpose. The phone has to support the MIDP 2.0 profile (most Symbian phones do). It can be found at my website krtownsend.com or downloaded directly here. Hope this helps someone.

-- Kevin_Townsend? [[DateTime(2011-03-11)?]]

See also * "MotivAider subsitute?", Marc Abramowitz, 26 April 2006

I've had good results using the InvisibleClock for the ../SnapYourselfToAttention? hack. See remarks there.

-- Ron Hale-Evans [[DateTime?(2006-04-27T08:36:15Z)]]



Errata go here.

After a couple of years using the exoself, I still think it is what helps me unload pressure and allows me to think to most. The real trick though is to use different colors of card and carefully balance them. Also, combining the exoself with Dont Forget the Milk planner works wonders because you can use one to build the other everyday. Also, the Exoself is a great tool to balance body and mind by including cue cards from a physical activity deck. The only real danger I have found is to go through the deck at least once a week and sometimes place less "important" tasks up front to make sure you actually do them.

The Motivaider works great but it can be bulky especially in formal business wear. I did try the countdown menu from the iphone but the vibration is way to loud to be really practical.

Hack Author

Ron Hale-Evans

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This is a page for a hack from the book MindPerformanceHacks by Ron Hale-Evans.